Bread in the Wilderness

Originally published in the Exodus Issue of She Leads Daily. Download the full magazine online.

In the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was.”

Exodus 16:13

One of the most miraculous stories in the Old Testament is where bread from heaven fell for 2,000,000 of God’s people every day for 40 years. This significant time in the wilderness was one of provision and preservation. God provided for His people, to preserve them. Every day they were told to gather what they needed to sustain their bodies. Every day there was enough. They relied on this ephemeral bread that was as fine as frost on the ground, to satiate a substantial hunger.

In Exodus 16:33, God told Moses to preserve a portion of this miraculous bread from heaven, so they wouldn’t forget. The manna would be preserved as an artifact in remembrance of what he had done. We see from this story how important it is to remember and write down (preserve) what God has said and done. Because it’s easy to forget. It’s easy to settle into the present hardship and grumble about it. The Israelites were hungry. They were thirsty. They were fearful of the scarcity. But there is a difference between complaining and lamenting. Complaining puts God in the position of the adversary, lamenting puts God in a position of friend. This implies a turning to God rather than away from Him. It’s ok to pour our hearts out when we are grieving, feeling lost, suffering, empty or weak. Lamenting calls upon our Father to see, and act on our behalf. Over and over we see Moses in the position of being a friend of God.

“Draw near to God, for he has heard your complaining.” Exodus 16:9

Moses argued with God, implored for God’s grace, laid himself bare in his weaknesses, and struggled in his leadership.  But the strength that was forged there in the struggle, in the wilderness, was a place of great connection. The Israelites really only knew of God through Moses. The knowing was dependant on external signs rather than a deep internal belief. If this sounds familiar, we see that Jesus struggled with the same problem in His time. People will always gravitate to what they can see, touch, taste and hear, because it’s the easy road. It takes the real hard work of faith to believe in Jesus when there seems to be nothing to tangibly grasp on to.

The Israelites were constantly being called a stiff-necked people throughout Exodus. They were looking for a God to serve them, rather than a Father that preserves them.

Despite the 40 years of wilderness that was ahead of them, the God of the wilderness and the God of abundance met them there. Wherever His presence went, that’s where they would go. And that is where God’s provision would be.

As the people looked toward the wilderness, the glory of the Lord appeared.

Exodus 16:10

When we seek His presence above all else, even in the wilderness, His miraculous provision is waiting there. Every day, we rely on the Holy Spirit to provide fresh sustenance. Expecting Him to provide fresh manna for our day.

The Israelites were told to only gather what they needed, no more, otherwise it would spoil. This is the theology of enough. We receive what we need, and only what we need. Many times we look to old manna – old bread -old things – but what we need is a fresh substance to feast on. God wants to give you through the person of Jesus His living word that satiates and renews. Every day we have the opportunity to gather the Bread of Life – that is the living words of Jesus – into our hearts and lives. We remember what he has said in the past, we have preserved them in journals and notebooks, in art, through photos, and our memories, but God wants us to gather something fresh and alive for THIS day. Like the Israelites opening their tents to see the bread covering the ground like dew, the Bread of Heaven is present for the feast and it fills us completely. 

“We must every one of us gather for ourselves, and gather in the morning of our days, the morning of our opportunities; which if we let slip, it may be too late to gather.” (from the Matthew Henry commentary)

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world … This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:27-58

We receive the words of Jesus, the Bread of Life like the Israelites received the manna —

With humility, on our knees

With rejoicing, for His perfect provision for THIS day

With awareness, because we sometimes forget what we truly hunger for

With care, because we know that is precious

With gratitude, because we know the Source

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