Manna. Bread from Heaven. A gift… and an assignment? I spoke at a women’s retreat in February and we focused in large part on Exodus 16, the passage about manna. Here’s one of the lessons I learned.
16This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” 17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. 19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.”20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21 Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
So what is the deal with the short shelf life? I mean, this seems so inefficient to my practical nature! Why can’t manna be saved for the next day? I sometimes joke that my language of love is efficiency! Why couldn’t they save time by gathering a week’s worth of manna at a time? Maybe freeze some casseroles, get a rainy day stash going?
Commentator Peter Enns reminds my heart that, “This gracious provision of food is not to be hoarded, but God is to be trusted anew every day, a lesson they will have to learn for their long trek in the desert and their life as a nation thereafter. Israel is to be kept in a perpetual state of dependence.” (Enns, p. 326) The same is true for us.
Now, I am not saying God wants us to give away our refrigerators or only get food for one day. This is a spiritual analogy. Has your relationship with God gone stale? Are we gathering fresh manna daily, or trying to live off old moldy manna because we don’t want to admit that we need to depend on God every day?
It started with trust. Trust that God is God, that He is good. And that He knows and does what is best for His Beloved people. Sometimes that is hard to believe. Why wouldn’t God want His people to stockpile food and divide it up themselves? Why would He expect them to wake up each morning for forty years and gather food, only to have any leftovers spoil overnight? Isn’t that inefficient? Streamlining this process could have freed the Israelites to do so much good.
Maybe God isn’t concerned about efficiency.
Maybe He is concerned about our souls. Maybe He provides this strange new food not only to feed bodies, but to feed souls. Manna reveals the glory of the Lord (Ex.16: 7). Maybe He wants to prove to us that His word and His character are trustworthy, steadfast, and sure. Maybe that is our first hurdle on the road to Sabbath rest. We need to trust in and depend on the Lord’s provision.