It is said that the word ‘manna’ is derived from the phrase, “What is it?” It was basically a gift from God so that the people of Israel would have nourishment each day. In Exodus 16: 4-5, the Lord says to Moses that He will let bread rain down from heaven. He gives instructions as well. They are to only gather what they need and on the sixth day, they are to gather a double portion. God said that He would test the Israelites.
Exodus 16 had started off with the Israelites grumbling. This is a recurring theme. The Israelites complained a lot. They complained when they were slaves, and once freed, they were complained that life was harder as a free person, and wouldn’t it be nice to go back to Egypt and be a slave again.
This should sound familiar. How often have we seen the green grass just beyond what is ours? The tenth commandment leads to a lot of grumbling and complaining when we break it. Is it possible that God really has given us all that we need? The problem is that we want more. Were the Israelites hungry? They probably were. While they could set up camp and hunt for food or grow crops, God had a different plan. They had somewhere to go. They were going to the Promised Land, so God invented fast food.
God said that He had sent the manna with a test. The first rule was to not gather more than you needed that day. When they saved some for the next day, it smelled and was filled with maggots. The second rule was to gather a double portion on the sixth day and save half for the next. Yet, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather more and finding none. At this point, God has not given the Ten Commandments to Israel, but He is establishing the Sabbath with the distribution of the manna.
While God had said that this was bread from heaven, manna was like coriander seeds, looked like a resin, and tasted like something made with olive oil (Numbers 11: 7-8). In Numbers 11, the Israelites are getting tired of the manna. God sends quail to them. Again, more grumbling
My wife was one of nine children in her family. It was hard for her mother to find a meal that everyone would eat without anyone grumbling. When her mother hit pay dirt, she would repeat the meal all week long. As a result, my wife started cooking on weekends at a young age, just to have some variety in the menu. After being married for over forty years, she still hates having the same type of meat two days in a row. We might have chicken 3 or 4 times in one week, but it will be prepared differently each time, and never two days in a row. The Israelites had a variety of preparations with manna, in that you could bake it or boil it (Exodus 16: 23).
When the Israelites set up camp inside the Promised Land, the manna stopped. Once they arrived, they circumcised the men and had a Passover feast. Once they had eaten the Passover feast in the Promised Land, the manna stopped (Joshua 5: 12). This is just before the fall of Jericho. God was telling His people that there was no more thoughts of turning back. The fast food was over, and they had to take over the Promised Land if they wanted a steady supply of food.
We are a lot like the Israelites. God provides us with what we need, but we want more. If we can’t get more, we want a variety in what we get. God may have tested the Israelites about storing manna, but He makes no hard and fast rule about our present use of deep freezers and savings accounts. Jesus used an example in the parable of the rich fool, Luke 12: 13-21. Jesus did not say that saving money or even food was a bad idea. He was pointing toward storing riches in heaven and relying upon God for our daily provision on earth.
Living by faith is hard work. We always want to save a dollar or two in case we need it tomorrow. I think of a gold investment commercial. The man who saves gold is telling the TV audience that gold can be held, and no one can take it away. Yet, people rob other people all of the time. Banks default. My grandmother hid money in her bedposts, inside slits she’d cut in mattresses, and other odd places. Probably some of the cash was still in the house when the house was leveled years after she was gone. She had money in the bank, but she had lived through the depression, and she knew banks weren’t that safe either. My parents had hundreds of thousands saved, yet they lived like misers, with little Joy. They were afraid that they would get sick and not have enough in savings. There wasn’t much left when they died, but does anyone want to live in that type of fear each day?
Jesus taught us to pray. In Matthew 6:11, Jesus says that part of our prayer should be asking for just enough bread to help us survive just today. Does this sound familiar? God may not provide manna, but manna was just enough bread for one day. Was Jesus serious? Doesn’t He know that we get bored eating the same thing? Okay, teen-agers could eat pizza every meal for a week and love it. But after two weeks and they might go for something else. Yet, if we live in faith, God will provide something else tomorrow.
In this modern world, we have savings. Our bank accounts increase and decrease more on a monthly basis than on a daily basis. Yet, expecting God to provide on a daily basis in the modern world means praying for God to look over our bank accounts, for God to see that our deep freezer doesn’t die while we are away from the house for a month (It happened to us. Yuck!), and pray that the economy stays stable enough so that the grocery store has enough food for us and all of the others that are going there.
Don’t think that this lesson was learned easily. I was forced into retirement. My investment company website said that I would have to work over twenty more years to comfortably retire. Yet, my wife and I are keeping our heads above water. We may be feverishly treading water, but God is providing as we have needs.
Like the Israelites, we pray for God to provide us with our daily bread and then complain about a lack of meat and potatoes. That infernal manna is so boring. When are we getting anything else to eat? And having an empty cupboard and praying that God will provide tomorrow’s meal isn’t a way of life that anyone wants. We have something in our cupboard. Don’t worry. Having faith that God will take care of tomorrow is a hard thing to do. It is impossible if your concept of God is anything less than an omnipotent God who loves you.
When we are in heaven with our Lord, we will have the greatest feast that is so great that no one could imagine a tastier meal on earth. What will be served? Manna. We will love it, for we will be in the presence of the great chef who provided the first manna all of those years ago.