This selection from Psalm 105 includes the story of “bread from heaven” that we read in Exodus. When comparing this psalm to the version of the story in Exodus, the differences are striking: In the psalm the Israelites do not grumble about food and water; they only “ask,” and God provides.
Psalm 105:7-36, the portion omitted from today’s reading, sings of the covenant with the patriarchs, God’s protection of them, and the Exodus. Narrative psalms like this are not just recitations of historical events. They are hymns for use in worship, in this case probably in celebration after the people of Judah return from exile in Babylon in the late sixth century bce.
Exodus motifs are important for postexilic returners to the Promised Land. Psalm 105 focuses on God’s care for Israel, especially protection from foreign powers, and on God’s gift of the land to them. The covenant made by the God who rules all the earth (see vv. 7-11) is a promise of continued protection for those who have returned to the land.
For this psalm, it is in the land rather than during the Exodus that the people keep God’s statutes. As in Ezra and Nehemiah, returning to the land means keeping the Torah. (See Nehemiah 8–9.) There is no point recounting the people’s complaining during the Exodus, since the period of rebellion is over.
People often tell stories of their families, churches, and communities that level out the bumps in the road and straighten the twists and turns. Sometimes we need to create a milder story, especially when we are starting over with new hopes. “Inconsistencies” in the Bible reflect the normal inconsistencies in human life. Sometimes we need to hear sharp truths; sometimes brighter reminiscences serve a specific need.
God of truth, help us to discern with clear but gentle insight the time to confess our faults, to you and to ourselves, and the time to remember your faithfulness and our desire to respond in faith. Amen.
The psalmist recounts many of God’s glorious deeds. The escape from Egypt features prominently, including the Exodus story we are reading this week. God knows that the people need food and provides both meat and bread. Unfortunately, the people do not have the perspective of the psalmist, so God’s miraculous provision does not stop their grumbling. In Philippians, Paul reflects on Christian suffering. Although he would rather be with the Lord, he endures suffering so that he may help others. Other believers should expect to suffer as well. Jesus tells a parable about a landowner. No matter what time the workers go out, they are all equally paid. Likewise, those who follow Jesus their entire lives and those who meet the Lord late in life will partake equally in glory.
Read Exodus 16:2-15. When have you been confident of God’s love and presence? When have you been uncertain?
Read Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45. When do you smooth over the “bumps” in the stories of your family, your church, or your faith? When is it important to recount the complaining or mistakes along the way?
Read Philippians 1:21-30. When has the “good news to the poor” challenged you? When you feel challenged by it, how do you seek to live “worthy of the gospel”?
Read Matthew 20:1-16. How does Jesus’ idea of equality surprise you? How might a posture of generosity change your concept of fairness?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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