Prior to becoming a pastor, I was a chef. You learn a lot about yourself and others when you prepare food for a living. For instance, you learn how unthankful and impatient people are when you are serving them. But this is not unique to the restaurant business. It’s part of our fallen human nature and seen clearly in Exodus, when God faithfully provided for His ungrateful people, raining down bread from heaven throughout their days of wilderness wandering.
Scripture tells us “the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled” about their situation to Moses and Aaron. After all God had done for them, leading them to freedom, they began to long for Egypt, believing it better to be a slave and well-fed than free and in the wilderness (Exodus 16:2-3).
Israel’s complaints in the wilderness were met with life-sustaining provision from their God. His grace is magnified in His provision for an undeserving people. Instead of allowing them to starve in the wilderness, God gave them this heavenly delicacy called manna for the entire time of their wilderness wandering (v. 35).
But God’s supernatural provision of manna did more than satisfy their hunger. Apparently, it was the best of bread, tasting like “wafers made with honey,” and unlike anything the Israelites had ever eaten before (v. 31). In fact, the Hebrew word manna literally means, “What is it?”—which was the question on the Israelites’ lips as they watched it fall from the sky. The only thing it could be compared to was “the food of angels” (Psalm 78:25, NLT).
God taught Israel about resting in Him and in His provision, through His supernatural preservation of the manna the day before the Sabbath (Exodus 16:21-26). The manna also served the spiritual purpose of teaching God’s people about the Christ to come; Jesus would be the “bread from heaven” for all those who came to believe in Him and trust Him for the provision of His sacrificial life, death, and resurrection (John 6:1-15).
After feeding thousands of people from just a few loaves of bread, Jesus departed from the crowd. He had no sooner left them than the people began to look for Him, hoping to be fed again (v. 24). When they found Him, Jesus told them, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life” (v. 27).
Just as the Israelites in the wilderness had asked “What is it?” when they first saw the manna, so the Israelites of Jesus’ day asked Him, “Who are you?” (John 8:25). Many will look to Christ for bread that perishes. But He is “the bread of life… the living bread that came down from heaven” to meet us in our sin and need (John 6:48, 51). By His grace, may we seek Him for the life-giving provision of His flesh and blood.
Written by Nick Batzig