Bread of Heaven
“I never knew Christ was all I needed until Christ was all I had.”
It’s the statement of an African Bishop but for Christians the world over it rings true.
It’s the very essence of what God was teaching the Israelites in the wilderness. And it’s exactly what Christians are being taught in our own time between salvation (Exodus) and glory (the promised land). This in-between-time (the wilderness years) is a time of testing and hardship. But we are learning – or at least we should be – that when Christ is all we have, actually He’s all we need.
The Israelites had been reminiscing about Egypt (with its fleshpots) and grumbling about their wilderness conditions.
The LORD responds with words familiar from our study of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Exodus 16:4 “Behold, I will rain down…”
…what? “Fire and brimstone”? “Righteous anger”? “I will rain down thunderbolts on their camp”? No.
“I will rain down bread from heaven for you.”
It’s called Manna (v31). It’s bread not baked with human hands. ‘Angels’ food’ as Psalm 78 calls it. And it’s for them – for the grumblers. The LORD will shower upon them his daily provision for as long as it takes to get them to His holy habitation. Grace for the grumblers!
Exodus 16, verse 31 says that manna tastes of honey. Now that’s interesting because the place they’re headed is a land flowing with milk and honey. Their future will gush with honey, and in the meantime the LORD will sustain them with little pledges of the life to come. Every morning the Israelites taste the future and it keeps them going.
Manna becomes a whole discipleship regime to teach the people.
And here is lesson one: Horde ye not!
Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning [i.e. keep some for later]. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank (Exodus 16:19-20)
The LORD gives them all they need for today. But if they horde their things for tomorrow, it rots. What a lesson!
Here’s lesson two: Learn to rest!
The LORD institutes the Sabbath and tells them He’s going to provide double the manna on Friday. Therefore they should take Saturday off. But,
it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. (v27)
The LORD gives them a day off, but they work anyway.
What would you have been like at these lessons in dependence? Are you a hoarder? Would you have collected more than a day’s worth? You’d have seen it rot.
Are you unable to rest? Would you have gone out on the Sabbath to gather more? You’d have found none.
Would you have been content for the day, or forever worrying about tomorrow?
This discipleship programme for the Israelites was leading them into deeper dependence. Daily dependence. And it’s what we all need.
Jesus considers us all to be in the position of these Israelites. After all He taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus applies the lessons of manna to all of life. He assumes that we are a wilderness people and that we ought to depend on the Father’s daily provision.
And notice we’re not to pray “Give us this day our bread for next year, or for next month or even for next week.” It says “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Do I depend on the LORD for today’s needs? Do I leave tomorrow in His hands?
Well Jesus has done something extraordinary to reassure us that we can depend on Him.
In John chapter 6, Jesus again encounters some grumbling Israelites. And they’re in a wilderness place. And they’re hungry. Once again Jesus feeds the multitudes miraculously with bread. He couldn’t say it any clearer: “I AM the LORD of Exodus 16. I AM the One who accompanied the Israelites in the wilderness”
But then He goes one step further and says to them “I AM the Bread of Life.” (John 6:35)
Jesus doesn’t just provide – He is the Provision.
Jesus is the true Provision we need day by day. And He says, “the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)
Think of the cross. That was Jesus given to the world like bread to the hungry. That was the true grace for grumblers like you and me. We deserved a thunderbolt and we got the Bread of Heaven.
If you look to Jesus, broken on the cross for you, can you really doubt His provision? No matter what the trial you’re going through, no matter what the wilderness experience, look to the cross and see what kind of Provider our LORD is. Not just giving you things to get by, but giving His very self.
Though it cost Him His life, He gave you His flesh and blood. Do you really think He’ll withhold what you need in your wilderness times? He was torn apart for your salvation. Do you really think He wants to see you perish in the desert? No!
He is a gift to the whole world, as free and available as bread for the starving. Do you think He’s stingy? He’s not stingy. He gives Himself away as Bread to the masses.
When we come to those places where Jesus is all we have, He proves, time and again, that He’s all we need. He is the One who gives Himself, body and soul, to His people. The desert with Jesus is better than any Egypt without Him.
“Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven
Feed me now and evermore!”
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