"The people of Israel murmured--and although I find it oddly fun to say murmured--I know from experience it was exasperating for Moses to listen to it. Having been a pastor for 30 years now, I am worn out from murmuring; and I suspect I hear even more of it than Moses, because we have emails, cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, ever expanding venues for murmuring. People ask me sometimes if I might burn out; and if I do, it will be because I heard just one too many trivial complaints about nothing of substance. The Israelites weren't just grousing though. It's downright doubt. They're questioning God; they're rejecting God.
I guess what really annoys me about Exodus 16 is God's response. The murmuring surges: Would that we had died in Egypt--really? There we had plenty to eat--really? Moses, you brought us out here to kill us!--really? And then the stunner, in verse 4--The Lord said, Behold I will rain...and I find myself hoping the next word will be "fire" or "big boulders, "something to shut up these murmurers. But no, oh no. The Lord said, "Behold I will rain...bread from heaven for you." Bread?!? Murmurers should get discipline, and only those who boldly kept their chin up should get the bread.
I guess this is another one of those bizarre stories of grace, like Jesus' story of the workers in the vineyard who came late in the day and got paid like everybody else or the young son who squandered everything having a party thrown in his honor. Bread for miserable sinners. I guess I've given the murmurers little pieces of bread myself.... I guess as one who murmured about the murmurers, God has rained some bread on me, too.
...St. Francis once visited a hermitage at Monte Casale, where the guardian reported that some thieves had just made off with a stash of bread. Francis said, "I must apprehend them!" So he took off down the road, caught up to them, and revealed he was carrying bread and a bottle of wine. "You must be hungry and thirsty, so here: eat, and drink, and come back to Monte Casale where there's more." The thieves, once they recovered from their shock, came with him, and became friars, friends of Francis and of Christ."