Bread of Heaven

Exodus 16:1-36

We have been studying the experiences of the nation of Israel from the Book of Exodus. All their experiences in the desert typify or correspond to the Christian experience.

After being refreshed at Elim, the Israelites journeyed to the Desert of Sin.

One month has passed since they left Egypt and now their supply of food has run out. With this crisis, the entire congregation grumbles against God, but the LORD graciously gives quail and manna.

With the MANNA, God established every seventh day as a day of rest. Worship would replace work. The daily gathering and preparation of manna (12 million pints five days a week and 24 million on the sixth day) kept the Israelites from becoming lazy. When God’ instructions were not followed, the manna was filled with maggots and smelled. To have fresh bread, one had to believe God and follow His commands.

Each crisis Israel faced in the desert came from God as a test. According to Moses in Chapter 8 of Deuteronomy, the purpose of giving the manna was to teach God’s people to depend upon Him and His words for their lives and their needs. Turn to Deuteronomy 8:2-3—

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Hunger in the desert tests one’s humility—dependence upon God—and it comes from heaven. Jesus faced a similar testing after His baptism. Matthew 4:1-4 records—

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Many Christians do not seem to take what Moses and Jesus said very seriously. Feeding the inner spiritual person is just as important as feeding the physical. Bread is important to life, but man does not live by bread alone. The bread is the means, not the end. God give life and the circumference of life cannot be rightly drawn until the Center is set.

Christ could have told the stones to become bread. After all, Jesus fed five thousand and four thousand from a few pieces of bread and fish. The people filled themselves with the multiplied fish and bread, but the words He spoke they rejected.

Are you like the well-fed crowds? They catered to their physical needs and ignored the spiritual. How many hours a week do you spend preparing meals and eating compared to reading and listening to the Word of God? Do you have the physical and spiritual in the balance? IF NOT, WHY NOT?

What was Jesus telling the Devil when He quoted, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”?

“Devil, you’re proceeding upon the false assumption that for a man, in order to appease hunger and keep alive, bread is the only absolute necessity. Over against this erroneous idea I now declare that not bread but the creative, energizing, and sustaining Word of my Father is the indispensable source of My, and of any man’s, life and well-being.”

At this point, hunger was in the purpose of God for Jesus. Now if He might be persuaded to cancel this circumstance, small and unimportant though it appears, He would nevertheless throw out of perfect working order, the whole Divine plan, of resting in the will of His Father. That is what Yahweh was trying to teach Israel in the desert.

Several weeks before at Marah, the LORD showed Moses a tree to make the bitter waters sweet. After the miracle, we read in Exodus 15:25-26—

There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”

If Israel will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD and obey His Word, the clear teaching of Marah is that God will meet their needs and sustain them. In other words, “Man does not live on bread [or water] alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Based on this truth, Jesus offers the promise of Matthew 6:31-33—

So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

The person who seeks first God’s kingdom and His righteousness is the one who is living his life based on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Notice that Moses and Jesus said EVERY WORD! Of course, that means the entire Bible because 2 Timothy 3:16-17 asserts that—

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION EVERY WORD OF SCRIPTURE COMES FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD. That is to be our daily sustenance. As the Israelites needed the supply of manna so we need to feed upon the Bible every single day of our earthly journey.

MANNA is similar to THE WORD OF GOD in many ways. Every characteristic of MANNA corresponds to the SCRIPTURES. Both are supernatural gifts that came down from heaven.

The MANNA came to right where the people were. So it is with the Scriptures. It is accessible to all of us. Everyone is obligated to do one of two things with it—either gather it or trample it under foot. The MANNA was white, the emblem of perfection and purity. Thus, we have emphasized the absolute flawlessness and purity of the Word of God, which is declared over and over in the Bible. Proverbs 30:5 declares, “Every word of God is flawless.” Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

The MANNA was to be eaten. It was not given simply to look at, or admired; but to be eaten! It was God’s provision to meet the bodily need of His people Israel. It is thus with the spiritual manna. It is given to provide food for our souls. Yet, in order to derive from it the nutriments we require, we need to learn how to feed on the Bread of Life. Proper eating comes with acceptance, appropriation, and assimilation.

The MANNA was to be gathered daily. The soul requires the same systematic attention as does the body, and if this be neglected and our spiritual meals are taken irregularly, the results will be disastrous. What would you think of a man who sat down to his Sunday dinner and tried to eat enough, at one meal, to last him for the whole week?

The MANNA was gathered in the morning. What a difference it would make in many a Christian life it each day was begun in the Word of God.

The MANNA was obtained by labor. It takes hard work and diligence to apprehend divine things.

The MANNA was gathered by stooping. It did not grow on trees or stalks. One had to go down on their knees. We must humbly approach the Word of God in order to gather it truths.

The MANNA was gathered by some more or less. Some Christians confine themselves to the Psalms and Gospels, neglecting the Letters and prophetic portions. Only a few study the OT as well as the New. I would hate to run into Amos in heaven and not know what he wrote about! When is the last time you read from Jeremiah, Obadiah or Malachi? Is the main message of every book of the Bible embedded in your memory? Why not? Is it because you have starved yourself spiritually? Is it because you are not living on “every word that comes from the mouth of God?”

The MANNA had to be prepared for consumption by grinding, baking, frying or boiling. I like the advice the great preacher Charles Haddon Surgeon gave to other preachers, “Don’t just throw the seed at people! Grind it into flour, bake into bread and slice it for them.” I am your cook and waiter—I prepare the food and serve it! Like with manna, I’m not to add other ingredients, but keep it pure and simple. If I follow God’s recipe, you’re to eat it—and not become bored with it or grumble!

The MANNA gathered was to be used. Divine truth hoarded up will become useless. It doesn’t do much good to own a Bible and not use it! It doesn’t do much good to read it and ignore what it says either!

The MANNA was incomprehensible to the natural man. When the Israelites saw it, they said WHAT IS IT? The unregenerate are unable to comprehend the Scriptures according to 1 Corinthians 2:14—

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The MANNA was a daily portion. We need a fresh study of God’s Word every day. Yesterday’s experience becomes stale today. Do not allow your life to become full of maggots and begin to smell. That is what happens when one fails to consume his daily portion of God’s Word.

Instead, be like the prophet Jeremiah who learned to feast on God’s Word. In Jeremiah 15:16, he said—

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.

Do you bear the name of Christ? Are His words your heart’s delight? Can you say, “I ate them?”

MANNA is a type of the Bible—THE INSPIRED WORD OF GOD. It also is a type for THE INCARNATE WORD OF GOD, who became flesh and dwelt among us.

The Lord Jesus Christ was typified by THE BREAD THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN. In Exodus 16:4, the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.” Listen to our Lord’s amazing announcement in John 6:32-33—

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

As manna satisfied the hunger of the Israelites, Christ satisfies the hungry hearts of people who trust Him. Exodus 16:3 tells of Israel’s hunger, “You have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Verse 4 tells how the hunger was satisfied by the LORD, “I will rain down bread from heaven.” And Jesus claims to do the same thing for the hearts of believers in John 6:35—

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

This is a bold claim by Jesus that He is the very Son of God! The Bread of God is a Person from heaven, and He gives life, not just to Israelites (as Moses did) but also to the whole world! The way to receive this Bread is to come and take it; and this Bread will give life not only today, but also life in the future at the resurrection.

It is interesting to compare the MANNA to Jesus. Manna has many of the same characteristics of Christ.

MANNA came from heaven; Christ came from heaven. The manna was not a product of this earth. It grew neither in the wilderness nor in Egypt. It was neither produced by human efforts nor manufactured by human skill. It descended from God—a gift from heaven that came down to earth.

MANNA came from heaven at night and it was seen at dawn; Christ came from heaven and dawned on people who were in darkness. Matthew 4:16 says—

The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

MANNA came to the Desert of Sin; Christ came to a world of sin. The Desert of Sin is most arid and barren of the deserts Israel journeyed during the forty years. Surely, it would be impossible to select a more fitting title than the “Desert of Sin” to describe the character of that world into which the Son of Man came.

MANNA was linked to the Glory of God in the Cloud; Christ is the Glory of God according to John 1:14—

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

MANNA fell on the dew and it was not defiled by the earth; Christ was sinless, separate from sinners.

MANNA was small, round, and white, suggesting His humility, perfection, and purity.

MANNA was a gift of God; Christ is the gift of God. John 3:16—

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

No charge was made for the manna. “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat” (Exodus 16:15). It was neither a wage to be earned nor a prize to be won, but was a token of God’s grace and love. It was without money and without price. Thus, Paul writes of Christ in 2 Corinthians 9:15—“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

MANNA was sent to the Israelites; Christ was sent to the Israelites. Jesus announced in Matthew 15:24—“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

MANNA was sent to save God’s people in their destitution; Christ was sent to save God’s destitute people. Even before His birth it was announced in Matthew 1:21—

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

MANNA was sweet to taste; Christ is sweet to those who trust Him.

MANNA had to be taken and eaten; Christ must be received and appropriated by faith. John 1:12-13 states—

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

MANNA was sufficient for all; Christ is sufficient for all.

MANNA alone was given by God to meet the daily physical need; Christ satisfies our daily spiritual need. He is the Bread of Life! Christian, make Him the daily portion of your soul.

Seek Him EARLY; seek Him ONLY. When anything solicits your attention, ask the question, Will this bring Christ to my heart? Will it unfold Him to my affections, or draw me near to His person? If not, reject it at once—Yes, reject it, though it present itself under the most appealing appearance and with the most commanding authority.

MANNA could be left on the ground and walked on; if you do not keep on appropriating Christ, you reject Him and walk on Him. Listen to what Hebrews 10:29-31 says—

How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

MANNA was desert food until the people reached Canaan; Christ is our pilgrimage food until we reach heaven.

MANNA was put in front of the Testimony—the Holy of Holies, where the presence of the LORD resided after the Tabernacle was constructed; Christ now appears before God’s presence according to Hebrews 9:24—

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.

MANNA was mysterious in character; and so is salvation in Christ in many respects.

The Israelites called the bread from heaven MANNA, which means WHAT IS IT? FOR THEY DID NOT KNOW WHAT IT WAS. The first century Jews had the same problem with Jesus. They did not know who He was! They did not recognize Him as the Lord of Glory! And even as the manna was mysterious in its character and origin, so the Lord Jesus indicated that His salvation was likewise mysterious in passages like John 3:8—

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

In some respects, the wind is mysterious, and so the work of the Spirit of God in the New Birth is unseen and mysterious, but nonetheless real.

The MANNA came down where the people were and likewise salvation in Christ is available to all who take it. The manna laid where it was easy to reach and gather. And so the Gospel of our salvation is of easy access according to Romans 10:8—

“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming.

The Word of God is preached here on Sunday mornings and evenings. It is up to you to come and feed upon it and take it into your heart by faith. You can let it melt away, let it get full of maggots and smell, or eat it.

The MANNA had to be gathered by individuals, so the Word of God must be appropriated by each individual person for himself. The LORD commanded in verse 16, “Take an omer (two quarts) for each person you have in your tent.” Likewise individual faith in ‘Christ is required according to John 3:36—

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

The MANNA was despised by the Israelites as salvation in Christ is despised today by the Jews as well as many others. Numbers 11:4-6 foreshadows the nation’s rejection of the Bread of Life who came down from heaven—

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost— also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

Have you lost your appetite for Christ and the Word of God? Would you rather partake of what the world offers than feast on God’s Word and His Son? Fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onion and garlic represent anything in your life, which you substituted for manna—Christ, and God’s Word.

Is your appetite for fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic of Egypt? If so you’re living in Satan’s world, not God’s kingdom and His righteousness!

God did not give the Israelites a variety of food in the desert! It did not matter to God whether they liked what He gave them to eat or not! But He did give them what was necessary for life!

They probably could have published MIRIAM’S COOKBOOK with 1001 recipes. Manna could be prepared many ways—they could grind it, beat it, boil it, bake it in pans, or make a casserole! But it was still MANNA!

Eventually, the Israelites despised God’s heavenly food and complained about eating it! What does God hear you saying when it is time to come feast on His Word? Does He hear grumbling because you’re not being served the foods of this world? Does He hear you saying you want to go back to that from which you have been delivered?

That is the story, I am afraid, of some people who have been converted, and have been delivered out of Egypt. They have not made the complete break with Egypt. Friend, you can’t go on living like the world, living on the things of Egypt, and be of service to God and have the peace of God in your heart. There must be a break with Egypt.

Folks, God tests hearts! It is time for you to REPENT?

When Jesus preached this message, do you know what the people did? They grumbled! Follow along in John 6:41-58—

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, `I came down from heaven’?”

“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: `They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.

I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live for ever.”

How does Christ give His flesh to eat? Well, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. To give His flesh can scarcely mean anything other than death, and His wording points to a death, which is both VOLUNTARY (I WILL GIVE), and VICARIOUS (FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD).

The Jews knew that Jesus was not speaking literally. They did not suppose that He seriously implied cannibalism. Yet, this figurative way of speaking was offensive. The Law of Moses imposed a ban on drinking any blood whatsoever, including eating flesh with blood in it. What Jesus proclaimed was that the true sustenance and refreshment of our spiritual life are to be found only in Him who died that we might live.

In all ways which people feed on Him by faith—not at the Holy Communion Table, but in reading and hearing the Word of God, or in private or united prayer and meditation—they fulfill the conditions He lays down and receive the promised blessing.

It is by contrast with the manna that the Bread of Heaven is true bread. The manna fed men and women’s bodies for a time, but the true bread feeds our souls eternally.

Therefore, God is teaching in the OT with the giving of MANNA that we are to be continually feeding on the Word—the Inspired Word—the Bible and the Incarnate Word—the Christ!

Together Christ and the Bible impart life and sustain life. One must eat the Bread of Life, not merely look at it, touch it and smell it!

TO EAT means TO BELIEVE—which is evident from what Jesus said to His GRUMBLING disciples in John 6:63-64—

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet, there are some of you who do not believe.

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