Exodus 16:1-36 Manna in the Morning

Speaker: Andy Yip

Main point: The Israelites protested against the Lord, and God provided them Manna, the bread from Heaven for food. Manna symbolises the eternal bread of life through Jesus Christ. God also gives us the gift of  weekly Sabbath rest for us to enjoy.


Do you like eating? I love eating buffets, especially the Blacktown Workers Club Buffet. In buffet meals, you can eat as much as you want until you are full, but you cannot bring any food home for the next day. Now imagine that you can have all-you-can-eat buffets for 40 years. How does it sound? Does it seem so good to be true? Well, it is true in biblical history. The Lord has done so many marvellous miracles in the Bible, and his provision of daily Manna in the wilderness was one of them.

1) Bread from Heaven

On chapter 16 of Exodus, the Israelites have departed the oasis of Elim and came to the Desert of Sin in their pilgrimage to Mt Sinai. Soon the people were tired and hungry, and they grumbled against Moses and God again about no food. They said,

“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3)

The truth was, they were not running out of food, because in the next chapter, they grumbled about needing water for the livestock. So they still have sheep and goats and cattle’s, they could drink milk and make cheese; they could even eat meat. They were grumbling about the food they craved, not the food essential for their survival. The Israelites confused about what they wanted with what they really needed. This is often the source of our discontent as well, thinking that our greed are our needs. The Israelites even accused Moses and Aaron trying to destroy Israel by starvation. Constant complaining of what we want, but not what we really need is a great sin. They rebelled against God’s plan for their salvation and said they would rather die in slavery in Egypt.

But our God is full of love and compassion; he is a God of provision – Even the Israelites continued to sin against Him. At this point, Yahweh listened to the Israelites and gave them what they asked for: He promised to rain down bread from heaven for his people, so that “you will know that I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 16:12). God did not perform this miracle simply because the people begged for it. He provided them bread for his own glory. God’s glory is his reputation. It is his honour, his character, to help his people see how glorious he is. In the Ancient Near East, it was always the believers who provide food to serve their pagan God, placing the food in front of the idols. But instead, our God is a living God who hears and the God who cares. Every time God provides for his people, it is for the praise of his glory. God promised to feed his people until they were all satisfied. God did what he did to receive all the glory and praise. Every time he provides for his people, God adds more weight to his reputation. This miracle of the daily provision of Manna, was able to keep the two million people alive in the desert for 40 years.

And the great thing is, God does the same thing for us. There is glory in the ordinary providence of God, who takes care of our needs or spares us from danger, every time he enables us to repent of our sins or to believe in his promises, every time he works things out in a way that seemed impossible, we see a bit more of his glory. Therefore, we shall always give thanks to God for everything’s that he has done for us in our lives, giving God the glory.

The basic lesson of today’s passage is this: God provides for his people, giving us whatever we truly need. And he is our all-sufficient provider, Yahweh himself is all we need.

God sent bread from Heaven to sanctify his people. Manna had the educational purpose of teaching the Israelites to depend on God every day for all their needs.

2) The Bread of Life

Although the provision of Manna was a physical miracle, its purpose was to teach the spiritual lesson that God is the source of all our life. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”  In the ancient near east culture, bread is the primary type of food. Bread is essential for people to sustain their physical health. But all food comes from God’s Word who has created the whole world and everything in it – so literally, God’s Word is the true source of our life and satisfaction. Also, the term “Bread of Life” has spiritual meaning behind it.

Jesus said to his disciples,

“Very truly I tell you, 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. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:32-35)

The people were still looking for something physical, like Manna bread from Heaven, but Jesus was offering them something spiritual. When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” he meant that he was all they would ever need. He would provide for all their physical needs, of course; but more than that, they would meet all their deepest spiritual needs forever. So Manna the bread from Heaven in Exodus is pointing to Jesus, who is the true Bread of Life. Receiving this Bread of Life is a serious matter of life and death, like the Israelites’ situation in the desert, have food to eat or die in the wilderness. Similarly, in the spiritual sense, having Jesus the true Bread of Life or not – has the eternal consequence of life and death. The difference between eternal salvation and everlasting damnation is our faith in the Son of God. Whoever believes in Christ has everlasting life, because Jesus is the eternal bread of life – he teachings have moved from the physical to the spiritual, from the temporal to the eternal, from the Exodus to the cross. Manna from Heaven is pointing to salvation in Christ. As Jesus pointed out in John 6:47-51,

“Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the Manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from Heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

While the Manna taught Israel to depend on God daily for all their needs, it had certain limitations. It was only bread in the end; so it could only meet physical needs, and only for a little while. Everyone who ate the Manna in the wilderness is now dead. But this manna bread taught people to look to God for their sustenance and salvation until he sent the true and living bread from Heaven. This bread came in the person and work of Jesus. He offered his body on the cross to give life to the world. The true meaning of the Manna is that all we need is Jesus. And now God invited us to feed upon Jesus, who is the source of all our life. That is why we have bread in the Lord Supper, in remembrance that Jesus is our source of life. He is our Manna from Heaven who sustains us and gives us eternal life. Jesus said,

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from Heaven. Your ancestors ate Manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:56-58)

There are many ways that we can feed upon Jesus. We feed upon him as we study His Word in the Bible, which is all about our salvation in him. We also feed upon Jesus as we have fellowship with Him in prayer. And we feed upon him in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper – not physically but spiritually. The physical bread is a spiritual sign of eternal life that Jesus gives to all who trust in him.

3) A Sabbath for Man

The sending of Manna is also a test to the Israelites. God gave them instruction that each person is to gather enough food for each day. They cannot collect more than a day’s worth of bread. God is using it to test them and see if they will follow his instructions. The Lord said to Moses,

“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 16:5)

Each day the Israelites were to go out and gather bread. They were only to pick as much as they needed for that day, except on the sixth day, when they could gather enough for the Sabbath day. God wanted to see if his people would keep his law, which obviously would require faith in his promise. Later, Moses said, “No one is to keep any of the manna until morning.”(Exodus 16:19)

The instruction is no hoarding of excessive food. This meant that the people had to trust God for tomorrow as well as today. Rather than storing up for the future, they were called to believe that God would continue to provide what they needed daily. Every day God tested their faith in his providence. He was teaching them to trust him for their daily bread. Day by day, week by week, and year by year. They had to depend on God for everything.

Also, unlike their slavery in Egypt, where the Pharaoh made the Israelites work all the time, God gave them to rest once a week along their journey in the wilderness. Every seventh day is a restful day for worship. This new rhythm of labour and rest was reinforced by the Manna: on the sixth day, they gathered twice as much, God provided his people with a two-day supply of bread so that they don’t need to work for food on the Sabbath day. Moses said to the people,

“This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ ” 24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” (Exodus 16:23-26)

By doing the boiling and baking on the sixth day of the week, God’s people were preparing for the seventh day. Whatever they baked and boiled would be ready to eat on the Sabbath. They were only to bake what they needed, and whatever they didn’t bake would go bad. Sabbath is a gift and privilege to the Israelites. No other ancient culture celebrated a weekly day of rest. Sabbath day is God’s gift to us to enjoy. Like God had worked and created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day, we are also to imitate our Creator and keep our day of rest holy once a week. When God rested, his people rested too. This rhythm of gathering and then not gathering put the practice of Sabbath rest in people’s heart.

Today many Christians struggle with keeping the Sabbath. Maybe because our modern lives are so busy, or that we don’t want God tells us how to spend our days in the week. Just like the Israelites in Exodus, they wouldn’t listen to God’s command, and they went out looking for Manna on the Sabbath day. People are just so rebellious that they refused to submit to God’s will. As Christians, we are to remember not only to study God’s word but also to do what it says in each and every situation.

If we are to learn about the Sabbath biblically, we need to start with the recognition that the Sabbath day is a gift from God. It is for our blessing. Resting on the Sabbath distinguished God’s redeemed people and slavery in Egypt. The gift of the Sabbath was also for the remembrance of salvation. Every week, as the people rested in the goodness of God, we were reminded of our redemption from the slavery of sin. One day when Christ returns, we will enter the true Sabbath of God’s rest, there we will worship God and enjoy our eternal rest with God joyfully. On that day, we will enjoy our Manna in Heaven, Jesus Christ, who is with us always.

So let us praise God for his provision of Manna and Sabbath, that we will learn to trust God for his provision and salvation every day.


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