As we continue our journey to Jerusalem on the Pathway to the Passion, we have established that Jesus is the New Moses who leads a New Exodus from the Holy City. The time is drawing nearer. As we consider the Old Testament foundations for this New Exodus, we look to the first Exodus to inform us. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11, that these things happened as examples for us. So, as we review Israel’s flight from Egypt, we discover that God offered His chosen ones provisions for their journey. Today, we turn our attention to the heavenly food given to sustain them during their pilgrimage – Manna! Read on…
Read Exodus 16:2-7, 13-15, 31-35
Six weeks after leaving Egypt, the Israelites were unhappy! Hunger does strange things to people. Apparently unfulfilled appetites make one forget demonstrations of transcendent power – like the ten plagues culminating in the Passover/Death Angel experience, the parting of the Red Sea, the dramatic deaths of Pharaoh’s Army, the Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night. It’s hard to imagine, but these displays of supremacy by Almighty God dissolved into displeasure as the Israelites sensed a rumbling in their tummies.
How much better it would have been if their request had been made prayerfully and reverently. Instead, with a strong sense of entitlement, the dissatisfaction of the people was voiced, and God heard their complaint. By this time, the Israelites should have known – the Creator would care for them – including their culinary concerns!
God instructed Moses that “bread from heaven” would be supplied each day but the Sabbath. Twice as much could be collected on Friday in preparation for Saturday. Each morning that the flaky bread appeared, they were to gather some for each person. Amazingly, regardless of how much they collected, it always measured an omer, or about 3 pounds – 6 pounds on Friday. At night, God provided quail for them to eat. According to verse 12, they ate manna in the morning and “flesh” in the evening. This was the diet of the Children of Israel for 40 years until they could eat the fruit of Canaan. Pervasive grumbling was met with God’s gracious provision.
When I attended college, several of my Bible professors spent a great deal of time telling us why the Scriptural accounts of miracles, like Manna, could be explained scientifically. One argument that circulated was that this flaky substance was naturally produced by a plant. This is implausible. Consider first that God calls this substance, “bread from heaven.” Second, the people did not know what it was – it was new to their experience. If this were a plant residue, surely someone would have described it that way. Instead, they called it “man hu” or “what is it?” Third, the provisions were predictable over forty years of time. No plant could yield manna so consistently over this prolonged period. Not to mention the lack of production every Saturday! Finally, the collection of the bread, regardless of the amount, came out to one omer. This measurement phenomenon could not be explained by a plant. Manna was nothing less than miraculous bread from heaven!
Manna, it’s what’s for dinner (actually breakfast)…and much more. Exodus 16:32-34 reveals a fascinating requirement of God. Some of the manna was to be placed “before the Lord,” that is, in the Tabernacle’s Most Holy Place. A jar of manna was kept within the Ark of the Covenant among the other “Holy objects”. Hebrews 9:3-4 makes this clear. “Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.” This jar of manna was to be retained so that the subsequent generations might see the heavenly bread that God had provided for the wilderness wandering. While this is the plain truth of Scripture, it is often missed. God intended for this jar of bread to be on reserve before Him as a holy and perpetual memorial.
Scripture offers us other clues about the nature of this supernatural bread. Psalm 78:23-25 tells us that, “…He gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; 24 He rained down manna for the people to eat, He gave them the grain of heaven. 25 Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat.” From this passage, it is clear that manna existed in heaven before “the doors of the heavens” were opened and it was “sent” to the Israelites. By referring to manna as the “bread of angels,” the Psalmist may well be implying that the angels have some role in keeping the manna.
One other passage is helpful. Revelation 2:17 also speaks of manna existing in heaven. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.” The earthly Tabernacle and later the Temple were scaled down models or replicas of the Heavenly Tabernacle/Temple. Hebrews 8:5 says that the earthly sanctuary, “…is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”’ Could it be that God required manna to be “hidden” in the Ark of the Covenant, not only to be a testimony to coming generations, but also because there is manna within the heavenly temple? This is in keeping with “making everything according to the pattern” of “what is in heaven.”
Finally, we are told that manna tasted like “wafers of honey.” Exodus 3:8 shows us that the heavenly bread was actually a foretaste of the Promised Land. “So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” When the Promised Land was reached, the manna was no longer supplied (Joshua 5:10-12). So, while on their decades long journey, this supernatural bread from heaven served as a reminder to the Israelites that God would lead them to a new life in Canaan.
What amazing, miraculous, and tasty supernatural bread! Could there be bread any greater than this? We will find out tomorrow on the Pathway to the Passion.