Eating Daily Grace


Currently, in the area of the Sinai, there is a substance that sounds much like the manna the children of Israel ate. There is a honeydew secretion some insects leave on the branches of a common shrub in the area.1 The Bedouin people who live in the area call this secretion manna.2 During certain periods of the year, this secretion on a specific variety shrubs will fall on the ground. As long as the secretion is picked up before the sun melts it, the manna can be saved and eaten.3 Manna can be gathered starting in June. The crop can be harvested for about six weeks.4

There are some significant differences between the manna in the Bible and what is currently called manna. Bible commentators do not all agree on the differences between ancient, Biblical manna and contemporary manna. A few of those differences include the following:

  • Manna is now only available in a few areas of the Sinai.5

  • The Modern manna season is a short period of time.

  • Manna is currently a very sparse crop, not capable of feeding a large group of people.6

  • In some years, there is no manna at all.7

  • Contemporary manna does not seem to be subject to maggot infestation.8

  • The manna present in the modern near east does not quickly go bad.9

  • Our modern manna is almost all sugar and would not be fit to eat as a major portion of one's diet.10

  • Manna now seen in the Sinai cannot be made into cakes.11

The commentator Ellison, who wrote the Exodus Daily Study Bible, reflects, “. . . it would be presumptuous to deny that there is any link here with the modern phenomenon. But there are such striking differences that any purely naturalistic explanation of manna must be ruled out.”12

I do not see any scientific explanation for what happened. I believe the Biblical account of manna is a miracle.13 Even if manna then was exactly what we see now, which does not seem likely, feeding the people manna was a miracle. This was, at the least, a miracle that the manna crop lasted so long, that there was enough for a large group of people to eat and that it was nutritionally wholesome.

We will be looking at Exodus chapter 16. While you find Exodus 16 in your Bibles, I will give a brief outline the food miracle.

  • People complain.

  • God promises.

  • Moses repeats God's promise.

  • God fulfilled the promise and more.

  • Memorial made for God.14

Exodus 16:2-4, 8 (CEV) There in the desert they started complaining to Moses and Aaron, 3"We wish the LORD had killed us in Egypt. When we lived there, we could at least sit down and eat all the bread and meat we wanted. But you have brought us out here into this desert, where we are going to starve."

4The LORD said to Moses, "I will send bread down from heaven like rain. Each day the people can go out and gather only enough for that day. That's how I will see if they obey me. Skipping to Verse 8.

8Then Moses continued, "You will know it is the LORD when he gives you meat each evening and more than enough bread each morning. He is really the one you are complaining about, not us--we are nobodies--but the LORD has heard your complaints."

This was a new area of the world for the children of Israel. They left the civilization of Egypt and were in the wilderness. Moses spent many years as a shepherd, so the people might have felt Moses did not understand how they felt.15

The people were not likely in immediate danger of starvation, but they may have been reduced to meager rations.16 Instead of voicing their concerns and fears in a reasonable manner, they accused Moses of leading them out into the wilderness to die.

The King James Bible says the people murmured against Moses. The word translated murmured in Hebrew has interesting meanings. The word has the meaning to dwell.17 Strong's states the implied meaning is to “stay permanently.'18 From Hebrew, I get an image of the children of Israel living in the land of complaints. Complaining had become a life style for them.

In other words, it was not a temper-tantrum that ended as short as quickly as it started. This was not a snit or a bad hair day. This was a bad hair life! And as one reads the rest of the story of the Exodus, one really sees how much dwelling in the land of bad hair days was their life style.

With 20/20 hindsight, it is easy to criticize the children of Israel. But we need to consider how things may have been to them. The people were afraid. Fear can drive us to say and do dumb things. They were afraid they would not have adequate food. So the people seemed to think the old life, the life of slavery was better. And they accused Moses of being incompetent because he was leading them out of Egypt to die.

The hardship of wilderness living made the people feel nostalgia for Egypt.19 Remember, this is not nostalgia for a wonderful experience in Egypt. The children of Israel were not living in penthouse condos overlooking the Nile or the Mediterranean. They had been slaves. And they were longing for slavery again.

I get a picture of a group of liberated slaves reminiscing about the good old days - back when their masters beat them and rubbed salt in their wounds. And this was good! I don't think so! But our memories are pretty selective you know. We tend to look back, remembering the good, not the bad.

There is another picture I get too. This picture is just as sad as slaves remembering the good old days when their masters beat them and rubbed salt in their wounds. There are gay, bisexual, and trans-identified people who experience some tough times when they come out or after they are out. And they longly look back at the “good old days” when they lived in the closet and silently ached.

The 1599 Geneva Study Bible states, "It is a hard thing for the flesh not to complain against God when the stomach is empty."20 Just the remote chance that our stomachs could go empty strikes fear. Like the children of Israel, we tend to cry out the most when we see our financial security, our livelihood is on the line. Trust in the face of the loss of our jobs, our possessions, our careers is very difficult.

The Egyptians had many gods. The idea of just one god was not something widely understood in Egypt. The children of Israel knew God performed miracles to rescue them from slavery, but they might not have understood that the same God who rescued them, who fought for them, was the God who would supply their daily needs.

I am not sure things have changed much for those who follow God since the time the children of Israel were delivered from slavery. Many of us know we worship a God who saves from sin. But we struggle letting God be anything more than our spiritual Savior. Theologically, we understand salvation is a gift of God, but our daily lives tend to be very legalistic.

We have problems seeing God as the One who provides for us. Instead of seeing God's grace providing for our daily needs, we are legalistic and we see just the labor of our hands as our daily provider. We look to our insurance policies, pension plans, bank accounts, jobs and our own hands - our hard work - as the real things that provide for us. And those things that provide for us are good, but they are part of what God has done to meet our needs. God's presence is seen in the timing of natural events and in the provisions of our daily lives! Yet in times of hurt, confusion or uncertainty, we do not see God's hand stretched out, providing aid.

According to the Biblical story, the Lord responded to Israel's needs before Moses could cry for help.21 In the story, we do not see God responding in anger. Nothing about anger is noted here. All we see is that God responds to the need.22 One commentator feels God did not rebuke the people because the substance of their concerns were reasonable, even if the way they voiced their concerns was wrong.23 The Lord's response to the people's anger, to their fear was one of grace, the grace of daily food. God gave them divine grace, food, daily. And they literally ate God's grace every day. This gives me a lot of hope. Our God is not so petty as to deny us provisions, to deny us grace, even when we lash out in fear and anger, because we are hurting.

The children of Israel may have been asking a why question. Why were they in the wilderness? Why were their provisions running low? Why did they not have more food and nicer food? Unfortunately, they did as we often do and they found the wrong answers to those questions.

I am not convinced that why questions and the answers to those questions really meet our needs. Warren Wiersbe notes, “Explanations do not heal broken hearts . . .”24 Fortunately, watching God provide for our needs, seeing God's faithfulness, and knowing God is walking through life with us does help heal broken hearts.

There is a really neat poem I would like to close with. I will not read the entire poem, as it is fairly long. The last portion of the poem is neat, so I will share that with you.

And when the manna falls,

God's fingertips

Descend and gently

Touch you.25

I think the task is to see God in the ordinary, to remember that even our daily bread is God reaching down and touching your face with love. Fortunately we have a God who reminds us that He is touching us.


Prayer:

Lord give us memories that see You in the history of our lives, eyes that see You moving to help us, ears that hear Your voice whispering words of assurance, and skin that feels your touch of love, so we can have a nose that does not tolerate the smell of injustice and a heart for those who need You in their lives.

Amen.


Notes


1H.L. Ellison. The Daily Study Bible: Exodus. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1982), 89.

2W. Gunther Plaut. The Torah: A Modern Commentary. (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981), 502 and Ellison, 89.

3Plaut, 502.

4Plaut, 502.

5Ellison, 90.

6Plaut, 502.

7Ellison, 90.

8Ellison, 90.

9Plaut, 502.

10Manna.” Catholic Encyclopedia. (Internet web site – http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09604a.htm, 1912).

11Manna.” Catholic Encyclopedia.

12Ellison 89-90.

13Manna.” Catholic Encyclopedia, says, ”The manna may, indeed, have been a natural substance, but we must admit a miracle at least in the manner in which it was supplied._

14E. W. Bullinger gives the outline as 1. Murmuring of people, 2. Promise of Jehovah made, 3. Promise repeated by Moses, 4. Promise fulfilled through Moses, 5. Promise of Jehovah fulfilled, and 6. Memorial of Jehovah. The Companion Bible. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregal Pub., 1922), 95.

15Ellison, 88.

16Ellison, 89.

17Rick Meyers. “Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.” e-Sword. (Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation, computer software – www.e-sword.net).

18Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.” e-Sword.

19Nahum M. Sarna. The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus. (Philadelphia: Jewish Pub. Society, 1991), 85.

20_The 1599 Geneva Study Bible _ Exodus 16._ Crosswalk.com (Internet web site _ http://bible.crosswalk.com/Commentaries/GenevaStudyBible/gen.cgi?book=ex&chapter=016).

21Sarna, 86.

22Sarna, 86.

23Ellison, 89

24Warren W. Wiersbe. The Bible Exposition Commentary: Pentateuch. (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Victor, 2001), 209.

25_Manna._ Cross Currents. (Internet web site _ http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2096/is_1_54/ai_n6095125).


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