Summary: God provides food for his people in the desert for a reason. What is it?
August 10, 2003 Exodus 16
How many of you have ever eaten soap? I would assume that you didn’t just one day decide to take a bar of soap and eat it - unless you were mentally impaired in some way. More than likely, you did it because your parents made you do it. It wasn’t because they hated you, but because they wanted to teach you a lesson about using filthy language.
Instead of eating soap, God once made John eat a scroll, to teach him a different lesson. John said, I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.” . . . Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” Whereas at first it tasted sweet to hear God’s Word - when He realized what God’s Word would do - and the response he would get from it - it turned sour in his stomach.
This wasn’t the first time that God used eating to teach a lesson. Way back with Adam and Eve, He used the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge to teach Adam and Eve obedience and honor. So when we come across the story of the manna and quail in Exodus, we should be aware that there is more to this story than meets the eye. When the Israelites ask, “what is it”, there’s a lesson behind it. God answers that question with an answer that will hopefully give us a different view of the stuff of life.
Manna - What Is It?
I. It is nourishment
We continue our story about two and ½ months after the wonderful deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptian army. Now, they may have thought after this wonderful delivery, that everything was going to be handed to them on a golden platter. But they were soon to discover that such was not the case. After being delivered some water at Marah and getting to live at an oasis, they soon found themselves hurting for food. So they grumbled to Moses again. Moses prayed to the LORD, and the Lord delivered with a new food that had never been seen before. In the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. (Ex 16:13-15) It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. (Exodus 16:31) Whereas the Israelites didn’t know exactly what it was, they did know what this manna (what is it?) tasted like. Ultimately, it didn’t matter what it was, as long as it did the job. And it did that.
God told the Israelites - ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. (Ex 16:16-18) So for 40 years, day by day, God provided the Israelites with a morning meal that lasted every day. The Israelites were able to cook this food, boil it, grind it, much like we are able to do a variety of things with potatoes. They could have cream of manna, boiled manna, manna a la carte, fried manna, you name it, they had it. There wasn’t a great variety, and it didn’t even really have a name, but that didn’t matter. It was enough to sustain two million people for 40 years - and that’s what it was for.
When Jesus taught us to pray the Lord’s Prayer, He didn’t have us ask for a year’s supply of meat and potatoes, a lifetime supply of fish, or even a winter’s worth of wheat. All he said we should pray is, “give us this day our daily bread.” There’s nothing fancy about bread. Like manna, it’s white and kind of tasteless, but it is very versatile, and most importantly, it get’s the job done. It feeds us. That’s the main point Jesus was getting at. By telling us to pray for daily bread, He was saying to us, “just pray for enough to get by.”
Yet as humans we have a hard time doing this. We say, “give us this day our daily bread,” but in reality we live the prayer, “Lord, please give me a weekly Frosty, angus burger, and deep fried onions. On Sundays, I would like a smorgasbord of meat and salads. At lunch time, I have to eat something hot - cold cuts just won’t do. And I would also like to have Italian and Mexican at least once every other week.” We love to talk about our favorite foods and places to eat and plan our schedules around where we can feed our faces. We need to beware of manna and remember what it is - a nameless food. Remember what it’s for - daily nourishment. That’s it.