The extended narrative of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and her journey through the wilderness is a deep, rich vein of truth to mine and apply. I’d love to teach a whole course on it, but for now, I will draw your attention, dear reader, to the story of the manna found in Exodus 16.
This story takes place merely a month after the Hebrew slaves’ hasty flight from Egypt and it unfortunately begins with their complaining. After witnessing ten displays of God’s fearsome power and a series of miraculous interventions in their behalf, the “whole community of Israel” could only murmur and gripe about their traveling conditions, and particularly, the perceived scarcity of food and water. Some even longed to return to Egypt, where at least there was plenty to eat.
When Moses conveyed their case to the Lord, he assured Moses that their complaints were against God, and not against Moses or his brother Aaron.
When we have been delivered from slavery–which we all have been when we are born again–and we complain about our circumstances, we must realize that we are complaining against the Lord. He is our Father and we are his children. He has committed himself to our care. When things become difficult, we are tempted to return to our sin addiction (our Egypt). We didn’t enjoy the oppression of sin, but at least it feels familiar. A journey through the wilderness toward the Promised Land is full of the unknown, but it leads to a land of freedom and abundance. When we complain, we are complaining about the very provision of God.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you (v. 4).
Here was the Lord’s promise to provide, but it came with a test. He would daily rain it down, and they would daily pick it up according to his specific instruction. They were to only gather two quarts for each person per day, and no more. On the sixth day they were to gather twice as much, so they could have a Sabbath rest on the seventh day, and not have to gather food. In this way, no one could hoard food, and no one would lack adequate food. All would have “just enough”.
The Israelites had such a hard time with these simple tests of obedience. They picked up extra, only to find the next morning that the leftover manna was full of maggots and had a rotten smell. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much as instructed, but didn’t understand why there was twice as much to gather, even though they had been told the reason. On the Sabbath, some of them went out to gather, and wouldn’t you know, there was no manna to be found. The whole “food from heaven” concept eluded them.
The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other. They had no idea what it was (v. 15). (The word “manna” means, ‘what is it?’)
As we make our way through the wilderness, God makes provision for us. It looks different from what we fed on before he rescued us. Our daily bread falls like dew on the grass—to nourish our bodies and our souls, to heal our hearts and lighten our understanding. We are not to try to get our needs met in the old ways, but according to the instruction he provides in his book. We don’t get ahead or fall behind in our obedience. We are not to be led by fear of lack, or by greed. And we are to rest when God says to rest.
When they saved the Friday leftovers to eat on Saturday, “the leftover food was wholesome and good, without maggots or odor” (v. 25).
If we do things God way, there is no blight, no infestation, no stink upon our lives.
Bottom line, this is the test: do we trust God?
Moses collected a sample of manna to keep inside the Ark of the Covenant so that “later generations will be able to see the food I gave you in the wilderness when I set you free from Egypt” (v. 32). The Lord rained down manna every day (except the Sabbath days) for the next forty years, and it sustained Israel until they were able to plant crops in the land of Israel, the land of milk and honey.
As we journey with God, we are to remember and relate to all generations our testimony of the Lord’s rescue. The story of the miracles he has done. The story of heaven-sent provision. The story of receiving bread from heaven.