OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew


            The word “manna” is an interesting term.  The definition of the word is:  “what is it?”  This was the question the Israelites asked when they saw manna for the first time.  It was not something that already existed.  It was not something familiar to them.  In the early morning hours it lay upon the ground like a heavy frost or light dusting of snow.  Out of curiosity they asked:  “What it is?” (Exo. 16:15).  Moses explained this heavenly food to them in these words:  “This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.”

            This bountiful supply of food was provided by God for the people of Israel while they sojourned in the wilderness for forty years.  This provision was granted after “the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:  and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full:  for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exo. 16:2-3).  “Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you:  and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk I my law, or no” (Exo. 16:4). 

            Every morning except the Sabbath Day, God’s people would arise to fresh manna on the ground.  The Lord commanded:  “Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons: take ye every man for them which are in his tents” (Exo. 16:16).  On the day before the Sabbath, they were to gather twice as much bread, two omers for one man so they could rest on the Sabbath day (Exo. 16:22, 25-26).  None of the bread was to be left over each day, except on the day before the Sabbath.  If it were kept overnight, the bread would breed worms and stink (Exo. 16:19-20).  This did not happen, however, on the Sabbath Day.  The Lord preserved the manna so that it could be eaten that day.

            There are several vital points to be made about this manna.  First, it was God’s blessing.  The children of Israel did not provide this food for themselves.  God showered it down upon them.  It was God who said:  “I will rain bread from heaven for you…” (Exo. 16:4).  Second, it reminded Israel of their dependence upon God.  God intentionally allowed the Israelites to grow extremely hungry before He fed them manna.  He wanted them to understand their dependence upon Him.  Moses noted this in one of his farewell addresses to Israel found in the book of Deuteronomy.  Listen to his words to Israel:  “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know…” (Deut. 8:3).  Third, this manna brought nourishment and life to Israel as they journeyed in the rugged wilderness.  They had food every day until they entered into the Promised Land.  Fourth, this bread also reminded them that they had to obey the Word of God.  Attached to this bread was a specific set of instructions that had to be followed every day by God’s people.  If they transgressed the commandments of God concerning the manna, there were consequences that had to be experienced (see Exo. 16:20, 27-28).  The Israelites learned that man did not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:4). 

            During Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus used the manna on one occasion in His teachings.  He mentions it first in John 6:31.  “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”  He spoke of it again in verse 49.  “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.”  The reason Jesus spoke of that manna is because God was providing another type of life-giving bread for all men at that time.  In fact, this “true bread from heaven” (John 6:32) is still available today.  This bread is none other than Jesus Himself.  “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world…And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life…” (John 6:33, 35).

            One of the similarities between manna and Jesus is that both were provided by God.  In John 6:32, we read:  “…but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.”  Jesus was commissioned by the Father to come to earth so man could live.  Another similarity lies in the fact that both manna and Jesus give life.  Jesus said:  “I am the living bread which came down from heaven:  if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever…” (John 6:51).  The word “forever,” used by Jesus causes the similarities to come to an end.  The Israelites did not live forever after eating the manna.  Jesus said:  “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.”  But, partaking of the true bread from heaven will enable a man to live forever.  Listen to Jesus again:  “This is the bread which came down from heaven:  not as your father did eat manna, and are dead:  he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever” (John 6:58).  In addition to not dying, those who eat of the true bread of life will never even hunger.  “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life:  he that cometh to me shall never hunger…” (John 6:35). 

            The bread of life that Jesus provides is not physical manna.  It is a spiritual food.  One eats of that bread by partaking of the teachings of the Son of God.  Jesus explains this in John 6:44-45.  “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:  and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.  Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”  When one reads, studies, and obeys the Word of God, he is eating the flesh of Jesus Christ and he is drinking the blood of Jesus Christ.  He is digesting the manna from above that will satisfy his spiritual hunger and that will ultimately give him eternal life.  Some did not understand this teaching then and some still miss it today.  The bread of life today is a spiritual bread that feeds and benefits the soul.  Jesus proclaimed:  “…the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

            All men stand in need of the bread of life.  However, this hunger is not a built-in instinct.  Man must cultivate his hunger for God’s Word.  Then, when he eats the true bread, he is filled to satisfaction.  Not only will he live in this world, but he will also continue to live in the world to come.  “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven:  if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever:  and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:50-51).  Dear readers, don’t miss out on this bread.  It may not build strong bodies in twelve ways, but it will satisfy the inner man and save one’s soul in the last day.