The Introit for this Sunday comes from Psalm 105. Specifically verses 39-43 with verse 1 as the antiphon. (What is an antiphon I hear someone ask? Think of it as the chorus. After every verse detailing the works of God you could sing: “Oh give thanks to the Lord; Call upon His name/make known his deeds among the peoples.”) The fullness of the Psalm is a remembrance of the history of the covenant, the promises of God, and those deeds starting with Abraham and culminating in the Exodus. The specific time the verses of the Introit are recalling is Israel’s days and years in the wilderness.
Why would we be recalling that? The wilderness, or the desert, is the place to do two things. In the worldly sense, rebels and renegades gathered in the wilderness. If you are gathering an army to overthrow the current ruler, you went into the wilderness. The other thing you went into the wilderness to do is draw near to God. In the absence of the delights of the World, the hope was connection to God. Why did God lead Israel into the wilderness after the Exodus? In the hopes that they would draw near to Him. Of course if we remember that physical Israel, they longed for the meat and fullness of Egypt, and they gathered in rebellion against the God who brought them out of Egypt. It would be Jesus who would go out into the wilderness and turn down the temptations of the devil and the world.
The Psalmist remembers the Works of God in the wilderness as three things. First, God draws near to his people – “a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night.” This is the fire-y cloudy pillar that would see Israel all their journey through. After drawing near, God provided abundant sustenance, bread from heaven and water from the Rock. And the last work is that God remembered his promises. While Israel would still be rebels in the wilderness, even while God drew near, He remembered his promises and provided in abundance.
So why would we remember this let alone sing about it or make these deeds known among the peoples? The first reason is that God again drew near, but this time not as fire and cloud, but as man, as Israel reduced to one. And when Jesus went to the desert, this Israel was faithful. When tempted to make bread from the stones, he pointed at the true bread – the Word of God (Matthew 4:4). And He came to give us this true bread, himself. God drew near to us with his abundance.
The second reason is how we might recognize this life. We are like Israel in the desert. We know where we have been. We vaguely know where we are going. And we know who leads us. We walk though this world to learn that God draws near to us, and to learn how God gives us bread in abundance and water in the desert. We walk through this world to learn that God remembers and keeps his promises.
The question to us is do we follow? Or do we go back to Egypt; do we prefer rebellion? Does the bread of heaven satisfy, or do we long for what the world would offer?