Heavenly Manna

EVERY morning throughout the world, many of the Lord’s people open up a little book called, “Daily Heavenly Manna,” to read the Scripture text and comment for that day. The selections are very precious, and often have been read so many times over the years, that they are familiar to us. Just as nutritionists tell us that a healthy breakfast is important for making a good beginning each day, so this bread from heaven is intended to give us a good spiritual start each morning. The word manna comes from the experiences of Israel and was all-important to the Israelites, being the mainstay of their diet during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness.

Israel had been enslaved by Egypt for hundreds of years. Moses was chosen by God to lead them to freedom, and to establish them as a nation in their own land, but, of course, Pharaoh did not want them to leave. Finally, after a series of awful plagues upon Egypt, climaxing in the death of all the Egyptian firstborn—from Pharaoh’s own son to the lowliest slave—Pharaoh consented to their departure. But once they were gone, he again changed his mind, pursuing them with his armies right to the brink of the Red Sea. The Israelites were extremely frightened of being captured and taken back into bondage once again; they murmured and complained against Moses and his poor leadership which brought them to such straits! But with God’s miraculous help they crossed the Red Sea, leaving behind Pharaoh and his hosts drowned in the depths of the waters.

Only about a month’s time had elapsed after the excitement of their remarkable deliverance—beginning with the Passover when the angel of death slew all the firstborn in Egypt, but passed over the homes of the Jews which had been protected by the blood of the Passover lamb. Then followed their marvelous deliverance, safely passing through the Red Sea on dry land while the sea rushed in on their following enemies. They were now safely on the other side, Pharaoh and his hosts were dead, and they sang the song of triumph. (Exod. 15:1-19) When they had time to reflect on where they were, and what was happening, they realized they were traveling through very desolate country.

All too soon they once again showed their lack of gratitude to God and his provisions for them. “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!” (Exod. 16:2,3) Through their murmurings they were rejecting the wonderful provision the Lord had made for their freedom from slavery through the faithful leadership of Moses.

Earlier they had had a life-threatening problem locating water for themselves and their livestock, but the Lord provided water for them. They had come to a place where there were twelve wells, which took care of their water problems at the time. (Exod. 15:27) But still there was the matter of finding enough food to satisfy the tremendous multitude and their thousands of animals. In essence they said, “Nobody is here to sell us food: there is no vegetation in this area: how are we going to be able to survive? We will starve to death!”

Again we see the longsuffering of the Heavenly Father—how gracious he was, how patient with this faithless nation. When Moses and Aaron sought the Lord he spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh [food], and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God.”—Exod. 16:11,12

“It came to pass, that … in the morning the dew lay around about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna [which means, ‘what is it?’]: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat”—Exod. 16:13-15

The Lord faithfully provided for Israel, and they should have been satisfied and grateful for his provisions. Not a single day passed for forty years that they did not have manna to eat to fill their stomachs and to meet their nutritional needs. “The children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.” (Exod. 16:35) Without this marvelous, miraculous provision for food they would surely have died in that forsaken wilderness.

Information is provided to us in the Scriptures concerning what this manna was like. First, we are told that it was deposited at night, like the dew. It was white, which indicates that it was not a growing tree, or plant, grass, grain, or herb. It was not something that grew out of the earth naturally, as the many green plants the Lord had provided in the beginning for all animals and for man to eat, as the basic source of food supply. (Gen. 1:29,30) This food was white in color, indicating that it came from heaven.

In fact, in Psalm 78:23-25, it is called “angels’ food.” The thought is that the source of this bread was the Almighty, sent by him to earth through his angels. Jehovah “opened the doors of heaven, and had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them the corn of heaven. Men did eat angels’ food: and he sent them meat [manna] to the full.” Manna has been described as being like coriander seed, which is a globular, white, aromatic fruit. It is like it, but it was not the coriander seed itself. “The house of Israel called the name thereof manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” (Exod. 16:31) In another account we are told, “The manna was as coriander seed, and the color thereof as the color of bdelium.”—Num. 11:7

It took patience and effort to gather this tiny, grainlike food every day. We are told, “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.” (Num. 11:8) This information indicates to us that manna had all the basic ingredients for a good as well as a tasty diet. It undoubtedly had a proper balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats for a nutritional diet.

Jehovah’s instructions were that manna was to be gathered each morning. It was forbidden to gather enough for two days. “Notwithstanding they hearkened not to Moses; but some of them left of it until the [next] morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them.” (Exod. 16:20) The exception the Lord made was, that on the day before the Sabbath they were to gather twice as much for their families as they usually ate in one day’s time. Twice as much manna fell, and it did not spoil overnight. It was perfectly proper for them to hold that supply over to the next day. In fact, if one went out on a Sabbath day, there would be no manna on the ground.

This certainly is proof that manna was not a phenomenon of the region and not a natural cycle. Six days they would find it, and every seventh day they would not find it! This was a tremendous miracle! Without it, Israel would have died.

Another, even more wonderful, exception concerning the manna was a portion which the Lord instructed to be put into a golden pot, which vessel was then placed in the Ark of the Covenant. The manna preserved in the golden pot never spoiled in all the centuries that Israel had possession of the Ark of the Covenant. This was a representation of immortality—divine life.—Heb. 9:4

How great was this miracle! And did Israel realize how great it was? Using modern terms as a description, it would be the same as if the Lord would have a freight train pull up to a siding with two hundred large hopper cars, and then all the people of the nation of Israel would come and get their portion. The Lord instructed them to take only the amount they would eat that day. There were approximately two million people traveling through the wilderness. And, under these circumstances, all would have to line up to get their supplies of daily provender. Every day two hundred huge hopper cars full of manna would have to be shuttled into place!

Or to use another illustration of an aircraft landing in an inaccessible region, it could take as many as two hundred jumbo jets to supply all these people with food! And do not forget that on the day before the Sabbath day there would have to be four hundred freight cars or four hundred jumbo jets, because they had to have two days’ supply of food provided!

Israel did know that this was a great miracle which God performed for their salvation. Centuries later they referred to its magnitude to belittle the miracle Jesus performed when he fed five thousand people. The record of this is found in John 6:1-65.

Jesus had come to a desert place. Thousands of people followed him because they wanted to hear him speak. As the day wore on they became faint from hunger, but they did not have any food with them. Jesus provided their meal by finding among those in the crowd a boy who had five loaves and some fish, and performing a miracle, multiplied this small amount of fare until enough food was provided to satisfy 5,000 people!

The people were so impressed by this miracle that they reacted by saying, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” They tried to take him by force to make him a king, but he quickly escaped and went into a mountain by himself. He skillfully eluded them because he knew that it was not time for him to become king.

Jesus was destined to be their king, but not at that time, because he had come for a different purpose. But these people were not to be denied—they sought him and found him. “When they had found him … they said, Rabbi, why Gamest thou hither?” Then Jesus told them, “I say unto you, Ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”

Jesus’ appeal was to those in the multitude who had hearing ears. There were a few there who would ultimately become his faithful footstep followers, but the great majority were only interested in the fishes and loaves he could provide, and he let them know that he was very much aware of that fact. As a consequence of this line of exchange between these people and our Lord Jesus, they implied that the miracle of the loaves and the fishes he had performed was not that great a miracle in their eyes! They compared it to how Moses, for forty years fed their fathers in the wilderness: “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (vss. 30,31) They could have added that Moses fed two million people, while Jesus only fed five thousand!

But our Lord replied, “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.” (vss. 32,33) They had no comprehension of what he was talking about. When he mentioned the bread from heaven which would bring life, they said, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” (vs. 34) Then Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”—vs. 35

He tried to teach them that the manna in the wilderness was simply a picture—a type or shadow (Heb. 8:6; 10:1) of the true bread of life: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread which I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (vs. 51) He knew this was not something they could understand, comprehend, or believe. And because of these hard sayings, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked with him no more.”—vs. 66

But, how wonderful it is that God has blessed our eyes that they can see, and our ears that they can hear, and that we have an understanding of what Jesus was talking about. We can get the lesson from the beautiful picture of the manna, and how without it we would die. The manna represented Jesus’ flesh, sacrificed for the life of the world; his perfect humanity laid down in death for all mankind. Just as God sent down the manna from heaven every day for Israel, so Jesus left his heavenly home and came down to earth to become the true manna—the bread of life—for you and me, and all who believe on his name.

We need our heavenly manna to sustain us as we travel through the wilderness, on our journey toward Canaan. Without it we will not be able to survive. There are many lessons to learn from our study of the manna, but the primary one is to appreciate the ransom. The manna pictures the ransom first and foremost. Therefore, before we can take even the first step on our wilderness journey we must have an appreciation of the ransom and what it does for us. We cannot appreciate it enough. We will never be able to completely understand what a sacrifice it was for the Heavenly Father to send his Son to earth to die (John 3:16); nor what it meant for our Lord Jesus to lay down his perfect life for us in order that we could come out from under the Adamic condemnation and find everlasting life!

The manna did not represent only the ransom, however. It also represents all that is contained in the Word of God. This is shown in the experience of Jesus, when he was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness after his baptism in Jordan by John. The adversary’s first temptation consisted of telling Jesus to turn stones into bread. He was hungry—he had not eaten for forty days and forty nights. Our Lord’s reply to the devil was: “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) Jesus was quoting Moses (Deut. 8:3) who was reminding Israel how God had provided manna for them to eat.

In these words our Lord tells how dependent we are on the whole Word of God. Let us learn well this all-important and vital lesson of the manna which God has emphasized in his Word. Starting with the first verse we quote: “All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore unto your fathers. And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, and to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldst keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”—Deut. 8:1-3

Dawn Bible Students Association
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