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EXODUS 16-17

Many have asked for Manna. I can't produce it. Psalm 78 tells us the "Bread of the Angels" was shared with man a short time. Our Passover meal a few weeks ago was well received. I've got you figured out -- feed you and you'll sit happily through anything. Use your imagination and munch on these - wafer with honey. Numbers 11:7 tells us that "manna was like coriander seed." Unfortunately for you, fortunate for quail, I'm a bad shot. So there'll be no quail to eat today. If you want water, visit the water fountain.

Today we find the Israelites in the Wilderness of Sin. The name, Sin, has no connection with our English word "sin," despite Israel's sin being a principle feature in today's text. The Wilderness "Sin" is similar to the word "Sinai," but we're not certain what those names meant. Mt. Sinai is in the vicinity of the Wilderness of Sin.

The children of Israel have been traveling for about a month. They grumbled at Pihatharoth because they thought the Egyptians were gonna get them. They grumbled at Marah over bitter water. And now, after all God has done for them, we find them grumbling again. Can you believe these guys? I can. I think it was a VERY real hardship they were enduring. They were suffering from hunger. Perhaps that is why God doesn't punish them for their complaining spirit. Supplies were running low and they had probably been rationing their food. These people had been on a rough, hot, dry journey for over a month. If you've ever walked our comfortable Mall for an hour you know it can get your appetite up. Have you ever known real hunger? Most probably have not. If you've ever gone more than a few hours past a meal time or even missed an entire meal all the while engaging in a rigorous activity, you might have an inkling of what these people were faced with on their travels. When I get hungry, I get grouchy! But I don't think my hunger pains would compare to what the children of Israel experienced. They were learning that freedom never comes without paying a price. I think their desire for food was real and justified, and they needed sustenance. We have the hindsight - knowing God was going to take care of their needs. They didn't. God had never fed them before. And hungry, desperate people grumble.

God provides them with the sustenance they need. And He does it in style - with the "bread of Heaven." He gave them the bread for "life." Turn with me to John 6:25-58 where Jesus says He is our Bread of Life. In the 4th chapter of John we see that Jesus had a discourse with the Samaritan woman at the well about life-giving water. Then after traveling back to Galilee, we see in John chapter 6 that He has just fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes the day before and walked on the water that night. Now the next morning the crowd is looking for Him because they like the way He has fed them. Now in this passage He tells them about the "bread of life."

25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? 26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? 43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. 47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. (KJV)

Did you catch the Jews murmuring in verse 41? (In verse 60 some of the disciples are murmuring, saying, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to this?") They were murmuring because they were hungry for spiritual food and DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT! They thought they were well fed, but in fact were hurting from spiritual malnutrition. They were so malnourished they couldn't even recognize God in the flesh. They had been feeding themselves on the "letter of the law." They had created more, stricter laws to carry out the letter of the law. Remember all the restrictions I read to you during the Passover lecture about how to make kosher bread? (Special utensils - cleaned just right - limited to 18 minutes from start to finish.) They were concentrating on nit-picky details and looking for an earthly king, but not feeding on the "spirit of the law" of loving God and earnestly desiring to serve Him.

When Israel murmured in the Wilderness of Sin they had no idea that future people would be looking back at them in disbelief at their murmurings after all the Lord had done for them. He was so evidently with them with the cloud still above them, leading them. They are a prime example of a complaining spirit.

The Jews in John 6 didn't dream their murmurings would be remembered and referred to so many times. God was there in the FLESH, but they couldn't see Him. It is easy to see the solution AFTER the fact.

Do we murmur? Yes. If our murmurings were recorded for future generations to read, would people be in disbelief at our murmurings? Probably so. We have so many physical comforts - food, clothing, shelter, luxuries. What do we lack? What do we murmur about? Do we murmur in the church? Perhaps we need more spiritual food. Perhaps when we murmur WE are suffering from spiritual malnutrition. Maybe it's time to look and see what part of the balanced diet we have been neglecting. As I read verse 57 in John 6, I see it as saying, "We will live (spiritually survive), because God has provided a superior spiritual food and water that we must partake of for eternal life." You know the 4 Basic Food Groups--Meat, Fruit & Vegetables, Bread & Grains, and Dairy Products. Spiritual food groups include love and compassion, servanthood, keeping the commandments, spreading the Word. We can't live by bread alone or cornbread and buttermilk. We can't just eat the parts we like - we have to eat the liver and brussels sprouts along with the ice cream and buttered rolls, etc. It all has to be taken in and digested. Next time you hear yourself grumbling, ask yourself, "What part of Christ's qualities have I not partaken of lately?" "Have I forgotten love, compassion, honesty?" "Have I forgotten I am to serve, to humble myself?"

Manna, which translates "What is it?", is the only thing of its kind, the only bread from Heaven which God ever gave to preserve the life of man, as Christ is the true bread that came down from Heaven and was given for the life of the world.

In Exodus 16:4 the Israelites were tested to see if they would gather, gather the right amount, if they would hoard it - whether they would walk in His law or not. Moses tells them in verse 19 "Let no man leave any of it till the morning." They were to plan ahead only for the Lord's day. God would have them take no thought for tomorrow and constantly depend on Him for their daily bread. God tells us the same thing in the Lord's prayer - "Give us this day our daily bread." Give us what we need for today. Daily we need God's spiritual food.

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us, "Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, drink, or your body, or what you shall put on." Life is more than food or clothing. He tells us to look at the birds and the lilies of the field. They don't sow or reap or gather into barns, yet God takes care of them. Aren't we more valuable? Yes. Don't think on physical things, but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these shall be given unto you. So don't be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself tomorrow. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day.

If the Israelites tried to keep manna over night, what happened? Worms. What is the result if we keep thoughts of tomorrow overnight? Worms. Butterflies in the stomach - ulcers.

God wants the Israelites to see that sin is unprofitable, wasteful and putrid. Once they see that, they will return to the Lord and trust in Him for their daily needs. That's what God wants from us - to see sin as unprofitable and putrid and to DAILY turn to Him for our sustenance. The only exception to the manna turning to worms over night was before the Sabbath. The only thing He wanted them to prepare ahead for was the Lord's day. All He asks us to prepare ahead for is the Lord's Day - when He returns to claim and redeem His people.

God tells them not to hoard the manna, to keep it to themselves; and we are not to hoard our manna. The gospel must be shared with others or it becomes foul.

The Israelites salvation from starvation was from the Lord, and our salvation is from the Lord. God wanted the Israelites dependant on Him for all supplies, and He wants us dependant on Him. But God didn't do all the work for the Israelites. God provided the sustaining food. They had to do the gathering and the preparing - boiling, grinding, etc. It took a cooperative act between God and the Israelites. God doesn't do all the work of salvation for us. He wants our cooperation as well. God provides us with the ultimate sacrifice, redemption and sustaining spiritual food, but we are responsible for gathering it and preparing ourselves. We work with God and for God. (We can plant and water, but God gives the increase.)

God tells Moses to store some of the manna to be kept throughout generations because this was not going to be a permanent provision. Forty years later the miracle of manna from Heaven ceased the day after they ate of the produce from the land of Canaan for the first time. But God wanted future generations to know about it, so He told them to store some. It was a temporary provision. Our manna is not temporary. It is a permanent provision until Christ returns, and it is provided DAILY. Do we store our manna to show our children and bring it out to show them occasionally? I pray not. The storage was for temporary provisions that future generations would need to see. Our manna is to be gathered daily, and our children need to see it daily so they will develop a hunger for that spiritual food.

I won't have time to go into Christ being the WATER OF LIFE, as we have His being the BREAD OF LIFE, but it is basically the same story.

As for the story of the battle against the Amalekites, when Moses held up his hands, the Israelites prevailed; when his hands would go down, they would fail. Let me share with you this one spiritual application to this event that I found: "As long as our hands are lifted up in praise, in worship, in thanksgiving, no matter what the circumstances, the Lord and his people will prevail. But the minute we put our hands down and stop praising God, the enemy overcomes us. In all things we have to praise God and give thanks to Jesus Christ."

To recap what was just said:

  1. Christ came from heaven, just as the manna did.
  2. Christ gives life spiritually, as manna gave life physically.
  3. Christ is the only hope for eternal life. Manna was the only hope for Israel in the wilderness.
  4. Christ is for all men who would gather unto Him, as manna was for all Israel who would go out and gather it.
  5. Jesus was not recognized by Israel. Neither did the Israelites know the manna.
  6. Jesus is a test for all men, just as manna was a test for Israel.

We are to feed on our manna DAILY as did the Israelites in the Wilderness. Jesus is our manna - our BREAD OF LIFE, our WATER OF LIFE. Only after partaking of these can we partake of the TREE OF LIFE that is mentioned in Genesis as being present in the Garden of Eden and in Revelation as being in Heaven. The lesson to us is to DAILY take care that we are spiritually well nourished with the Water and Bread of Life.

Jeannie Cole

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, Fall 1989

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