Manna, Jesus: The Bread of Life

In our Bible reading, we come to many instances of figures and shadows and symbols. We need God to give us eyes to see and understand. Remember the disciples who were walking along the road to Emmaus with Jesus?  They were delighted as he discussed Bible with them and told them how it was ALL about him!

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.—Luke 24:27 ESV

In Exodus today, we read of the manna which God gave.  In John 6:32-33 Jesus then said to his disciples,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father 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.”

Arthur W. Pink explains the symbolic meaning of God raining bread from heaven for the Israelites,

1. The Occasion of the giving of the Manna is both striking and solemn. After being the recipients of wondrous mercies from the Lord, Israel arrived in the Wilderness of Sin. But no sooner had they come thither than we find that the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (v. 3). A more fearful exhibition of unbelief, ingratitude, and rebellion could scarcely be imagined. The marvel is that the fiery judgments of God did not consume them there and then. But instead of pouring upon them His wrath, He dealt with them in marvelous grace by raining bread from Heaven for them.

Strikingly does this picture the condition of that world into which the Lord of Glory descended. For four thousand years the temporal and governmental mercies of God had been showered upon the human race, making His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, sending His rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). And what had been man’s response?“When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were they thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the un-corruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and to four footed beasts, and creeping things” (Romans 1:21-23).  Little better was it with Israel, as a glance at their Old Testament history will show. What wonder, then, if God had abandoned the whole race! But no; in matchless, wondrous grace, He sent forth His own beloved Son to a world wherein every human creature had forfeited every possible claim upon His goodness and mercy.

2. The Place where the Manna fell is also deeply significant. It was in the “Wilderness of Sin” (16:1) that the “bread from Heaven” first fell. Surely it were impossible to select a more fitting title to accurately describe the character of that world into which the Son of God descended. Verily, a wilderness of sin was this world to the Holy One of God! A wilderness! What is a “wilderness”? It is a homeless place. No one would think of building a house there. And a homeless place was this world to the Son of God. No room in the inn at His birth; nowhere to lay His head during the days of His public ministry; a borrowed grave for His crucified body, sums it all up. A wilderness of sin! Never was that more apparent than when the Sinless One was here. How the Light exposed the hidden things of darkness! How the murder of the Savior demonstrated the sinfulness of Jew and Gentile alike!

3. The Glory of the Lord was linked with the giving of the Manna“And it came to pass as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory, of the Lord appeared in the Cloud” (v. 10). This is very striking indeed. It is the first time we read of the appearing of “the glory of the Lord,” not only in connection with Israel, but in Scripture. Marvelously accurate is this detail of our type. Not until the Son of God became incarnate was“the glory of the Lord” fully revealed. But when the eternal Word became flesh and tabernacled among men, then, as the beloved apostle declares, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). The “glory of God” is seen “in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

4. The Manna came down from Heaven. “Then said the Lord unto Moses, ‘Behold I will rain bread from Heaven for you’” (vs. 4). The manna was not a product of this earth. It grew neither in the wilderness nor in Egypt. It was neither produced by human efforts, nor manufactured by human skill. It descended from God. It was a gift from Heaven come down to earth. So our Lord Jesus was no native product of this earth. As we read in Ephesians 4:10,“He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens.” The first man (Adam) was of the earth, earthy; but the second Man (Jesus Christ) was “The Lord from Heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:48).

5. The Manna was a free gift from God. “And Moses said unto them. This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat” (v. 15). No charge was made for this manna. It was neither a wage to be earned nor a prize to be won, but was a token of God’s grace and love. No payment was demanded for it. It was without money and without price. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Let us join with the apostle in saying. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

6. The Manna was sent to the Israelites. “Behold I will rain bread from Heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day” (v. 4). Two truths are here illustrated. First, the Manna was God’s provision for His elect people, and for none others. We do not read of God raining manna upon Egypt nor upon Canaan. It was given to Israel in the wilderness and to them alone, just as the Paschal lamb was for them and not for the Egyptians. So, too, Christ is God’s Provision for those whom He“ordained unto eternal life” (Acts 13:48). Listen to His own words in John 17:19: “For their sakes I sanctify Myself” — set Myself apart unto death. It was for “the sheep,” not the goats, that He gave His life (John 10:11).

But second, this manna was also sent to a needy and foodless people. Whatever food Israel had brought with them out of Egypt was, by this time, all consumed. From the human side, they seemed in imminent danger of starving to death. Had not God met their need they would have perished in the wilderness. But from the Divine side everything was sure. God had purposed to bring Israel to Sinai (3:12), and His counsel cannot fail. A complete provision did He make for His needy people. It is the same now. By nature, the elect of God are “children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:3). Shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, their lot is indeed a desperate one. But praise be to God, full provision is made for them. The Bread of Life is their all-sufficient supply. Even before His birth it was announced, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

7. The Manna came right down to where the Israelites were. The Israelites were in immediate danger of starving to death, but as we have seen, God graciously made provision to supply their need and now we would notice that no long journey had to be taken in order to secure that which would satisfy their hunger — the manna fell all around the camp. “And in the morning the dew lay round about the host;and when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing” (vv. 13, 14). Here we have foreshadowed the blessed fact that, to the sinner conscious of his need and anxious to meet with the Savior, God says, “Say not in thine heart, ‘Who shall ascend into Heaven?’ (that is to bring Christ down from above) or, ‘Who shall descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ again from the dead). But what saith it? ‘The Word is nigh thee.’” (Rom. 10:6-7).  And out of this very nearness springs the sinner’s responsibility. All around each tent door lay the manna. Something had to be done with it. It must either be gathered or trodden under foot! Sinner, what are you doing with the Christ of God? Remember His searching words, “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Luke 11:23).

8. The Manna must be gathered by each individual. “This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, ‘Gather of it every man according to his eating’” (v. 16).  This is so spiritually. Receiving Christ (John 1:12) is a personal matter. No one can believe for another. There is no salvation by proxy. The gospel of Christ is, “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16), and “he that believeth not shall be damned”(Mark 16:16). Saving faith is that act whereby each awakened sinner appropriates Christ unto himself. It is true that Christ loved the Church as a whole, and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25), but it is also the happy privilege of each member of that Church to say with the Apostle Paul, “Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Have you, dear reader, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ?