Did you know that the word for manna in Hebrew means “What is it?”
The story of how and why God gave manna to the Israelites contains valuable lessons for us today. It highlights God’s ability to provide for His people and demonstrates His loving kindness towards us. But how often do we recognize manna when we see it? How can receiving our daily manna strengthen our faith?
Manna for the Israelites
Manna was unlike anything the Israelites had seen, touched, or tasted. It was food uniquely created and delivered by God for His chosen people.
“That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 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.” (Exodus 16:13-15 NIV).
God rained down manna from heaven every day for forty years. In the deserts and the valleys, wherever the Israelites pitched their tents, manna was available. They could go out every morning and be sure that there would be enough manna for them to eat and be satisfied.
Manna, however, was not a reward for good behavior.
God sent manna when the Israelites complained about their situation in the wilderness. The people of God grumbled against God and their leaders when they found themselves hungry in the desert, after leaving Egypt. They even wished they had not left Egypt (Exodus 16:3). Instead of punishing the Israelites, God displayed His mercy and patience by meeting their need for food.
Manna was more than food. It was a means to test the Israelites.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”” (Exodus 16:4-5 NIV).
How was gathering and eating manna a test?
1. The Israelites had to gather only about two quarts of manna for each person daily (and double the amount on the sixth day of the week). God’s provision came with instructions and required action.
Would they obey Him, day after day?
2. Manna was a sign that the God of the Israelites was the one true God. He brought them out of slavery in Egypt by performing spectacular signs and wonders. He was capable of sustaining them in the wilderness.
Would they trust God? Would they depend on Him for their needs?
3. Manna tasted the same every day. Imagine eating the same food for breakfast for four decades. But the daily dose of manna ensured that the Israelites’ physical needs were met. They did not have to deal with the uncertainty of not knowing where their next meal would come from as they sojourned in the wilderness. The Israelites did not have to hunt or grow their own food.
Would they be content with God’s provision? Would they be grateful to God for their daily bread?
Like the Israelites, we too can become dissatisfied with where we are in our lives. Our lack can become so magnified in our minds that we can fail to see the evidence of God’s goodness in our lives. We can forget how God carried us through difficult situations in the past. We, sometimes, doubt if He can even help us deal with our current problems.
When David declared, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1 NIV), He displayed his confidence in God as the source of His nourishment, protection, and help. He went to God when he felt disappointed, afraid, lonely, or frustrated. When he fled from Saul and became a fugitive for years, David trusted in God to preserve his life.
“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” (Psalm 18:32-36 NIV).
The apostle Paul faced all kinds of trials, but he relied on God’s ability to equip him with exactly what he needed so that he could persevere in doing God’s work. His unwavering trust in God was the source of his contentment in every circumstance. God gave him the strength to cope with both poverty and abundance.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV).
Manna For Us
God provides for us because He loves us and cares for us. But His provision and timely help can also, sometimes, challenge us to examine our hearts and mature our faith.
Do we trust God during difficult times? Are we content in Him? Are we grateful for His new mercies every morning? Do we rely on Him to meet all our needs?
Manna is available to us daily. In faithful obedience, we can go to Heaven’s throne and gather what we need for today, while trusting that God’s supernatural provision will be present tomorrow.
We do not know what is in store for us the next day. But we can be sure that, no matter what happens in the future, God will give us manna at the right time, in the right quantity.
When we see His divine provision, I hope we will not ask, “What is it?” Rather, we will rejoice and declare, “I know what this is. This is God’s unique provision for me. Hallelujah!”