Summary: We need to stop complaining and cry out to God, depending on him to meet our most important needs of this journey. That we don’t just rely on leaders to connect us with God but rather we are all responsible for having our own relationship with Him.
So Moses/God led them into the desert for three days without water. Experts say that in a warm dry environment like that, 3 days would be the upper limit of survival without water. So these people would be very near death when they came upon this watering hole. And imagine their distress when they found out it was not drinkable. They would have thought for sure they were going to die now.
Again they show little faith, but even though they had seen miracles before, I think we need to give them some slack. I don’t think any of us would expect continual miracles time and again. But the main point here is that none of them even pray, they just complain to Moses who then calls upon the Lord and the Lord gives him an action to obey, and God solves the problem through his servant’s prayer and obedience.
They get a drink at Marah and continue on their journey being told that if they let God govern he will be their healer. Every step of the way, Israel struggled with letting God govern them. This is a challenge in the church of the NT as well. Anyway, they come to Elim which is a beautiful oasis with 12 springs and 70 palm trees.
12 Springs, 12 represents divine government or foundation. 70 Palm Trees, 70 represents a combination of two perfect numbers 7 and 10, and often represents the people of God. Here’s a picture of that spot today, but notice the surrounding land is basically what their whole journey would have consisted of only more mountainous as they continued. With very few of these Oases.
Then he goes on to give the instructions for gathering it.
The desert or wilderness is always a place of testing in the Bible. To this day the wilderness they travelled which is part of Egypt, is completely uninhabited and uninhabitable. In V2 we see that there too the people complained about Moses and Aaron.
What is God doing to these people? I think he’s getting them out of the comfort of slavery. What? Comfort of slavery? Yes, the slavery of the world and attachment to the comforts of the world and overindulgence. “We had pots filled with meat and all the bread we could eat.” They would rather die without God then experience hunger and inconvenience.
So far every time the people complain God comes through. But he says I will give them their daily bread, but not more than they need.
V7 Moses again lets them know a couple times that their complaint is not against Moses and Aaron but against the Lord. The Lord will take responsibility, and I think the idea is that God wants all the people to come directly to Him, not just go through the human leaders for intercession. When leaders are following God, they can all say what Moses says in verse 8, “What have we done? You have a problem with our decisions, our teaching? Take it up with God if we’re following His word.”
The word Manna actually means “what is it”? So for 40 years in the desert the people ate “what is it”. I think the implication may be that the people just didn’t get it, that this was a supernatural provision form God himself.
V23… Are we to take that command seriously? Not to the letter I don’t believe. We don’t have to eat leftovers every Sunday. But the Sabbath was meant to be a privilege, not an obligation. Remember Jesus said in Mk 2:27 that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. It is a gift to us. A day that we are to undistractedly rest and focus on the Lord, remembering Him, worshipping him and being grateful for his provision. It is meant to be enjoyed.
Notice that there are always some who though they know the commands, need to go out and go against the Lord’s commands. Some disobey and try to collect manna on the Sabbath, they don’t find any. Another group tries to gather more than their share for the day, and everything that is left over stinks really bad and gets maggots overnight. By the way, bread does not stink and get maggots when it gets old. Perhaps this disobedience comes from pride, perhaps its greed, perhaps it’s a lack of trust. Probably all of that and more, but look at the results. It doesn’t help and it just angers God.
They then do another remembrance kind of thing by putting two quarts of manna in a jar to be put in the Ark so that for the rest of time, the people could remember what God supplied for 40 years in the wilderness (that bread didn’t rot). Notice that they ate nothing but this manna and a few quail from time to time for 40 years, pretty boring diet, but it was God’s way to keep them alive and it was better that eating worms or bugs. As far as I know we could not live on bread alone for that amount of time nutrition wise, but they did because this was not just any old bread, it was food from God that had everything they needed in it. It was supernatural food, and Jesus makes the parallel between this bread and the Word of God.