|Volume 22 Number 6 June 2020||
The Lord God of their fathers heard their cry and delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. He had worked many wonders in their sight, and they had seen his mighty power. It would not be unusual had we seen the things they had seen to develop the utmost confidence in God, or at least we would like to think so. Yet, they who had lived through some of the most momentous events in all human history still harbored doubts in their hearts. Time and time again, God had showed His power over nature and the might of armies, and yet, still, they did not trust Him. He had sent them a redeemer in Moses. He had brought them out of their land of bondage where they had suffered for hundreds of years beneath the cruel whip of the Egyptians. They had seen their mighty, seemingly invincible, foes cast down before them and the gods of Egypt humbled before Jehovah the God of their forefathers.
Despite all that had happened to them, they still grumbled. In Exodus 16:3, they said, “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.” Here was an outrageous suggestion that their salvation was a conspiracy between God and Moses to starve them to death. There is no logical sense to that argument, though, still they were angry. These were the circumstances under which God sent His answer to their starvation in the form of manna.
In Numbers 11:7, manna is described as “coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.” The psalmist said, “Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full” (Psalm 78:25). God showed His longsuffering nature by providing again all the needs of His complaining people. The manna came from above for the first time when the children of Israel were passing through the desert of Sin. When they first saw it, they wondered what it was, thus giving this supernaturally produced food its name. It had been a mere six weeks after their departure from Egypt, and their murmuring and complaining to God had been consistent. God would feed them, only on a strictly rationed basis. The people were allowed to gather only an omer (around six or seven pints) each, with the one condition being that on a Sabbath eve, a double portion might be gathered.
Some tried to take more than a fair share of the manna. Here again, we see the disbelieving hearts of the people. God had ordained that manna would only be good for a day or over a Sabbath; thus, the method of His dispensing of the food was in itself a way of training the people to rely on Him. Any attempt to hoard the food was futile because if they did take more than they ought, then the hoarders would find only a pantry full of worm-riddled manna. The manna itself was a very nourishing food and could be baked into cakes. It would become Israel’s staple source of food until they would finally enter into the Promised Land forty years later. After a while, the children of Israel became tired of the manna that God had provided them for sustenance. “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick” (Numbers 11:5). They longed to return to the land of bondage, not remembering the time of slavery they were in before liberation.
Today, many grow tired of the Gospel, not because it lacks power, but because of a lack of thankfulness. Without manna from heaven, the Israelites would have perished in the wilderness, and without the bread of life, we, too, would perish. In his word study, G.H.C. MacGregor wrote, “There is evidence to show that Jewish theology regarded the giving of the manna as the miracle par excellence, the non-plus ultra, even for the Messiah. In fact, the Rabbis taught that the Messiah would prove his authority by repeating just this miracle by which, they held, Moses had proved that ‘as was the first Redeemer,’ so ran the Midrash; so shall be the final Redeemer; as the first Redeemer caused the manna to fall from heaven, even so shall the second Redeemer cause the manna to fall” (142-43).
Indeed, Christ our redeemer is the manna from Heaven for which man has so longed. He told us, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Both the manna and Christ are life-giving, both are sustaining, and both are required for the journey to the Promised Land. The first bread of life would feed the people until they got to Canaan. Christ, our bread of life, can sustain us throughout our life and then into our Promised Land, Heaven. In 1 Corinthians 10:3, the apostle Paul compared the manna to Christ, describing them who have partaken of Him as eating “spiritual meat.” Note that meat at this time would have included descriptions of bread etc. Matthew Henry says, “The manna on which they fed was a type of Christ crucified, the Bread which came down from heaven, which whoso eateth shall live forever.” In John 6:31, our Lord said, “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 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.”
Jesus is that true bread sent by God from heaven to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Furthermore, He revealed, “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” This manna was not for just Israel but for all mankind. God was to make this feast available for all humankind. In Christ, there will be neither “Jew nor gentile but all are one” (Galatians 3:28). This is made possible by God’s providential care for His creation. There can be no doubt as to the miraculous character of both the manna and Christ and the benefits the obedient believer can reap when consuming it.
The manna that God sent to old Israel in the dessert was truly special, so much so that a portion was to be stored in the Ark of the Covenant for preservation. In Exodus 16:33, we read, “And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations.” Even though the Ark was lost, its symbolism lived on in the minds of believers. In Revelation 11:19, we read, “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.” First century Christians would have understood this to be a symbol of God’s continuing presence and assistance in the hour of need.
God promises that “to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna” (Revelation 2:17)—a special reward for a faithful people. What others in the desert found boring after a while is for us the supreme bread, the greatest food one can ever feast upon. Christ is our manna from Heaven.
MacGregor, G.H.C. The Gospel of John. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1928.
The Sound of Silence
It is early in the morning and the silence is deafening! The house is too quiet. There is hardly any noise in my neighborhood. I miss hearing the school buses that are normally picking up children; and there is not any traffic on the nearby street that leads to the high school! This is my quiet time for prayer and study, but it is just too quiet! Simon and Garfunkel sang the song, “The Sound of Silence,” which has remained one of the most popular songs over the decades. It was based on the biblical passage, I am sure, found in Ecclesiastes 3:7, “A time to keep silence; A time to speak.”
Yet, there is a verse of Scripture found in Habakkuk 2:20 that is profound and needs to be understood in its immediate context. The writer was contrasting the reality of a living God with idols made of wood and silver, which are lifeless and cannot speak. In verses 20, 34 we read, “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (ESV). In the Old Testament the Temple in Jerusalem was where the presence of God could be found. However, the apostle Paul said, as recorded in Acts 17:24, that the Lord “does not dwell in temples made with hands.” Paul also said that God “is not far from each one of us!” (Acts 17:27). In Psalm 139, we learn there is no place we can be but that God is there! While He is in His “holy Temple,” that is Heaven, He can be everywhere at all times, but He is not in one place all the time.
Because God is so great in His majesty we are to “keep silence before him.” The Septuagint Version renders Habakkuk 2:20, “The Lord is in his holy temple; Let all the earth fear before him.” “The consideration of his infinite perfections, his self-existence independence, supremacy, immensity, eternity; his omnipresence; omniscience, and omnipotence; his unspotted holiness, his inviolable truth, and impartial justice; and especially his sovereign authority and dominion, should strike all men with a reverential awe, and should dispose them to the most perfect submission toward him” (Benson Commentary).
When we sing the following hymn, let us understand that it is more than a song to quieten people or just a call to worship. Let us humble ourselves before the great Almighty God and stand in awe of His holiness. Let us possess a reverential fear of our God in our hearts.The Lord is in His holy temple
By William J. Kirkpatrick
Benson, Joseph. Benson Commentary. New York: T. Carlton & J. Porter, 1857.