At the end of Chapter 15, the Lord is not happy with the people for doubting His ability to feed them and give them water. So God decides to test them.
The Cycle has returned as they are tempted to rebel over the lack of food, and openly disobey, accusing Moses of bringing them to the desert to die, and making him fearful that they were about to stone him! Moses cries out to God, who delivers manna from heaven.
Notice how slow our God is to anger and how His love is never-ending! He gives them food and water and does not get angry with them - yet. But when the story says that God hears their grumbles (three times!), something else is going on. His job is not just delivering room service!
The people are already forgetting their miraculous delivery from slavery “on wings of eagles.” That was the passion of a loving and rescuing father. But the people continue to grumble and accuse Moses of genocide.
They apparently feel that the more they gripe, the more God will give them things to make the journey easier.
Finally Moses is told to gather the entire nation at the base of the mountain where God will speak to the people directly. Suddenly the mountain becomes dark and cloaked in fire and smoke, and the shattering peals of thunder remind the Israelites of when God used a similar plague on the Egyptians. Suddenly, they are looking not at deliverance by God as He had done several times since they left Egypt. Now they realize that they may be about to die – at the hand of God! They become so panicked that they ask Moses to never let God speak to them again!
God then tells them that this is a simple test. IF they obey his voice and keep his covenant, they shall be his “special treasure” among the people, for all the earth is his, and they shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Then God gives them the Ten Commandments. Obeying His commandments is the test.
So I must ask. Aren’t we a “priesthood of all believers” in Jesus? Do we obey all Jesus’s commandments? Is the time of patience wearing thin? Will we show up to hear from God one day and find out He is terribly angry?
I strongly recommend a book by John Piper called What Jesus Demands from the World.
Ask yourself if Jesus can be pleased with our disunity.