Text: Exodus 16:1-36
God loves to meet the needs of His people. That first requires for us to be in need, and to look to God to provide. For the Hebrews, God freed them from slavery, rescued them from a pursuing army, led them with a cloud, and gave them water to drink. God was meeting every need, proving that He was all they needed. These miracles didn’t stop them from complaining. But their complaining didn’t stop God from providing.
THE PEOPLE GRUMBLE, YET GOD PROVIDES FOOD
It was exactly a month since they left Egypt. Their rations were running low, and the were hungry. And angry. They were hangry. And they wanted to know what Moses was going to do about it. It didn’t seem to matter all they had seen God do for them. Their moment of hunger spoke louder than any good thing God had done before. A discontent heart has a short memory. Cultivating a content heart begins with remembering God’s goodness yesterday, which helps us trust God for today.
The people complained. But how does God respond? Not with punishment, but provision. That night, God swarmed the camp with flocks of quail. All they could eat. And the next morning, God provided a white, delicious flaky substance that was sweet to the taste and could be ground up to make bread. They said, “What is it?”. In Hebrew, that question is “man-hu” or “man-ha”. So that’s what they called it – manna.
But God was doing more than feeding their stomachs. He was training their hearts. With the manna came some specific instructions:
- They could only gather what they would eat for one day. No storing up.
- If anyone did collect more then one day’s ration, that manna would rot and stink.
This was tough for an agrarian culture. Farmers never harvest only what they need for one day. If a farmer doesn’t store up his harvest, he will go hungry. God was teaching them to trust Him – every day – for their needs. And for 40 years, God provided bread from heaven for His people.
Even though these instructions from God were crystal clear, out of 2 million people, you know somebody had to break the rules.
THE PEOPLE DISOBEY, YET GOD PROVIDES REST
Some thought they would be smarter than God and collect more than they should to keep for the next day. But they woke up the next morning, and instead of delicious manna, they found a bowl full of maggots. And it stunk so bad, other families noticed. They all knew who disobeyed. Word got back to Moses, and understandably, he was angry.
But again, we don’t see punishment. We see God’s patience. God is training His people like a parent would train a young child. Even though some disobey, God continues to provide. He was teaching them to trust in Him. At the same time, God was also preparing them for some of the commands that were yet to come. We see that in the next instruction regarding gathering manna:
- On the sixth day of the week, they would collect twice as much as they needed, so that they would have enough for the Sabbath. God would perform yet another miracle and cause that manna not to rot overnight so that they would be able to eat without going out to work on the 7th day, because He was teaching them about Sabbath rest.
In this we see a glimpse of redemption. When Adam and Eve sinned and God removed them from the garden, Adam’s curse was to work by the sweat of his brow. For Israel, God is providing for them everyday, without strenuous work. God is giving them a glimpse of the curse being reversed, of God redeeming His people and forgiving their sin and drawing them to Himself.
God is patiently teaching His people. His commands are not burdens. They are gifts, to show us a better way to live. Rest is a gift, not a curse. Walk in God’s goodness – He knows better.
And to remember His goodness God gives one more instruction. He tells Moses and Aaron to take a portion of this manna and put it in a special jar to be kept, not just for a day, not for a week, but for generations to come, so all would remember how God provided bread from heaven.
GOD’S GREATER PROVISION
This manna, this bread from heaven, was not just about God meeting their physical needs. There was a greater provision in mind. Later in the Book of Deuteronomy, just before Moses dies, he’s reminding the Hebrews of all that God has done…
And [God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3)
We need God everyday, not just for physical needs, but our spiritual needs as well. It’s easy to be caught up with our physical needs. But our existence is more than just physical. We are spiritual beings. And we need daily spiritual food. We need God’s Word daily. Every word that comes out of the mouth of the Lord is a spiritual feast for our souls. And we have His word in the Bible. This is God’s word, for us to read, to eat of daily, to be encouraged, to be sustained, to grow in trusting God and depending on Him, and finding our treasure and our contentment in Him every day.
And this manna was to point us beyond a “thing” and reveal to us a person. In the Gospel of John we read how Jesus took a great multitude of people into the wilderness to teach them. And they were hungry. Instead of sending them away, Jesus miraculously fed them. (Almost an exact replay of the Hebrews in the wilderness.) And then Jesus said to this crowd…
“Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:32–35)
The greater provision is not only found in what God gives. It is found in God Himself. Jesus is our daily bread. Jesus is the bread from heaven. He is the one who saves, He is the one who satisfies. His supply will never run out, and his love never ends.
We complain, He still provides. We disobey, yet He forgives. We grumble, yet He still meets our needs, starting with the greatest need you and I ever had – a need for a Savior, a payment and remedy for the sins of God’s people. Jesus died to pay for our sins, and He rose from the dead, proving that payment was enough.
In Christ alone, we will find true contentment and fullness of joy. You and I have been given bread from Heaven. And His name is Jesus.