[Moses] said to them, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.'” 24
So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. 25
Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. 26
Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none.”
27On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. 28The LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? 29See! The LORD has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day.” 30So the people rested on the seventh day.
31The house of Israel called it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 32Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, in order that they may see the food with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.'” 33And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the LORD, to be kept throughout your generations.” 34As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the covenant, for safekeeping. 35The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36An omer is a tenth of an ephah.
When we think that refusal to rest is a uniquely modern phenomenon, we can look back on the experience of Israel in the wilderness. Even then people had trouble slowing down. God rained manna from heaven for six days, calling the people to gather a double-portion before the sabbath. But here the people still haven’t figured it out, and go out on the sabbath to gather their daily bread. The story uncovers a deep irony in the experience of Israel—Moses’s initial plea for freedom was so that the people could worship God. The people needed a sabbath day without work so they could do just that. Worship was an expression of freedom. Yet here, having been freed, the people revert to what they knew before, working every day they can to get enough bread. This is the difference between God and Pharaoh—sabbath, which means so much more than rest. It’s an expression of God’s provision and God’s care for us, no matter how productive we are. Despite the strangeness of these days, then, maybe this space out of time, out of the ordinary, is an opportunity to rest in God’s provision, remembering that our lives are not about what we produce or the bread we gather, but the bread we receive.
Holy God, give us your Spirit of comfort and rest. Remind us of your love, which is more than we can make or do or accomplish—rather, let our restless souls rest in you, in Jesus Christ. Amen.