By the second month after the Hebrews had left Egypt, their provisions were beginning to dwindle, and they began to murmur. Sadly, they so far undervalued their deliverance that they wished they had died in Egypt. We cannot imagine that they truly had plenty of food while they were slaves to Pharaoh, nor could they fear dying of hunger in the wilderness while they had flocks and herds. But none talk more absurdly than murmurers do! When we begin to fret and complain, we ought to remember that God hears all our murmurings (verse 9).
Even though the Lord heard the Hebrews’ complaints, He still showed mercy to them and promised them a speedy and constant supply of food. In the evening, He brought quails into the camp, and the people easily caught as many as they needed. Then the next morning, the lifting of the morning dew revealed a new kind of food called manna, which was a pleasant and wholesome food. The manna was rained down from heaven; it was in the shape of “a small round thing,” like coriander seed. It could be ground in a mill, or beaten with a mortar and pestle; and it was then made into cakes and baked. The merciful and miraculous provision of this manna continued during the entire forty years that the Hebrews were in the wilderness, wherever they went; it did not cease until they had arrived in the Promised Land of Canaan.
The people were to gather this manna every morning. Hereby we are taught several practical lessons. First, the Scriptures teach us to be prudent and diligent in providing food for ourselves and our families. We must work with quietness, and eat our own bread – not the bread of idleness or deceit. God’s bounty still leaves room for man’s duty; for even when manna was rained down from heaven, the people could not eat it until they had gathered it. Moreover, we are shown here that we may always depend upon the Lord’s provision. The Hebrews in the wilderness could sleep quietly every night, even though they had no bread in their tents for the next day. They were to trust that God would bring them their daily bread with the dawn of the following morning. It was surer and safer in God’s storehouse than in their own, and it be sweeter and fresher than that which some of them tried to covetously and distrustfully hoard. Surely we have reason to praise the name of the Lord; for the same wisdom, power, and goodness that brought food from heaven for the Hebrews every day in the wilderness is the same power that brings food out of the earth in the constant course of nature every year – giving us all things richly to enjoy!
The sanctifying of one day in seven for holy work and holy rest has always existed since God created Man upon the earth. However, the Lord takes care that His people will never be losers by serving Him. And so on the sixth day, the Hebrews were to gather enough manna for two days. This encourages us to make an effort to order our family affairs in such a way that they may hinder us as little as possible in the holy work of the Lord’s Day. Works of necessity may and must be done on that day; but it is desirable to have as few of these as possible, so that we may devote more attention to preparing our souls for the life that is to come. On the seventh day, God did not send the manna; therefore, the people were not to expect it. This showed plainly that this “bread from heaven” (verse 4) was produced by a miracle of the Lord, and not by some natural cause.
Since God provided manna to be His people’s food in the wilderness, the remembrance of it was to be preserved. So He commanded that a vessel full of the heavenly food should be stored away as a memorial to future generations. His miracles and mercies ought to be kept in remembrance always!
What spiritual pictures may be drawn from the manna in the wilderness? Here are a few. The Word of God is the manna by which our souls are nourished (Matt. 4:4). The comforts of the Holy Spirit are hidden manna (Rev. 2:17). These come down from heaven, as the manna did; and they are the support and comfort of the life of the soul, while we are in the wilderness of this world. Christ, in the Word, must be applied to the soul; and the means of grace must be used. Every one of us must gather for ourselves, during the morning-time of our days and our opportunities. If we let this time slip away, it may one day become too late to gather. Moreover, there was enough manna for each and all, but none had too much; so likewise, in Christ, we have enough, but not more than we need. However, the Hebrews ate manna, but they became hungry again and eventually died; and with many of them, God was not well-pleased. But those who feed upon Christ, by faith, shall never hunger nor die; and with them, God will be well-pleased forever. Let us pray earnestly for the grace of the Holy Spirit, by faith and love, to turn all our knowledge of the doctrine of Christ crucified into the spiritual nourishment of our souls!
O Lord, as we see the manna sent from heaven to the Hebrews, give us grace to behold our Savior as the heavenly manna, and a gift to the starving souls of poor sinners. We give You thanks that we may feed on Your broken body and shed blood. Let not our portion be like some of the unbelieving Hebrews, who tempted Christ, and with whom He was not pleased. Rather, may it be our happiness to know, by heart-felt experience, that You are the true Bread of Life which came down from heaven. Lord, evermore give us this bread! Amen.
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