When I was a child, Thanksgiving at our house was a big deal. My grandparents would usually arrive the evening before to be followed the next day by friends of my parents who traveled some distance just to spend the holiday with us. I’m not sure to this day how she did it, but my mother always cooked the entire meal, including all the desserts. Everyone agreed that she was a great cook, and she always made it appear so simple.
However, on one particular Thanksgiving my parents decided to break tradition. Rather than preparing a turkey, my mother plopped a gigantic goose in her baking pan and in the oven it went. The day proceeded as usual. Well, almost as usual. Normally, we would eat our meal around one o’clock in the afternoon. I helped my grandmother set the table as our guests enjoyed watching the parades on television while catching up with each other’s lives. When I returned to the kitchen, I noticed my mother was looking a little frazzled. As it turned out, the goose wasn’t cooperating. One o’clock came and went. When two o’clock arrived, the goose still wasn’t done. I was young, but I could feel the tension in the air.
I guess our collective blood sugar levels dropped because the mood of the gathering shifted from festive to fussy. My brothers began moaning about how they were starving to death, my father began pacing back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room, and our guests had apparently run out of things to talk about because they were fidgeting with their watches and rings.
At three o’clock my Dad announced that dinner would be served, minus the goose. Everyone scrambled to the table and devoured the salad, green beans, and potatoes. Things mellowed a bit by the time we got around to desert, but my poor Mom just shook her head the entire meal. Would you believe that the goose never did fully cook? It was the strangest thing, and I don’t remember that mystery ever being solved. I can tell you that we never had goose for Thanksgiving dinner again.
Most of us have probably experienced a mood swing when we’re very hungry, if not in ourselves, in our spouses or children. But in Exodus 16 -17, we’re way beyond a change in mood. The Israelites put on full display what resided in their hearts. The more God provided for the Israelites, the more they forgot His goodness to them; instead of being thankful, they hardened their hearts in unbelief.
Previously, God had put manna on the menu each morning and also supplied an abundance of quail for them to eat. Of course, all this came after the plagues in Egypt, the Passover, and the desolation of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea. Apparently, God’s Fatherly care escaped the notice of the newly liberated desert dwellers and they now found another reason to grumble and complain: they were thirsty. “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
Only this time they added a new twist: “Is the LORD among us or not?” You can feel the contempt as you read these words. What’s the deal, Moses? You drag us out here in this dry, hot desert and now we find out you didn’t bring any bottled water. Where’s that God you keep talking about? We’re thirsty and we want water NOW!!
The anger of the people escalated to the point that poor Moses thought stones were about to fly his way. But again, God miraculously intervened and did an incredible thing. “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”
Several things stand out to me in this passage. First, that God showed patience and mercy to these ungrateful, impossible-to-please people. Second, that God chose to supply water out of a rock, not a well, or stream, or river. Paul tells us that the rock was a type of Christ, who is a never-ending supply of living water for us (1 Corinthians 10:4). And third, that God supplies our needs in ways that we least expect. He can make fountains flow out of rocks! Often, when I pray I have things all worked out for God. But God doesn’t need my limited counsel or advice. He knows the end from the beginning and He knows what I’m going to ask before I ask it.
When you teach this passage to children, just reflect on your own heart and application will follow. We are so inclined to forget what God did for us yesterday and just focus on our immediate circumstances today. Too often we feel entitled, forgetting that God owes us nothing. Moses nailed it correctly: our whining and complaining isn’t against others or even our circumstances, it’s against God. Our greatness need is for repentance and faith and an active memory of God’s goodness to us.
In the classroom, you can ask the children to call out things for which they are thankful. Write them on the whiteboard as the children share.
Here is a list of things that help to direct my heart to God’s goodness and serve as an antidote to grumbling and complaining.
- 1. God is working all things together for my eternal good. Romans 8:28
- 2. Only goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life. Psalm 23:6
- 3. God withholds no good thing form those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11
- 4. I can do all things that God calls me to do through Christ strength. Philippians 4:13
- 5. God is looking throughout the whole earth to show Himself mighty on behalf of those whose heart is whole toward Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9
- 6. God will be with me until the end of the age as I go and make disciples. Matthew 28:19-20
- 7. God will never leave me or forsake me. Hebrews 13:5
- 8. God has promised me a beautiful inheritance. Psalm 16:6
- 9. God is for me. Psalm 56:9
- 10. God will complete the good work He has begun in me. Philippians 1:6