OT | Bread from Heaven (Exodus 16)

Bible card Illustration published 1907  by Providence Lithograph Company

Bible card Illustration published 1907
by Providence Lithograph Company

Last week, in our Old Testament Study, we looked at the Song of Moses and how it served as a model for true worship and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father.

As a quick review, the nation of Israel has been led out of Egypt. By the Mighty Hand of God Pharoah was utterly defeated and put to open shame before the nations as his army was utterly destroyed by God who parted the Red Sea for His people and then closed upon the Egyptian Army. In the aftermath of that destruction, the nation of Israel praised God and they sang the Song of Moses, praising God for His might work of Salvation. A song that we, too, will sing standing along the shores of the great sea of glass mingled with fire (Revelation 15), praising God for His work of Salvation.

The Provision of God

Now, Israel is truly free from the slavery of Egypt. They are separated from the house of slavery by the waters that God had used to crush the Egyptian army. Though they have been delivered out of the hands of Pharaoh and are now clearly under the protection of the One True God (who could deny His Mighty Works?) under the supervision of Moses. While we might be tempted to simply read on through as though reading a novel, stop and think about all that has happened. If this were a movie, the ending credits would have been rolling during the Song of Moses and the film would fade to black. But this isn’t a movie, these are real events in history. The biggest question probably in many minds is, “Now what?” As long as Israel is looking at the waters and the floating debris they are thinking about how awesomely God worked to rescue them from that army, but as soon as they turn around, they realize they are not in the Promised Land, they are in-fact in the wilderness. That would be daunting enough a thought if you were standing with your family, extended family, maybe even your church congregation. Do you remember how many people had left Egypt? Let’s turn back to chapter 12 for just a moment:

Exodus 12:37-39 (ESV) 37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds.39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

Woah! 600,000 men plus women, children, and a mixed multitude and livestock. Remember that livestock was what the sons of Israel noted as their profession when they were given the land of Goshen by Pharaoh in the time of Joseph. Before they were slaves, they were herdsmen.

Genesis 47:1-3 (ESV) | Jacob’s Family Settles in Goshen
47 So Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan. They are now inthe land of Goshen.” 2 And from among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. 3 Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were.

Now they were all on the other side of the Red Sea, in the wilderness, without provisions. They had unleavened bread, but for a people who knew no such luxuries as grocery stores, convenience stores, nor fast-food restaurants, the idea of making provisions for a long journey extend well beyond having some unleavened bread. How do the children of Israel respond? Let us turn now to Exodus 16.

Exodus 16 (ESV) | Bread from Heaven

They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

I’m actually fairly impressed that so many people walking in the wilderness went that long (2.5 months?) on the scant provisions they had left Egypt with. Nevertheless, they burn through what little they had from Egypt and by now the Mighty Hand of God was sooo 2 months ago. Do people evolve? No, no we don’t. Our technology might, but we don’t. The whole congregation grumbled against Moses and Aaron. And what are they saying? Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full… our fallen flesh is so weak and completely turned in on itself. They would rather die in slavery with full stomachs than be free, following Moses toward the Land of Promise on an empty stomach. Not only that, but they accuse Moses and Aaron of malice, having brought all of these people into the wilderness to die of hunger. They’ve lost sight of the Promise, and long for what used to be considered comfort… in the house of slavery. In the Parable of the Sower, the children of Israel here are demonstrating the rocky soil, Matthew 13:21 (ESV)21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” We mentioned it before when Israel thought they were going to get slaughtered by Pharaoh’s army, but now their hunger is what has them falling away, losing their faith in the Promise.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”

So, hold on just a second… the Law has not yet been officially given. I’m not saying God hasn’t revealed His laws, or statutes, but when we currently talk about the Law, we look back to when God gives Moses the Law on the tablets of the Testimony on Mount Sinai. But in this story we have not yet reached Mount Sinai. God has issued commands and in this new command God specifies that He is testing His people, the ones He has already pulled out of Egypt, whether they will walk in His Law or not. God already knows the hearts of every person, He’s not testing for His sake, but for ours. What is the purpose of the Law? To expose sin. No one will walk in His Law until Jesus Christ comes to fulfill the Law for us. Here we see the first Law regarding the Sabbath, and it comes in reference to the provision of the Lord God. God will rain down bread from heaven, to meet their needs for the day, until the 6th day, where they will receive a double portion.

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’” 10 And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 And the Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’

13 In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. 14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” 17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21 Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” 24 So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, fortoday is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.”

The Lord will provide for His people, so that they will know that He is the Lord their God. They needed to let go of Egypt. They were free from the house of slavery, by a Mighty Hand of God, but their hearts still turned toward Egypt whenever they grumbled against the Lord. God now demonstrates His superior greatness by raining bread from heaven to meet all of their needs. Those who gathered much did not have excess and those who gathered little lacked nothing. How were they performing in their test? Not well. A stark reminder that our sinful state isn’t just a matter of a lack of effort or knowledge, it is a failure in our being, our flesh is cursed by sin, and we have fallen away from the perfection of God.

27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. 28 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? 29 See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

Notice the wording God used in his rebuke directed at the people in verse 29, “the Lord has given you the Sabbath”. Let’s jump ahead at how Jesus responded to the Pharisees who accused Jesus and His disciples of breaking the Sabbath according to their tradition.

Mark 2:27-28 (ESV) 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

The failure of Israel to obey is foreshadowing the reality that despite the Grace and Mercy of God the Father throughout the history of Israel, man will refuse to keep His commandments and laws. With this question fresh in our minds, let’s take a peek at what Jesus said in Matthew 5:

Matthew 5:17-18 (ESV)| Christ Came to Fulfill the Law
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

The Law continues to do what it was intended to do, convict us of sin while testifying of God’s Greatness and Perfection. But Christ came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and when He returns all will be accomplished. The keeping the Law is not the means of Salvation; it points out how lost we are. Salvation is by faith in the Promise of God. The Apostle Paul lays this out very well in Romans (particularly the first 8 chapters), but let us look at just a portion for now.

Romans 3:19-31 (ESV) | The Righteousness of God Through Faith
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

We will jump more heavily into Hebrews and in Romans once we reach the Law given at Horeb (Mt Sinai), but for now, let us close out Exodus chapter 16.

Exodus 16:31-36 (ESV)

31 Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” 33 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations.” 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony to be kept. 35 The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36 (An omer is the tenth part of an ephah.)

I love how this reminder of what God had done for Israel, this miraculous provision doesn’t point backward to Egypt, rather, it points forward to Christ. So often we get this wrong picture in our minds that sharing a testimony involves highlighting the sin in our lives “before we were Saved”, but that only glorifies Egypt, the house of slavery. The testimony that matters, is the one that points to Christ. In closing, let us turn now to John 6, where Jesus taught us how to rightly understand what God was doing here in Exodus 16.

John 6:26-71 (ESV)26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”32 Jesus then said to them, “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. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

I know we took this well beyond our target word limit, but I firmly believe this was well worth it. What we feast on here is the Word of God, the Words of Life, the Testimony and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, our Savior and Our Lord. He is the mana from Heaven, who ascended back into Heaven and who is returning to take His people to the Promised Land, where we will be with Him forever, Amen.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV)| The Coming of the Lord
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

May the Grace of God be with you today and forever,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

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