Scripture: And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. Exodus 16:17-18 ESV
Observation: Setting out from their respite in the oasis of Elim, the Lord leads his people into the wilderness of Sin en route to Mount Sinai. And again, Israel grumbles about inadequate provisions—this time, the lack of meat. As usual, they engage in selective memories. Longingly recounting their time in Egypt, where they satisfied their hunger with tasty meat pots, they fail to recall their suffering under the yoke of slavery. But their patient and long-suffering Lord responds to their complaint by providing quail for the evening meal and manna (Hebrew word means “what is it”), a breadlike wafer with the sweetness of honey, in the morning.
Manna, however, would only last for the day. For if they were to hoard it, worms would infest it by the following day—except on the eve of the Sabbath, when they may gather enough for two days so that they would observe the Sabbath rest. And the Lord would supernaturally preserve the manna from infestation for the extra day of the Sabbath. The process would continue for the forty years of their wandering in the wilderness and serve to accomplish three objectives:
- to test them, whether they will walk in the LORD’s law or not (v.4)
- to know that it was the LORD who brought them out of the land of Egypt (v.6)
- to see the glory of the LORD (v.7)
Yahweh’s provisions also facilitated observance of the Sabbath rest, enabling God’s people to rejuvenate in worship and find the strength of mind and body to press on into the week ahead.
Takeaway: As the above verses tell us, the amount they gathered, whether more or less, would satiate their physical hunger for the day. But with language like that of verse 4 (“Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you”), the spiritual implications are clearly in view. Christ, the Bread of Heaven, is our new Manna. However, we no longer need to ask, “What is it.” Jesus has fully revealed his identity (Son of God ) and mission:
- abundant life here and now where our temporal needs are satiated (John 10:10)
- eternal life free from the ill effects of sin, where all our longings our satisfied (Revelation 21:1-8)
Indeed, in Christ here and now, we find rest for our weary souls sufficient for the day. No more, no less, but enough strength and provision to complete our mission for the day. And like Israel, when we satiate our hunger for life in Christ, the new Manna, we learn to walk in his ways, remember how he has rescued us from our ultimate enemy, and behold his glory anew every morning.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for raining down from heaven the gift of your Son, who is our Bread of Life. Would you please help us to satiate our hunger for abundant life in him that we might find the sustenance to share your marvelous, life-saving Manna with others? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling