On the seventh day some people went out to gather food, but they didn’t find any. The Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to do what I have commanded and instructed you to do? Remember: The Lord has given you this day of rest as a holy day. That’s why he gives you enough food on the sixth day for two days. On the seventh day stay in your place—no one is to go out. Everyone, stay where you are.” So the people never worked on the seventh day of the week.
The Israelites called the food manna. It was like coriander seeds. It was white and tasted like wafers made with honey.
Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: Take two quarts of manna to be kept for your descendants. This way they will see the food that I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.”
Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, put two quarts of manna in it, and put it in the Lord’s presence to be kept for your descendants.” Aaron put the jar of manna in front of the words of God’s promise to be kept there, as the Lord commanded Moses.
The Israelites ate manna for 40 years until they came to a place to settle. They ate manna until they came to the border of Canaan. (God’s Word Translation)
“What is it?” is the quite literal meaning of the word manna. And the answer is: It is bread from heaven.
The manna was food for the Israelite people in their 40 years of sojourning through the desert. There is also an implicit question surrounding this bread: What to do with it? Well, of course, you eat it. But, before eating it, there are issues and instructions about the manna’s arrival and collection.
The special food, only graciously given to this particular group of cantankerous people, appeared in the mornings for six days a week, not seven, and only had a shelf life of one day, with the exception of the singular Sabbath day each week.
There is a time to go out and gather, and there is a time to stay put and eat; a time to work, and a time to rest. The lack of wisdom in timing could cost you not only a meal, but also your overall sense of paying attention to God’s commands.
It is the fool who spurns the relationship between events, that is, the space between when the Lord speaks and when humanity responds. Our human responsibility is dependent upon Divine sovereignty. Ignoring the voice of God, or simply failing to listen out of present anxieties or fears, will nearly always result in a skewed response-ability.
Yes, indeed, we all have very legitimate needs for cuisine, clothing, companionship, care, and compassion. If these vital needs go unmet, we are undone and shall die. Yet, there is also the question of how we will go about getting those very important and basic needs met – and many people, having not listened well to the instructions about life, will go about attempting to meet those needs in illegitimate ways.
Trying to satisfy legitimate needs through illegitimate means ends up eroding the soul, compromising character, and searing the conscience. It’s inevitable that such a person will grumble and complain, projecting on God the evil that is, in reality, residing within the human heart.
Whenever folks go out and try to gather what isn’t there, they have lost their way and their very real needs will not really be met, at all.
This is why humans need remembrances – to have reminders of what time it is and what’s important to do and not do, to seek the appropriate paths of living well, and to avoid the pitfalls of dead end trails.
One purpose of Sabbath is to remember – to recall the great story of deliverance and never forget where we came from, so that we will continually have before us where we are going.
The Christian remembers the saving and redemptive events of Jesus by coming to the Table. We gather together to ingest bread from heaven, to partake of the Bread of Life. For those who choose to carefully listen and pay attention, the words of Christ will not only speak life into our weary selves, but shall also shape how we go about getting our needs met and satisfied:
The people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven….”
But Jesus replied, “Stop complaining about what I said. For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me….
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”
Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked.
So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” (John 6:41-58, NLT)
Consider well, then, where and how you will find the sustenance of the soul, love, and in what ways you will listen to the words of Jesus and gather them for your next meal. Will you hoard your heaven-sent food, or will you share?
O God, our Provider and Sustainer, we who are many are one body in Christ, for we all share in the one bread. Refresh, strengthen, and preserve us as we journey in this life, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.