BY Nathele Graham
The Israelites had finally had enough of captivity in Egypt. They had prospered when they first went to Egypt and over the years their population grew to the point that Pharaoh felt threatened by them and made their life miserable. As a last resort, they cried out to God. "And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage." Exodus 2:23. God should never be a last resort, but whenever we finally decide to call on Him He's always there. In fact, He anticipates our cry and has a solution already waiting. In this case His solution was Moses. Moses was born into the tribe of Levi, but was raised as an Egyptian. If you don't know the story you might want to read in Genesis how the captivity came about and in Exodus how God groomed Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. It should have been a fairly short journey from Egypt to the Promise Land, but a lack of faith in God's power kept them wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.
Their lack of faith began soon after they left Egypt. They came to the Red Sea and Pharaoh's army was right behind them. God had done many miracles in order to free them from bondage, not the least of which was the blood of the lamb on their doorposts to protect them from death. Did they really think that He would forsake them at the Red Sea? He would perform yet another miracle by parting that sea so they could pass through it as if they were on dry land, but Pharaoh's army was drowned. God's miracle caused them to sing His praise. "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him." Exodus 15:1-2. This song goes on praising God for what He had done for them. They weren't any different than us. When God does a great miracle our hearts soar and we sing His praises, but as soon as trouble comes our way we wonder why God has forsaken us.
They went from the miraculous place of the Red Sea and travelled three days without water and complained. There is no mention of them praising God or asking for His guidance during these three days, but by their own efforts they came to Marah, but the water there was bitter. They murmured against Moses who finally went to the Lord. "And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee." Exodus 15:25-26. Our life can become bitter and we blame God. When we don't keep His laws we bring disease upon ourselves, such as AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, or liver problems from alcoholism, drug related craziness, and a long list of other ailments caused by our own sinful doings. God showed Moses a tree that would make the bitter turn to sweet, but hasn't He done that for us too? We have the tree of Calvary...the cross upon which our Lord was crucified and gave His life so we might live. Never forget the blood of the Lamb of God that was shed in order to bring us out of the captivity of sin and death and into new life through Him. God is always faithful and He led the Israelites to an oasis. "And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters." Exodus 15:27. This rest was short, and so were their memories.
They left the comforts of Elim and where did they go next? "And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt." Exodus 16:1. The wilderness of Sin. This was a "place" not a "condition", but it is very symbolic of all people. Sin will always bring misery, and in that wilderness the Israelites became hungry. Instead of remembering the miracles, they murmured. "And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger." Exodus 16:2-3. They had forgotten the miserable conditions that caused them to cry out to God for deliverance. When things get rough we look back with selective memory to how wonderful the past was. When you're in pain from a hangover, do you remember how much fun the drunken party was? Or when the doctor says that you have AIDS do you think how bad God is because the wages of your sin is death? The Israelites had forgotten that meat and bread had been scarce in Egypt, and forgot the slavery. They blamed Moses, Aaron, and God for their troubles. Who do you blame?
As always, God provided. He gave them manna. Every morning it would be there and they were to gather only enough for that day. If they gathered extra it would rot. Except on the sixth day they were to gather twice the amount they needed, because the seventh day was a day of rest. "And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat." Exodus 16:15. Manna. There's no big mystery about the definition; it means "What is it?". They hadn't seen it before, but by following God's instructions they had food every day for 40 years. We get a description of it later in Scripture. "And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil." Numbers 11:7-8. That doesn't really clear it up for me! I looked up the Hebrew word for "coriander" and it's defined as "a plant the seed of which resembles manna". Then I looked up "bdellium" and found it defined as "gum resin". Well, I still have to ask "What is it?". For the answer to that question, let's dig a little deeper.
The children of Israel had taken cattle with them when they left Egypt. In fact, Moses made this part of the negotiations with Pharaoh. "And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings that we may sacrifice unto the LORD our God. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve the LORD, until we come thither." Exodus 10:25-26. They took their cattle to serve the Lord, not for food. Animal sacrifice had been established with Adam and Eve and was the reason that Abel's sacrificed lamb was respected by the Lord but Cain's offering of fruit of the ground was rejected. When the Israelites got hungry they murmured, but would have starved rather than eat the cattle. God would soon establish a very strong law that required animal sacrifices as a blood offering, so for now God provided the bread from Heaven for food.
The Israelites who followed Moses didn't fully understand the manna any more than the Jewish people who talked with Jesus understood who He was. "They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat." John 6:30-31. Some tried to understand who Jesus was, but their religion kept them blind. Like the children of Israel who escaped from slavery they kept murmuring and looking for signs. Jesus had just fed this crowd bread and fish through a miracle, but they still wanted signs. "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. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." John 6:32-33. The Law of religion and sacrifice could never save them, but the Bread of Life will always save.
Miracles and signs may get our attention, but to attain life everlasting we need the Bread of Life. That's what the people who had followed Jesus to Capernaum wanted. He had given them food for their stomachs, but now they wanted more. "Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 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." John 6:34-35. He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the once for all sacrifice, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world. "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 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. 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." John 6:38-40. One would think that everyone who saw what Jesus did and heard what He said would immediately turn to Him for salvation, but that just isn't so. "The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven." John 6:41. They murmured in the wilderness, they murmured when Jesus walked the shores of Galilee, and they/we murmur today. This world is filled with people who are blind but in need of Manna to give them life.
The manna the Israelites ate tasted like oil. Is this also symbolic of something deeper? In scripture, oil quite often symbolizes the Holy Spirit. So, the LORD (the Father) sent Bread from Heaven (Jesus Christ) that tasted like oil (the Holy Spirit). The children of Israel complained about this miraculous gift from God, but it was available to them wherever they went for 40 years. The Lord's gift began in the wilderness of Sin and sustained them until they entered the Promised Land. Today we need the Bread of Heaven to save us from sin and sustain us until we reach Heaven.
Manna...what is it? Jesus Christ.
God bless you all,