The 10th Sunday after Pentecost, (Proper 13 [b]) August 1, 2021
2The whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
4Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” 8And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”
9Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’” 10And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11And the Lord said to Moses, 12“I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning, you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
13In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning, dew lay around the camp. 14And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.
In the Name of Jesus.
The Lord gives gifts. Without count, with no stinginess, he freely gives gifts. To you, to me, to our families, to the church, to all sinners looking for relief, he gives gifts. To the church, he gave some to be Apostles, some to be prophets and evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers, all for the benefit of his people. [Ephesians 4:11]
He gives gifts to sinners. That is the depth of it. To give gifts to not-sinners, that wouldn’t surprise. Those who are not sinners would receive the gifts with joy and thankfulness.
But to give gifts to sinners, unappreciative sinners who think they are owed to, who instead of breaking out in rejoicing, grumble—that is the depth of the Lord’s giving of gifts. Exodus 16:2:
The whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
They grumble. The Lord had brought them out of slavery in Egypt. They already have the Lord’s oath of the promised land; they are already children of Abraham! As Abraham’s children, they have the promise given Abraham that the Lord forgives sins and justifies the sinner by faith—all this already belongs to them. And they grumble.
They bear the Lord’s Name. He put his Name on them in the covenant of circumcision. And yet they grumble.
Things are a little tough out in the wilderness on the way to the promised land, that much might be conceded.
But you are the people of the promise, we would want to say to them. You belong to the Lord. From your lineage will come the Savior of all sinners.
You’re hungry out in the desert? Maybe pray to the Lord, speak in faith, bring your needs to him. Maybe go to your neighbor and speak words of encouragement, maybe even arrange some hunting parties.
When you’re hungry, is there a better time to go to your neighbor’s tent and sit down with him and remind him of the promise given to Abraham, and of the Name of the Lord which we bear, and of his gifts?
What better time to be the people of God? What better time to speak encouragement, to remind of the hope of the promise, to rejoice in the gift of the Gospel, what better time than this to be the people of God rejoicing in his gift of faith? But they grumble:
The whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full.”
What’s the Lord to do? The Lord who justifies the sinner, what will he do when gifts are met with not thanksgiving and rejoicing, but grumbling, as if the Lord’s people should determine which gifts they will receive from him.
What will the Lord do? He will be true to his Name. He located his Name on them, and he will not let them go. He gave them his Name, and when they drag his Name into humiliation, he will be with them, he will suffer, he will redeem them, and he will again call them back to the gifts of the Name.
He doesn’t leave them out in the wilderness, he doesn’t leave them to their own desires and efforts, he again sends his prophet Moses, and Moses’s brother Aaron, to once again call this people back to the Name.
The gift of repentance, of being returned to the Name, this is the Lord’s greatest gift to the sinner.
His greatest gift, to accuse the Israelites of their sin, so that by the accusation of the Law they are brought into contrition, and then to once again announce himself as their Lord who gives them gifts.
Repentance—for the Lord to turn you from your sin, from your self-justification, back to him, to hear his promise, to be cleansed, to be restored to his people who bear his Name. Exodus 16:9:
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’” And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. And the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning, you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
The Lord’s greatest gift to the sinner: to be returned to the Gospel, so that then you know that he, the Lord, has made himself your God.
From the lineage of Abraham, from the lineage of this people Israel, the lineage of this grumbling people out in the wilderness, Jesus comes.
Born of a daughter of Israel, Mary, born under the Law, circumcised on the eighth day, Jesus comes.
He came to give gifts. The gift of himself, standing in for all sinners. The gift of his life given over to death on the cross, shedding the blood to ransom all sinners. The gift of his resurrection, defeating for all sinners our enemy death. He came giving gifts.
Then, having been crucified, having been raised from the dead, he took captive everything that held us in captivity. Our sin, the sin of this world which covers us in shame, the devil and his demons who afflict us, Jesus took it all captive, and, says Paul, he gave gifts to men.
To mankind, to all men and women, to all bound by sin and death but now freed by his blood, to all he gave gifts.
For the sinner, he gave to the Church some to be Apostles, some to be prophets and evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers, in order to build up the saints, in order to do the work of ministry, that is, the work of handing out his gifts, for the building up of the body of Christ. [Ephesians 4:12]
Without counting, with no stinginess, in all abundance, the Lord gives gifts.
That’s why we are here. This Sunday, every Sunday, at the preaching of the cross, at the administration of the sacraments, that’s why our Lord gathers us here—to be given to, to receive his gifts, to be rescued from our grumbling and self-justification, and returned always to the gifts of his Name.
The gifts of his Name? It is the Name he put on you in Baptism. The Name of promise. The Name he will never depart. It is the Name of the Lord who ascended on high to distribute gifts to all people, and the gift he gives to you is the forgiveness of all your sin. The gift of being reconciled to his Father and thus, being reconciled also to one another.
In the Name of Jesus.