Exodus 16:19-36 ~ 20110410 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
04/10 Exodus 16:19-36 Not By Bread Alone; Our Daily Bread
God is testing his people. His stated purpose throughout the book is that they would know that he is the LORD. They are to know that he is God over all gods, with authority over the whole earth, authority over water and wind and over all creatures on the earth, authority over the hearts of men, authority over weather, even over light and darkness. They are to know that he holds power over life and death, that he is a just judge and a protector of all who find refuge in him. That he is a God who hears and answers prayer. That he is the passover Lamb substituted for us, our ever-present guide, the one who stands in our defense, the one who fights our battles and conquers our enemies, the one who can heal bitter hearts and satisfy our deepest hunger.
God has displayed his power over the Egyptians and he is leading his people through the wilderness, teaching them about himself, showing them what it means to have a relationship with him. He took them to a place where the waters were bitter and showed them that he is their healer, then he brought them to a desert oasis, with plentiful water and shade. Now they are running out of food, and they are grumbling. God graciously responds to their grumbling, not with condemnation, but with abundant provision and further revelation of who he is.
God satisfied the hunger of his people. He supernaturally provided for their needs. God creates something entirely new for them that will be their daily provision throughout their time in the wilderness. God, the Creator, brings something out of nothing to provide for their needs. He gives them clear instruction and he expects his people to listen to his voice.
God was teaching his people to trust him, to listen to him, to obey. When they get to Sinai, he will give them detailed instructions for how a sinful people are to relate to a holy God. For now, his abundant provision with simple instructions. He had said in verse 4:
Pick up what you need for the day, and eat all of it that day. A day's portion every day. Daily bread. This is my instruction. This is a test.
Isn't that clear enough?
Manna was God's gift to his people. God said he would rain bread from heaven for you. Moses describes it as the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. In Psalm 78 it is described as 'the grain of heaven' and 'the bread of angels'. It was an undeserved grace in response to grumbling. The people said 'what is it?' which in Hebrew sounds like 'manna', and the name stuck. It was also a simple test. Don't leave it over till the morning, but they did not listen, and some left part of it till the morning. God gives instruction and we say 'Why? What will happen if I do what you tell me not to do? We almost ran out of food in the desert. Natural reasoning tells me that I should be wise and prepare for tomorrow. God says 'eat what I give you today and trust me for tomorrow'. It is interesting that it doesn't say that some people gathered much more than other people and kept the excess overnight. It says 'whoever gathered much had nothing left over'. So the ones who kept some over must have rationed their daily portion. They chose to go hungry today so that they could have security for tomorrow. In effect, they were saying 'we don't know where our next meal is coming from, so we'd better be cautious and store up'. But instead of providing security, manna disobediently stored up became a dangerous source of sickness and disease. What seemed to be wise from man's perspective, was disobedient to God's direct command and proved to be destructive. How slow we are to learn that God's ways are always best! We may not understand why, but obedience to God is the way of wisdom. Disobedience has consequences. Trusting God can be scary. Walking by faith in God's word is not always comfortable. But God's way is always best.
Jesus alluded to God's daily provision of basic needs when he taught his disciples to pray.
Give us this day our daily bread. Often we view prayer simply as a shopping list of unrelated needs that we are to ask God for. I think there is more to this prayer than that. We are invited to approach our Father in the heavens, requesting that your name, your kingdom, and your will be honored and come to pass, as in heaven so on earth. Then we ask that the bread of our daily need be given to us this very day. Our daily sustenance is further defined, not as physical food, but as release from our legal obligations and rescue from temptation. What we desperately need every day is rescue from temptation and release from debt. Jesus frames this request for God's forgiveness and rescue in the language of God's daily provision for the needs of his people in the wilderness. Our deepest need is for God's daily deliverance and God's daily forgiveness. The bread of our daily need, give us this very day; that is, release us from our legal debts... that is, do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil. This is our daily bread.
When talking with the Jews about the manna in the wilderness, Jesus said:
Jesus claims to be God's provision for man's deepest hunger. Give us this day our daily bread. Today, give us Jesus! Release from the debt we owe to God and rescue from temptation come only in Jesus. Jesus, the bread of our daily need. Jesus, the broken bread that gives life to hungry sinners. Let Jesus sustain us today! This day, give us Jesus!
Treasure in Heaven
Jesus continues in Matthew 6:
The Israelites were laying up treasure on earth and it bred worms and stank. They were not looking to God in heaven to provide for their daily need. They were not laying up the treasure of an increasing trust in God and a deepening relationship with him. Even in the face of God's supernatural provision for them, they were trying to find a natural way to bank security for themselves against tomorrow. It didn't work. It never does. Jesus continues by challenging their worry over daily necessities:
Life is more than subsisting. Jesus came to offer life abundantly. Your body and your soul are meant for so much more than an obsession with food and clothes. Jesus tells us that we are of greater worth than birds and grass, and God feeds and clothes them. He challenges our lack of faith.
Seek God. Spend your energy going after God. If you're going to be anxious about anything, be anxious to know God better. Learn to depend on God. Learn to trust. Pursue Jesus, the bread that gives eternal life. Pursue Jesus, who clothes you with his perfect righteousness.
Solemn Rest; a Holy Sabbath to the LORD
We've been looking at the manna as a pointer to Jesus as the one who satisfies our real needs. Jesus invites us to see it this way. But Manna was a real substance, God's miraculous means of feeding his people in the desert. But even in the way God provided then, he was pointing to these greater realities. God said in verse 5:
Then we see how this happened in verse 22:
God did not provide manna seven days a week. He provided double the amount Friday morning, and none Saturday morning. This too came with clear instructions. This is what the LORD has commanded: Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. This too would teach his people trust. God will provide for your needs. Follow his instructions. The purpose of the double portion on Friday was to provide for rest on Saturday. But it was not just rest from labor, rest from collecting food, rest from the pressure of gathering the needs of the day. It was rest to the LORD. It was more than rest from something. It was to be rest for someone.
We can look all the way back to Genesis when God created the heavens and the earth for the meaning of this rest.
God finished his work of creation and he rested. Not because he was exhausted from all the hard work – it says 'God said... and it was so'. God did not need a day off to recuperate from all the talking. God completed his creative work and stepped back as it were to enjoy what he had made. He said 'look, it is very good'. God made the seventh day happy – he blessed it. He sanctified it. He set it apart as holy or sacred. Here in Exodus, the first mention of the word 'sabbath' in the bible, we see that the Sabbath rest is to the LORD. God is good. He is our provider. God established that we take one day out of seven to break the routine and enjoy him. Focus on him. Give him the attention he deserves. Seek him. Honor him. Worship. A day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. The verb form of this word Sabbath that appears in Genesis also appears earlier in Exodus:
Rest from slavery to Pharaoh. God's demand of Pharaoh was 'let my people go that they may hold a feast to me (5:1); that they may serve me, or worship me in the wilderness' (7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3). Here we see this happening. The people were released from hard service to Pharaoh to glad service to the true King of kings. They were transferred to their rightful master. They were to hold a feast to the LORD, to celebrate, to honor their God, spend time with him, to enjoy him. Here God supernaturally provides for this to happen. Double portion on Friday so that Saturday can be all about God.
Again, disobedience to God's clear commands. We can identify with this on a human level. 'Last time we kept any manna overnight it was all nasty in the morning. We're not doing that again! Manna doesn't keep well. Better eat it all today.' Again, it seems that this was not a case that the people were lazy and didn't gather double. It seems the double quantity was a curious thing. The leaders had to ask Moses about it. Apparently, they gathered, and when they measured it and prepared it, it was a double portion. So the ones who went out to gather on the Sabbath had probably gorged themselves on two days worth of food all at once, assuming it would spoil overnight and go to waste. They did not listen to God's word. Have you ever eaten way too much one day? Your stomach stretches, and the next morning you feel ravenously hungry. So they go out to find more food and there is none, just as God had said. What was meant to be a day of rest and feasting and enjoying became for these disobedient Israelites, a day of fasting.
Not By Bread Alone
God was teaching his people to be dependent on him, to trust him. Jesus picks up on this in his temptation.
Jesus is quoting Moses in Deuteronomy 8:3, where Moses is recounting God's provision of Manna in the wilderness.
The manna was training in dependence on God. Don't trust your human wisdom. Don't trust your instincts. Trust God. Believe what he says. Do things his way and he will bless you. Walk in obedience. Draw your sustenance from every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Manna was sweet. It tasted like wafers made with honey, which was a great luxury in that culture. In the Psalms, God's word is compared with honey.
A Testimony to Future Generations
God's provision for his people was to be remembered.
A jar of Manna was to be placed before the LORD. This became one of the contents of the box that held the contract between God and his people. (This manna shows up again in Hebrews 9:4 and Revelation 2:17). It was to be a constant reminder of the gracious faithfulness of our loving God who provides for our physical and spiritual needs. God who of himself provides for our deepest needs, needs for deliverance, needs for release from our debts. God so loved undeserving sinners that he gave us his only Son Jesus.