And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am Yahweh your God.’ ” So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which Yahweh has given you to eat.” …And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. (Exo 16:11-15,31)
God tried to give them a foretaste of His nature and the things to come. Not only was the bread from heaven total provision, it was also freely given. They simply had to gather it and use it as they pleased. It could be baked as a bread, boiled as a cereal– like cream of wheat, or eaten fresh like a honey wafer. It was nutritious, sweet and free! What more could one desire? But they didn’t know what it was or its origin so they called it manna which means, “What is it?”
The name was appropriate because they never did fully understand what manna was or why Yahweh had given it to them. It was meant to be a revelation of God’s character– His benevolence and His faithfulness. And it was also sent to test them to see how they would respond. Would they humble themselves and acknowledge His goodness? Would they learn to believe in His provision for them and trust Him? He wanted them to know Him! But they refused. Although it was life to them, and freely given, they wanted something else. They longed for familiar foods in sufficient variety to satisfy their wanton appetites. They wanted to be in charge of the menu and they soon grew tired of the food God had provided for them. They despised the bread from heaven.
How often we do this today. God daily loads us with benefits but we never see them. We are too busy with our own plans to pay attention to all the random acts of kindness He performs on our behalf. We have eyes but we don’t see God’s involvement in many areas of our lives. And we easily grow tired of the good things He so freely provides for us. They are too simple, too plain, too monotonous. Some people won’t drink water– one of God’s best gifts to us– essential to all life. Others refuse vegetables or fruits or nuts or eggs or cereal grains. The wilderness Isralites thought they had too little to appreciate, and we often have too much.
Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely (can a slave receive anything freely?) in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” … The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil. And when the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it. Numbers 11:4-9
“And you shall remember that Yahweh your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness… He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of Yahweh.” Deut 8:2-3
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” John 6:47-51
Are you longing for your heavenly inheritance or are you looking for something back in Egypt? Many of us are longing for something that is far less than we need. It is something ephemeral rather than eternal. It is something that will bring only momentary satisfaction. What is it? Take a moment to consider the following questions.
What are you whining and complaining about?
What are you grieving about and lamenting over?
What are you hungering and thirsting for?
What do you really want? (Onions? Or maybe chocolate? :-)
What craving reveals your deepest desires and priorities?
We find a story in the New Testament that teaches us about proper priorities.
Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
Wow! Martha was doing what most women did in her society and if a poll had been taken, Martha would have been praised for her actions and Mary would have been censored for hers. Cooking, cleaning and serving were expected of women and Martha was focused on doing her best for Jesus and His followers. She had good motives when she made her choice to serve. On the other hand, theological training was denied to women of her day and Mary also had good motives when she made the choice to resist societal pressures and sit at Jesus’ feet. There’s no doubt that many were shocked when Jesus gently chided Martha for her worries and commended Mary for her focus on the “one thing” that “is needed,” which was Himself, the bread from heaven.
As the bread from heaven, Jesus is all we need. Bread is the basic, essential food of life. It is so simple we tend to overlook its importance. We easily lose sight of its value in our lives. Its place is misunderstood and underappreciated because we are longing for variety and spice as the Israelites did. While we are attracted to flash, glitz, glam and beauty, Jesus comes to us in the simple, lowly, unexciting and often unlovely details of life. When we fail to recognize His presence and fail to appreciate His provisions, we may find ourselves asking with disappointment or disdain, “What is it?” And, with that attitude, we will undervalue the bread from heaven that we desperately need.
We may wonder why we must live with delays and denials. And we may ask ourselves, “If He is so satisfying, why must we live with unfulfilled desires?” We need to understand that He is testing our “wilderness” hearts to reveal them to us so they may be purged and purified. Are we grateful for His gifts and benefits or bent on fulfilling our selfish desires? Do we truly long to know Him or do we just want to partake of His benefits?
“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25
If you find yourself dissatisfied with life because of material lack, ask yourself, “If He gave me everything I want right now (with my current attitudes) could I really find lasting satisfaction? And what would I have to look forward to beyond this life?”
Jesus knows what’s best for you. He has every good thing that you need and long for in store for you. In fact, more than you could ask for or imagine! But it is not for now. It is being held for when you can truly enjoy it permanently. Now is the time to sit at His feet, to receive what He shares, and to thank God for the living bread from heaven!