Isn’t it interesting that from the beginning of this story in chapter 16, the murmurings of the Israelites are not pointed at God, but at Moses and Aaron? Isn’t this the inevitable crisis of leadership that seems to take place in Act II of every story? After people start on the journey, they run into problems. Then a few with short tempers and big mouths stir up the community with their grumbling.
Isn’t it also interesting that God reacts before Moses does? Instead of berating the people for their whining, God says, “Tonight you will eat meat. And tomorrow morning you will have bread. Tell them, Moses. I have heard their complaining.”
So here the Israelites are, standing in a crowd, listening to Aaron relay what God just told Moses. As they listen, they begin to look toward the wilderness. In doing so, as Walter Brueggemann suggests, they finally look away from Egypt. They see a strange light or cloud near their camp that they recognize as the presence of the Lord.
Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn has written a song called “Rumours of Glory,” in which he evokes the longing we all have to glimpse signs of God’s presence. He suggests that we see them in the midst of everyday things, in the midst of our isolation from one another, in the midst of our own deserts. Each verse ends with “something is shining / like gold but better / rumours of glory.”
When the Israelites recognize that the strange light near their camp is God’s presence, they finally realize that the desert is not the deadly place they thought it was. The desert is the place where they can see God’s splendor.
Where will you see rumors of glory today?
Holy God, help us to see where you are in our world. Help us to draw our hope from those glimpses of your presence. Nourish us with those moments. Amen.