4-1-2 Gathering The Manna
As Israel were commanded to gather the manna daily, so we should begathering
the strength of the word daily. Prov. 8:34 records the words of
Wisdom, a personification of God's Law: " Blessed is the man
that heareth me, watching daily at my gates" . They had to
get up early to gather the manna, before the sun was up. Rising
up early is a common Bible idiom for making effort. So there must
be an element of effort in our Bible reading; whether it means setting
the alarm clock those vital few minutes earlier each morning, or
making the mental struggle to really take in the real spirit of
God's word. In practice, it is so important to get off each day
in a good spiritual gear. Doing our Scripture reading first thing
is something which shouldn't be beyond most of us.
Think back to when the manna was first given. Israel were there in the
wilderness, laden with the gold and silver of Egypt, but with no food.
They really were in a desperate hole. They even decided to return to Egypt,
rather than die of hunger amid the howling winds of that desert. So we
can imagine the sense of relief when that manna appeared for the first
time in the ground. Our sophisticated lives, perhaps with too much of
Egypt's gold and silver, are spiritually as desperate as Israel physically
were in that wilderness. It is difficult for us to appreciate this as
we should. We hold in our hands the only, the only thing which can feed
us, which can give us the hope of survival and ultimate success on our
journey. The joy they had when they found the manna should be ours; like
David we should rejoice at finding the word, as one who finds great spoil.
David spoke of doing that after he'd been reading the word for years;
that sense of discovery really can be ours, all through our lives. But
do we really have that sense of gratitude for the word, that ecstasy of
elation as we learn its truths? Are we truly gathering the manna? Most
of us will have to admit that familiarity with our salvation has made
us somewhat weak in this direction; we treat one of God's greatest gifts
to us as something ordinary.
Israel had to be gathering the manna very early in the day, before the
sun was up. That would have meant that the whole family economy was structured
around that daily task of gathering the manna. Now I'm sure you can see
the similarities with the place our reading of the word should have in
our domestic lives. Israel would have had to change their daily routine
to collect it, prepare it, to learn to live by it as their only food.
It's twice emphasized in Ex. 16:8,12 that the manna would completely fill
them. In the morning, said Moses, you shall be filled. So the families
were to have one big meal a day. Most rural African cultures likewise
survive quite happily on one big meal in the morning. The manna gave complete
satisfaction; and Jesus commented on this when He said that through His
word we would be completely filled, we would eat and not hunger, drink
and not thirst. Now this sense of fullness isn't necessarily related to
the amount of time we spend with our eyes on Holy Scripture. It comes
down to our attitude. The Lord Jesus is our supreme example in this in
His busy life as a working man, perhaps helping Mary bringing up the other
children, constantly battling against a lack of cash, all the domestic
problems of a working class family, living hand to mouth. It is doubtful
if in terms of hours per day the Lord Jesus spent that long in eye contact
with the word. But that word was in His mind hour by hour. And there is
good reason to think that He got off each day to a real spiritual feast.
Isaiah 50 prophesies of the Lord: " Morning by morning"
God awoke Him to learn His spiritual lesson.
Ex. 16:14 describes the manna as a " small round thing" . The
Hebrew for " small" doesn't really mean that; it means something
which is broken open, which is complex. And so with the word, as with
the manna, there was no point in just gathering it, it had to be broken
open and prepared. There were a number of different ways in which the
manna could be prepared, but the effort still had to be made. And so if
we are to live by the word of God, just physically reading won't necessarily
give us the strength we need. There must be this process of preparing
it before we eat it, breaking it open so we can digest it, eating the
bread from Heaven, the real essence of the Lord Jesus as revealed to us
in the word. This process of 'eating' should not be equated with mere
reading of the word; it goes on, or should do, in the back of our minds,
all through the day. Israel complained that the manna was stodgy and tasteless.
Presumably this was because they failed to make the effort to prepare
and appreciate it properly. There are similarities with those who complain
that God's word just isn't nourishing for them. Israel felt that they
wanted something other than the manna. They were bored with it. After
a few years of Bible reading, we can be faced with the very same temptation.
We can merely read rather than truly feed. We seem more attracted to the
self‑ help psychology of the world, to the endless tales of personal
experience of one sort or another, than to some good old-time getting
down to Bible reading. This isn't to say that we can't benefit from reading
other literature; but our love of that word for its pure sweetness ought
to grow rather than decrease. The wonder of the manna became lost on Israel.
They ate the manna on the very day they made the golden calf. The wonder
of that daily miracle no longer meant anything. Now it won't take you
long to work out what the equivalent is in the antitype: Our doing Bible
readings, and then behaving in a way which is a total denial of the spiritual
food we have just eaten. Day by day Israel were gathering the manna and
ate it, as they at the same time rebelled against Moses, as they yearned
to return to Egypt. The routine of collecting that manna totally deceived
them, and made the daily miracle meaningless. They failed to perceive
the meaning of the manna.
The Wonder Of It All...
Back in John 6, we read how the people walked round the lake in the boiling
midday sun in order to be with Christ and perhaps benefit from the
physical food He might provide (1).
He tells them not to labour for the food which would perish, but
for that which would endure for ever. The labouring of those people,
trekking round that lake in the heat of the day, should be the effort
we put in to eating the manna of God's word‑ according to
how the Lord. There was a theme of urgency in Israel's gathering
of the manna; it had to be gathered before the sun was up, or it
would be lost. Would that we could have that same sense of urgency
as we read, realizing that the rising of the sun at the second coming
of will put an end to our opportunity to feed and grow. If Israel
didn't gather the manna, or if they left it to another day, it bred
worms and stank. The active anger of God was to be expressed against
those who didn't take the wonder of the manna seriously. So our
gathering of the manna / word must be taken seriously; it's not
a question of skim reading familiar words, or doing mental gymnastics
with it in an intellectual world of our own.
Israel had to eat that manna until they entered the land, and then they
ate the food which grew in Canaan. So our understanding of God will
move into new paradigms in the Kingdom. The wonderful depths of
the Bible are only like the manna, compared to the spiritual depths
which we will then feed on (2) . Let's
notice that in the type, there will still be the feeding process
throughout the Kingdom. We need to get in the love of feeding on
God's word now.
Manna And Passover
There are a number of similarities between the record of the gathering
of the manna and that of the Passover. They could seethe the manna, as
the Paschal lamb could be seethed. They were to gather the manna according
to the size of their families, and the collection was to be organized
by the head of the house. This is all the language of the Passover. The
lamb represented Jesus, and so did the manna. In John 6 the Lord says
that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life; and
He says the same about eating His words (v.63). So often the Lord says
that we have got eternal life, here and now. He keeps on saying it in
John 6. The word of God gives us eternal life. If we feed on the word
properly, we are in the process of receiving eternal life, we have received
it through our eating the word of life. Now this is the point of all our
Bible study. We aren't seeking to inspire each other to do great mental
gymnastics with Scripture. But we are inspiring each other to feed on,
to eat that word, to live by it. Towards the end of John 6, we see how
so many of the people just couldn't accept the Lord's teaching. They couldn't
take on board the offer of eternal life, the idea of present possession
of salvation, conditionally, through the power of response to His word.
And as we face up to God's immense offer of salvation in His word, the
question arises: Do we fully believe it? We can almost sense the lump
in the Lord's voice as He quietly said to the twelve: " Will ye also
go away?" . And then we feel the sigh of relief in His mind at Peter's
words: " Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal
(1) Why did they make
such effort? Was it really because they wanted a free meal? Was
their shortage of food so acute? Perhaps the bread and
fishes Christ had created before tasted especially nice? Or was
it just for the intrigue of seeing a miracle?
(2) This raises the issue
of whether we will use the Bible in our preaching in the Millennium.
We will be prophets- the least in the Kingdom will be a greater
prophet than John the Baptist, the greatest earthly prophet apart
from the Lord (Lk. 7:28). Perhaps as in the first century, and under
the system of prophets and priests in the Old Covenant, we will
speak forth God's word as inspired messages to the people, which
will (perhaps) be written down by them.