When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.'” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. … The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. Exodus 16.14-18, 31.
Mannah was God’s provision for his people on their journey to the promised land. “The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan” (Exodus 16.35). When it first appeared and they asked, “What is it?” (as recorded in this morning’s reading) their question in Hebrew was man hu— hence the name of this bread from heaven … mannah.
What is God’s provision for our journey to his promised land of the age to come — to the new heavens and the new earth? It is, of course, Jesus … and we have the very authority of Jesus for seeing in the mannah a lovely picture of the Saviour himself. “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world … I am the bread of life … For I have come down from heaven” (John 6.33, 35, 38).
The mannah came silently in the darkness while the Israelites slept (Numbers 11.9). So Jesus came quietly into our world of sin and failure and futility, born into the darkness of a stable in Bethlehem, unnoticed by the world at large.
The mannah was small and insignificant and did not seem any kind of an answer to the people’s need. So when Jesus came to us he “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2.7-8).
The mannah was round. It resembled coriander seed. As you rolled it in your fingers you could find no beginning and no end. So Jesus is from eternity to eternity; unchanged, unchanging, unchangeable; the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13.8); true God; the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last (Revelation 22.13).
The mannah was white. It stood out against the dirt of the desert floor. So Jesus stands out in all his goodness and grace as we see him walk this earth. “People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well,’ they said” (Mark 7.37). He is the Word made flesh, the righteousness of God in human form. He is holiness, purity, goodness and light. He is the Sinless One. “Simon Peter … fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'” (Luke 5.8)
The mannah was sweet. So too is Jesus to those who have received him and know him. “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34.8), for, as the song says: “Your name is like honey to my lips”.
And like the mannah, Jesus will always be my sufficiency, day by day. We are told that “each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed” (Exodus 16.21) and that reminds me that I am to appropriate Jesus to myself as I start each day. “Those who seek me early find me” (Proverbs 8.17 LITV, KJV etc). If I let other business get in the way and put off my meeting with Jesus until those other things are done, I will almost certainly find that the day has passed and gone without my feeding on him by faith at all. “When the sun grew hot, the mannah melted away” (Exodus 16.21).
I wake each day with many and varied needs … forgiveness of sins, wisdom and understanding, grace, patience, strength, courage, but the provision of the mannah and the picture it gives me of Jesus assures me that today, in him, every need I have will be met. He is my “daily bread” for which I ask the Father and which the Father gives to me, freely and without price.
“Jesus said … ‘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'” (John 6.32-33).