God provides manna
- Main Text: Exodus 16:1-18
- Accompanying text: John 6:51
“The Scriptures of the Old Testament are not given to satisfy our curiosity about Jewish history. They are a record of God’s covenantal dealings with his people before the coming of Christ…While all preaching has many similarities, yet there are noticeable differences when preaching from Old Testament passages as compared with preaching from the New Testament…the greatest difference between the two is that the Old Testament deals with God’s revelation before the coming of Christ, not after his coming. We must always keep this difference in view when preparing to preach from the Old Testament, for we cannot use Old Testament passages as if they were given post-Calvary. They have to be explained in their own context, and then related to biblical revelation concerning God’s saving mercy” (1).
The context of the giving of the manna was the gracious providence of God. God would explain to the Israelites, “I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19:4). “In the daytime he (God) led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light” and yet, despite God’s invention in delivering them from the Egyptians, the Israelites “spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?’…Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven…he rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas (Psalm 78:14,17,19,23-24,27). All of this pointed to Jesus, the Bread of Heaven who would, in the Incarnation, come down to us as represented by the manna that fell from the sky, and who would sacrifice his life for us, imbuing us with eternal life.
Hebrews 9:3-4, in referring to what was stored in the Ark of the Covenant, tells us that “Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant”. All of these were symbolic of God’s grace and abiding presence, but the people pushed God to the limit, “again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41 NKJ). What is amazing in the story of the manna and the quail is that when the people grumble, God responds not with anger, but with more grace. Even when the people grumbled after God gave them the manna and quail, still God provided for them (see Exodus 17:1-7 ESV).
Thoughts re application today
“Not unexpectedly the people want a sign to prove Jesus’ authority as one sent from God from God…This is deeply ironic, given the sign that they have just witnessed of feeding thousands with five loaves. But that simply underlines that seeing miracles doesn’t mean that you have seen Jesus. Perhaps, because bread is on their minds, they choose the example of manna in the wilderness…It was bread from heaven that kept them alive. Can Jesus match Moses?” (2). Jesus goes on to explain that it was not Moses who provided the manna, but rather it was the Father, who gives the true bread from heaven. “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33).
“How do the people respond? You can hear the sarcasm…‘Sir…always give us this bread’ (6:34)…Jesus gives it to them. He surprises, challenges and reveals his authority to them…‘I am the bread of life’ (6:35)…‘That story points to me. A new and greater Exodus is happening. You will need daily nourishment to go on the journey that God has for you. I am your bread. You will feed on me’” (2). Jesus proclaimed to them, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (6:51).
In the Lord’s prayer Jesus teaches his followers to say, “Give us each day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). This is reminiscent of the manna event. And Jesus is our daily bread, the only one who provides and sustains us spiritually. He is that living bread.
- John 6:1-15, 22-66
- Psalm 78
- Hebrews 9:1-15
Footnotes and references
- Allan Harman, Learning about the Old Testament: a Biblical-Theological Introduction, published by the Banner of Truth Trust in the UK, 2017:121-122.
- Ian Galloway, Called to be Friends: Unlocking the Heart of John’s Gospel published by Hodder & Stroughton, UK, 2021:158, 159.