The Biblical Illustrator
The wilderness of Sin.
Moses in the wilderness of Sin
People may be strong and hopeful at the beginning of a project, and most effusively and devoutly thankful at its close, but the difficulty is to go manfully through the process.
I. Processes try men’s temper. See how the temper of Israel was tried in the wilderness! No bread, no water, no rest! How do processes try men’s temper?
1. They are often tedious.
2. They, are often uncontrollable.
3. They often seem to be made worse by the incompetency of others.
II. The trials of processes are to be met, not all at once, but a day at a time. Daily hunger was met by daily bread. This daffy display of Divine care teaches--
1. That physical as well as spiritual gifts are God’s.
2. That one of God’s gifts is the pledge of another. “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Why am I to be easy about to-morrow? Because God is good to-day! “He is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”
III. Processes show the different dispositions of men. Though the people were told in the distinctest manner that there would be no manna on the seventh day, yet they went out to gather it just as if they had never been warned! Such men are the vexation of the world. They plague every community of which they are a portion.
1. We have the means of life at our disposal: the manna lies at our tent-door!
2. We are distinctly assured that such means are given under law: there is a set time for the duration of the opportunity: the night cometh!
IV. All the processes of life should be hallowed by religious exercises. There was a Sabbath even in the wilderness.
1. The Sabbath is more than a mere law; it is an expression of mercy.
2. No man ever loses anything by keeping the Sabbath: “The Lord giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days.”
3. He is the loser who has no day of rest.
V. Processes should leave some tender and hope-inspiring memories behind them. “Fill an omer of it to be kept,” etc.
VI. The process will end. Are you ready? (J. Parker, D. D.)
The pilgrimage of life
In the anecdote books of our boyhood we used to be told the story of an Indian faquir who entered an Eastern palace and spread his bed in one of its antechambers, pretending that he had mistaken the building for a caravanserai or inn. The prince, amused by the oddity of the circumstance, ordered--so ran the tale--the man to be brought before him, and asked him how he came to make such a mistake. “What is an inn?” the faquir asked. “A place,” was the reply, “where travellers rest a little while before proceeding on their journey.” “Who dwelt here before you?” again asked the faquir. “My father,” was the prince’s reply. “And did he remain here?” “No,” was the answer; “He died and went away.” “And who dwelt here before him?” “His ancestors.” “And did they remain here?” “No; they also died and went away.” “Then,” rejoined the faquir, “I have made no mistake, for your palace is but an inn after all.” The faquir was right, Our houses are but inns, and the whole world a caravanserai. (Clerical Library.)
Bread, the supreme question
During the French Revolution hundreds of market-women, attended by an armed mob of men, went to Versailles to demand bread of the National Assembly, there being great destitution in Paris. They entered the hall. There was a discussion upon the criminal laws going on. A fishwoman cried out, “Stop that babbler! That is not the question; the question is about bread.” (Little’s “Historical Lights.”)
Murmuring, the result of forgetfulness
What unbelief and sad forgetfulness of God betrayed itself in these words! They quite forgot the bitter bondage of Egypt under which they had sighed and groaned so long. They now thought only of its “flesh-pots” and “its bread.” They altogether overlooked the mercy and the grace which had spared them when the firstborn of the Egyptians were slain. The miracles of love at the Red Sea and at Marah, so great and so recent, had passed away from their memories. They thought nothing of the promise of the land flowing with milk and honey. The argument, so evident and so comforting, “Can the faithful God who has brought us out of bondage mean to let us perish in the wilderness?” did not withhold them from the impatient conclusion, “Ye have brought us forth into the wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” And if you watch your own hearts, you will find that there is always this forgetfulness in a murmuring and discontented spirit. We forget, first, that we deserve nothing but punishment at God’s hands; and, secondly, we forget all the mercy and love which He has shown us in His acts and promises. (G. Wagner.)
Grumbling, an added burden
If I grumble because life is so arranged that I tear my clothes, and get many a scratch in the upward journey, my grumble is only an added burden. The difference between a soul that is soured by unbelief and a soul that honestly struggles and strives as the gymnast does, who tries to lift the heavy weight, knowing that, whether he succeeds or fails, the muscular development, which is the end sought, is still attained, is incalculable. To trudge along the moor after nightfall, then now knee deep, with the feeling that you are going nowhere, is indeed discouraging; but to do the same thing with the feeling that you are going home to the fireside of the loved and expectant, is to keep both feet and hands warm through our power of anticipating the heat and the welcome under the roof tree not far off. Rude, discourteous experience has taught us that an evil which is all an evil is a double evil, and that an evil with a joy behind it or beyond it is the healthy and invigorating toil by means of which a man may acquire a lasting good.
Ingratitude of the public
Daniel Webster, after his wonderful career, and in the close of his life, writes: “If I were to live my life over again, with my present experiences, I would under no considerations allow myself to enter public life. The public are ungrateful. The man who serves the public most faithfully receives no adequate reward. In my own history those acts which have been, before God, most disinterested and the least stained by selfish considerations, have been precisely those for which I have been most freely abused. No, no; have nothing to do with politics. Sell your iron, eat the bread of independence, support your family with the rewards of honest toil, do your duty as a private citizen to your country, but let politics alone. It is a hard life, a thankless life. I have had in the course of my political life, which is not a short one, my full share of ingratitude, but the ‘unkindest cut of all,’ the shaft that has sunk the deepest in my heart, has been the refusal of this administration to grant my request for an office of small pecuniary consideration for my only son.” (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Ingratitude of grumbling
I heard a good man say once, as we passed the home of a millionaire: “It doesn’t seem right that such a man as he is should be rolling in wealth, while I have to work hard for my daily bread.” I made no reply. But when we reached the home of the grumbler, and a troop of rosy children ran out to meet us, I caught one in my arms, and, holding him up, said: “John, how much will you take for this boy?” And he answered, while the moisture gathered in his eyes: “That boy, my namesake! I wouldn’t sell him for his weight in gold.” “Why, John, he weighs forty pounds at least, and forty pounds of gold would make you many times a millionaire. And you would probably ask as much for each of the others. So, according to your own admission, you are immensely rich. Yes, a great deal richer than that cold, selfish, childless millionaire whom you were envying as we came along. Nothing would tempt you to change places with him. Then you ought to be grateful instead of grumbling. You are the favourite of fortune, or, rather, of Providence, and not he.” (H. W. Beecher.)
That I may prove them.
Life a probation
There can be nothing more sobering than the truth that this life is a state of trial and preparation for another. There is at the same time something wonderfully satisfying in the idea. It puts life before us in a point of view which satisfactorily explains it.
I. This account of the end of life simplifies matters in our journey through life, The principle of trial as the end of life shoves aside a multiplicity of irrevelent ends to make way for the true one; it reduces the purpose of life to the greatest possible simplicity, reduces it, as we may say, to a unit--to the effect upon the individual himself, what he does and how he turns out under these circumstances. The idea of probation thus gives a singular unity to the whole design and plan of life. It throws the individual upon himself as the rational of the whole.
II. The principle of the end of life being probative applies mainly to all the ordinary external advantages of life and our pursuit of them; but it also affects another and less ordinary class of human objects--the objects connected with the good of others, those useful and benevolent works and those public and religious works which good men propose to themselves. There is one defect to which good men are liable: they become to much absorbed in the success of their own plans. The important truth for such men to realize is this very principle, viz., that of the end of life being trial. If they brought this truth home to themselves, they would see that the only important thing to them was, not that a useful undertaking should answer, but that they should have done faithfully their best for that purpose.
III. God makes use of us as His instruments, but the work that we do as instruments is a far inferior work to that which we do to fulfil our own personal trial. The general end of life, as trial, is superior to all special ends; it is the end which concerns the individual being, his spiritual condition, his ultimate prospects. (Prof. J. B. Mozley.)
The Divine bestowal of physical good
I. Physical blessings are given to supply our wants.
1. This provision was providential. God’s hand directs the movements of the tiniest creatures in the universe. He clothes the grass, and paints the flower.
2. This provision was abundant. There was enough for each man, woman, and child.
II. Physical blessings are given to develop our energies.
1. The blessings of lifo must be secured by diligent application. “Go out and gather.” No prize is beyond the reach of the earnest worker.
2. The blessings of life must be sought in a patient spirit. “A certain portion every day.” We want to accumulate the treasures of life quickly, to provide in youth for age, and retire upon our gains. God does not forbid prudence, foresight; but He sometimes overturns our plans, and sends day by day our daily bread. To the anxious, fearful soul, He says, “Gather,” “Trust.”
III. Physical blessings are given to test our obedience. “That I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or no.” God has many ways of testing the sincerity of His people. He proves them by poverty, affliction, persecution, and prosperity. He spreads our tables with dainties, and says, I will test their love, and liberality, and devotion.
1. The recipients of material possessions often hoard their wealth. Hoarded wealth never satisfies the possessor. It begets selfishness, fear, unrest, and disappointment.
2. The recipients of material possessions often squander their wealth. (J. T. Woodhouse.)
The manna a test of faith
“That I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or no.” How did the manna become a test of this? By means of the law prescribed for gathering it. There was to be a given quantity daily, and twice as much on the sixth day. If a man trusted God for to-morrow, he would be content to stop collecting when he had filled his Greet, tempting as the easily gathered abundance would be. Greed and unbelief would masquerade then, as now, under the guise of prudent foresight. The old Egyptian parallels to “make hay while the sun shines,” and such like wise sayings of the philosophy of distrust, would be solemnly spoken, and listened to as pearls of wisdom. When experience had taught that, however much a man gathered, he had no more than his omer full, after all--and is not that true yet?--then the next temptation would be to practise economy, and have something over for tomorrow. Only he who absolutely trusted God to provide for him, world eat up his portion, and lie down at night with a quiet heart, knowing that He who had fed him would feed. When experience taught that what was saved rotted, then laziness would come in, and say, “What is the use of gathering twice as much on the sixth day? Don’t we know that it will not keep?” So the whole of the gift was a continual training, and therefore a continual test, for faith. God willed to let His gifts come in this hand-to-mouth fashion, though He could have provided at once what would have obviously lasted them all their wilderness life, in order that they might be habituated to cling to Him, and that their daily bread might be doubly for their nourishment, feeding their bodies, and strengthening that faith which, to them as to us, is the condition of all blessedness. God lets our blessings, too, trickle to us drop by drop, instead of pouring them in a flood all at once upon us, for the same reason. He does so, not because of any good to Him, from our faith, except that the Infinite love loves infinitely to be loved. Bat for our sakes, that we may taste the peace and strength of continual dependence, and the joy of continual receiving. He could give us the principal down; but He prefers to pay us the interest as we need it. Christianity does not absolutely forbid laying up money or other resources for future wants. But the love of accumulating, which is so strong in many professing Christians, and the habit of amassing beyond all reasonable future wants, is surely scarcely permitted to those who profess to believe that incarnate wisdom forbade taking anxious care for the morrow, and sent its disciples to lilies and birds to learn the happy immunities of faith. We, too, get our daily mercies to prove us. The letter of the law for the manna is not applicable to us who gain our bread by God’s blessing on our labour. But the spirit is, and the members of great commercial nations have surely little need to be reminded that still the portion put away is apt to breed worms. How often it vanishes I Or, if it lasts, tortures its owner, who has more trouble keeping it than he had in getting it; or fatally corrupts his own character, or ruins his children. All God’s gifts are tests, which--thanks be to Him--is the same as to say that they are means of increasing faith, and so adding joy. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. Its mystic character. “What is this?” Christ was a mystery to His contemporaries. So is the Christian to his. “The world knoweth you not.”
II. Its uses. To save from starvation, famine, and death. Christ is “the Bread that cometh down from heaven.”
1. The manna was for all.
2. The manna was for all, according to their wants--appetites. The Saviour is to us’ just what we make Him to be. All fulness dwells in Him, infinite satisfaction; but we are straitened in ourselves, by our limited cravings, etc.
III. The prescriptions attending it.
1. To be gathered early.
2. To be gathered every morning. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
3. To be used.
4. To be gathered within six days. Life has its appointed time for salvation. If we allow the end of life’s week to come without a store of God’s manna, we shall find none in the future.
5. To be gathered for others--for those who could not go out themselves. (F. R. Young.)
An army must have a commissary department well administered. The ordnance, or recruiting, or medical, divisions are not more essential to its existence, whether in peace or war. A soldier’s pay is but a trifle compared with the expense of maintaining him in vigour. Yet a more strange venture and gross neglect would seem to be recorded in the early history of Israel than has ever since been seen. Here were some two million souls led out of bondage, of whom it is said: “They had not prepared for themselves any victual.” Every hour increased the peril and the need. Desperation was in their threats. Bread-riots have always been the fiercest outbreaks. The great camp was on the verge of mutiny.
I. The Lord did daily and amply provide for his people. The fact of abundant food is clear and indisputable. There is no hint, however, as to its immediate source or methods of distribution. A similar mystery veils the agencies through which we find our present necessities met. Here the natural and the supernatural seem to work together. The political economist makes them his study, and extremists undertake to tell exactly how the nations of the earth are kept alive. The farmer, manufacturer, artisan, carrier, trader, accountant, teacher, labouring with hand or head, or both--each furnishing just that without which the rest must languish--constitute a most complex problem. Laplace set himself at no such intricate task when attempting the solution of the solar system. We fall back on the conviction that while none can see the vast organism, or all the forces which are operative in it, yet it does move by an instinctive impulse under s beneficent direction whose secrets none can wrest, whose failure no one can imagine. The suspension of one class of labourers affects, more or less, every other. But to trace, or tell, the infinite processes through which every person in the land finds daily that which will maintain the body and restore its energies, as they are constantly spent, is beyond the ability of any mortal. Over all is He upon whom all eyes, though so blind, wait. Men call Him God, or Nature, or Chance, or Law, each term being somewhat of a cloak for their ignorance.
II. The Lord required each man to provide for himself. The combined wisdom and efforts of men could not create a grain of corn. Yet each and all must gather for themselves. The increase will vary as occasions and necessities do. But how often has the world seen that they who would for their own selfish ends heap up their stores find to their surprise and horror that it breeds only loathsome and hateful forms of death! Capital, unscrupulously held and wielded, is becoming the terror even of its possessors. Vast fortunes have generally proved vast vexations, while Agur’s prayer, “Give me neither poverty nor riches,” etc., seems to have its happiest answer in the state of those who are most observant of these very precepts given to Israel. To idle, or hoard, or squander, or fret, is sin now as then.
III. The Lord put special honour on the seventh. Good doctrine still, neither abrogated nor superseded, ye buoy men in these days of railroads, and steamships, and telegraphs, and fast mails, and Sunday papers, and apoplectic fits! Feel you not the Almighty hand on these flying wheels, bringing them to pause? Will you say, we must work a few of these forbidden hours to gain reprieve for the rest? Will you make hay, or post accounts, or write your commercial letters, or draw out your plans for greater barns, or repair your machine, or set foot on the train, to be first at the market on the morrow? Thus you do but repeat their folly, who hoped to gather the needful food, but failed. Emptiness will fill all your omers when the results of such disobedience are weighed. (De W. S. Clarke.)
The bread of the wilderness
I. They broke up from their encampment in Elim in an enervated and murmuring mood. They had eaten of the fat of the wilderness and become wanton, and they began to lust even for the fat of Egypt, the slave’s portion; the lot of the freeman already seemed too spare and hard. Wisely, indeed, was the wilderness appointed for our wanderings. Wisely was Adam sent forth into the land in which “in the sweat of his brow he must eat bread.” Bread won more cheaply may fatten the body, but it sends “leanness into the soul.” I never heard that money won by gambling or thieving brought a blessing with it to its possessor. Did you ever hear of speculation enriching either mind or heart? Money which comes cheaply goes cheaply, and leaves no benediction. God’s inscription on His coin is “Labour.” It is of another mintage when that impression cannot be traced.
II. The first stage of their journey brought them out into a vast sandy plain, where there was real danger, to the eye of sense, of their dying of hunger. Elim had re-heartened them after Marah. But the wilderness of Sin renewed their pains and terrors, and “the whole congregation of the Children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron.” Their cry after the flesh-pots was the fruit of Elim. They had renewed there the blunt edge of their lust. The old appetites resumed their sway, as they sat by the waters and ate of their flocks; when they went forth their murmurs broke out with new fierceness, as of lust rekindled, and in spirit, at any rate, they gave themselves again to be slaves. Beware of rekindling the flame of a dying lust or appetite. Starve it--it is the only policy. Let it taste again, let it look again, it flushes up into full fever glow, and you are once more enslaved.
III. Rephidim was the scene of their first battle and their first victory. In the first great act of the drama of deliverance, their duty had been simply to “Stand still and see the salvation of God.” The hour was now come when they must “quit them like men and fight.” Not otherwise is it in the Christian life. To rest on Christ, to “stand still and see His salvation,” is the true deliverance of a spirit: this is redemption, But we must fight hard, as if the victory depended on ourselves--not for redemption, but as redeemed, if we would reap all its glorious fruits. The first foes of Israel were their kinsmen. “And a man’s foes shall be those of his own house.” But come whence they may, foes soon beset the young pilgrim: before he has gone far, a long day’s battle will test his courage and strain his strength. Lusts and passions, which he thought he had slain for ever, stand forth alive, and renew the conflict. The Egyptians slain, new enemies throng around us. Our pilgrimage must be a war-march, with battlemusic and banners: “Jehovah nissi,” (“the Lord my banner”) we cry, and renew the fight. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
I. That God’s physical providence recognizes the personal wants of each individual. Manna fell for each, babe and man; not one overlooked. Poverty is not the institution of heaven. The causes of poverty being with us, let us seek to remove them.
II. That the enjoyment of God’s physical providence depends on trustful labour. Each was to gather for himself, and to gather no more than his portion for the day. Labour is necessary to give a relish and felt value to our blessings; and trust in God is necessary to exclude all anxious thought about the future.
III. That an avaricious accumulation of the blessings of physical providence will disappoint the possessor. Hoarded wealth never satisfies. It is noisome; it generates reptiles.
IV. That the seeking of the blessings of physical providence should never interfere with religious institutions.
1. Religion does not require us to neglect the body.
2. Religion has special claims. It has to do with man’s spiritual nature, relations, and interests. (Homilist.)
I. The manna was a provision for a great emergency. “When we were yet without strength”--to do the true work of life, to prepare for death, to gain acceptance with God--“in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
II. The manna comes as a miraculous interposition.
III. The manna came as a universal supply.
1. In quantities commensurate with the wants of all.
2. Within reach of all.
IV. The manna came with Divine directions. Gather for yourselves, and distribute to those who need help.
3. Regularly. Constancy is the condition of religious life and growth.
V. The manna demanded the remembrance of posterity (Exodus 16:32). All God’s interpositions on behalf of the fallen world are facts that shall be had in everlasting remembrance. For this purpose they are recorded in His Word. His interposition in Christ specially calls for our commemoration in the ordinance instituted for that purpose. (Homilist.)
I. The occasion for the manna. The supplies brought from Egypt exhausted.
II. The moral purposes of the manna.
1. To test the people.
2. To give an indisputable proof of the reality of their deliverance from Egypt by God’s own hand.
3. To show the unreasonableness of their murmurings.
III. The typical significance of the manna. Lessons:
1. This standing miracle of forty years’ duration is an irrefragable proof of all the Bible assumes concerning the personality, love, and power of God.
2. It teaches the faithfulness and deep interest of our heavenly Father, in all His children.
3. The murmurings and loss of appetite for the manna on the part of the Israelites are fraught with lessons of deepest practical moment to us.
4. The constant dependence on Christ as the true Manna is clear and emphatic.
5. The memorial pot of manna in the ark is a type of the “hidden manna” laid up in heaven for the believer (Revelation 2:17). (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
Threefold aspects of Providence
I. The temporal aspect of providence.
1. Providence is always timely in its assistance. Never too soon, never too late; never before the time, never after the time. Forgetting this, we bring upon ourselves no end of trouble by being over-anxious for the morrow.
2. Providence is always ample in its resources. There were many mouths to be filled and voracious appetites to be satisfied, and yet we have not heard that the supply failed for a single morning. You remember reading in the account of the Franco-Prussian war, that the army of Napoleon
III. loitered for days on the banks of the Rhine, when they ought to have advanced into the heart of Germany. What was the cause of this fatal delay? Want of provision; the commissariat was inadequate to supply the demands of three hundred thousand soldiers, and at Sedan the campaign proved disastrous to the empire. “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly . . . bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.” Providence is conditional in its method of support. God rained down manna from heaven in small grain, like coriander seed, not in ready-made loaves. “Society,” says Emerson, “expects every man to find his own loaf.” God expects it too.
II. The spiritual aspects of providence. “See that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days.”
1. Its value as a day of rest for the body is very great.
2. Its importance as a day for spiritual contemplation and holy delight is incalculable.
III. The historical aspect of providence. “This is the thing which the Lord commandeth, fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations, that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness.”
1. The omer full of manna was meant to teach coming generations the greatness of God’s power and the faithfulness of His promise. “Power belongeth unto God” as it belongeth to no other being, because it is absolute and independent. This is what makes His promises “exceeding great and precious,” that He has abundance of resources to make good His word to man.
2. The omer full of manna was meant to teach coming generations the evil of hoarding up covetously the bounties of Providence. (W. A. Griffiths.)
The manna was a type of Christ.
I. As the manna was a special mercy to the Israelites in their extremity, so the Saviour is God’s special gift to sinful men.
II. As the Divine gift of the manna appeared in the garb of extreme simplicity, so the life of the Saviour is embodied in the circumstances of life, through which He becomes our life.
III. As the manna was proportioned in daily rations, so we must have communion with Christ every day. Religious exercises are framed to recur. Thoughts of Jesus and communion with God cannot be stored; they must be repeated.
IV. The manna was in perpetual remembrance after they entered canaan, so Jesus and His cross will be the theme of eternity. The manna was placed in the golden pot, and put, with the ark, in the most holy place, when they began to live on the old corn of the land. The daily gathering was over, and the journey, but the remembrance remained. Faith must make way to sight. Grand sight! We shall not forget Calvary. The scenes with Jesus must remain. (British Weekly.)
I. Divine care.
1. Anticipating human need. He was before them in the way’; to turn “the barren wilderness” into “a fruitful field.”
2. Providing a suitable supply.
4. Watching over spiritual interests in meeting physical need. The Sabbath guarded. Both body and soul eared for; and at the same time.
II. Human duty.
1. To expect. Eyes of all wait on Him. The manna to be looked for. We are to expect that God will supply our wants. He has promised to do so.
2. To collect. This work might have been saved them. It had its use. Some collect for others. Young for aged, etc. All secular labour in fields or factories, but a collecting of the good gifts of God. So is prayer, study of the Bible, etc.
3. To economize. None to bewasted. Those who had gathered less were to be supplied out of another’s abundance. A wise distribution of our good things is true economy. Sowing for eternity.
III. Spiritual instruction. The manna a type of Christ. So Jesus Himself regarded it (John 6:1-71.). It was so--
1. Because unexpected in its coming.
2. Came in time of great need.
3. Unostentatious in its form.
4. Pleasant to the taste.
5. Spread silently over the ground.
6. Lasted all the journey through.
7. The remembrance of it treasured for ever.
8. Mysterious in nature.
“What is it?” Compare with “Who is He?” “Great is the mystery of godliness,” etc. While curious minds are trying to understand a mystery into which angels desire to look, let our exhortation be, “O taste and see that the Lord is good,” etc. Learn--
I. To trust in the care of Providence.
II. To act in harmony with Providence.
III. To seek the true Bread of Life. (J. C. Gray.)
Lessons from the manna
1. It was given in consideration of a great and urgent necessity. A like necessity lies at the foundation of God’s gift of His Son to the world; it was not possible in the nature of things for any other resource to be found.
2. The manna was peculiarly the gift of God, coming freely and directly from His hand. How striking a representation in this respect of Christ all Scripture may be said to testify, as both in His person and in the purchased blessings of His redemption He is always presented to sinful men as the free gift of the Father’s love.
3. The whole fulness of the Godhead is in Jesus, so that all may receive as their necessities require. So was it also with the manna; there was enough for all.
4. Then, falling as it did round about the camp, it was near enough to be within the reach of all; if any should perish for want, it could be from no outward necessity or hardship, for the means of supply were brought almost to their very hand. Nor is it otherwise in regard to Christ, who in the gospel of His grace is laid, in a manner, at the very door of every sinner; the word is nigh him; and if he should still parish, he must be without excuse--it is in sight of the Bread of Life.
5. The supply of manna came daily, and faith had to be exercised on the providence of God, that each day would bring its appointed provision; if they attempted to hoard for the morrow, their store became a mass of corruption. In like manner must the child of God pray for his soul every morning as it dawns, “Give me this day my daily bread.” He can lay up no stock of grace which is to last him for a continuance without needing to repair to the treasury of Christ.
6. Finally, as the manna had to be gathered in the morning of each day, and a double portion provided on the sixth day, that the seventh might be hallowed as a day of sacred rest, so Christ and the things of His salvation must be sought with diligence and regularity, but only in the appointed way and through the divinely-provided channels. (A. Nevin, D. D.)
The rain of bread
I. The backward look of this bit of history. Culminating point of a fit of murmuring. Shows sin and folly of persistent distrust.
1. Murmuring is a most unprofitable state of mind. Never did anybody any good. Source of all Israelites’ troubles. Once a child was reading, apparently absorbed in the act: her parent asked what was the book; and looking up, she answered, with a sudden overflow of tears, “Oh father, the people have begun to murmur again, and now God will have to punish them some more!”
2. Murmuring is a most delusive disposition. It leads to dangerous self-deception in almost all instances. Christians reply to those who attempt to rebuke them, “It is my temperament.” Often mere habit. Should be checked.
3. Murmuring is a most unwelcome indulgence. It prejudices piety. Makes a Christian disagreeable.
4. Murmuring is a growing sin in the heart. Israelites--sullen at first--now suspicious. They openly find fault.
5. Murmuring is contagious, and propagates itself far and wide.
II. The present appearance of this bit of history.
1. Man’s perversity. Little vexations make us petulant and revengeful.
2. God’s patience. Lord Bacon quotes an old Spanish writer as saying: “To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; but to return good for evil is even godlike.” Certainly this is what our God often does; but it would not do for any of us to presume upon such wonderful long-suffering. In ancient history we are told that there was once a statue of Jupiter erected at Crete; but the Cretans were liars, and the maker of the stone image had fashioned it without ears. The exultant people may have been pleased to think they had a god who could not hear their falsehoods; but they soon found that a deity who had no ears to hear prevarications had no ears to hear prayers either. We must remember that our God knows all our wickedness, and bears with us for a while; but it is to test our obedience to His law.
3. Heaven’s sufficiency is also illustrated here. For in the story the promise takes a very significant and beautiful form; God says He will “rain bread from heaven” for their need (see Psalms 78:22-25; Philippians 4:19).
III. The forward reach of this bit of history.
1. It was designed to be a type of Christ.
2. It was accepted as a type by our Lord Jesus Christ (see John 6:1-71.). (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
The food from heaven
Manna was prepared for food by grinding and baking. It tasted like cakes made of meal and honey in its natural state, and like fresh olive oil when cooked; its shape resembled coriander seed, and its colour was white; its supply continued for forty years, and failed with their use of the first new corn in the land of Canaan. That it was altogether a miraculous gift and not a product of nature is clear from the following considerations. It fell in enormous quantity, with unfailing regularity, even in the exceptional failure of the Sabbath-day; its composition was exactly suited to the tastes of the people; heat both melted and hardened it; gathered in distrust, it bred worms and putrefied; in faith, it was preserved for generations. The natural products of the Arabian desert and other Eastern lands, called manna, fail almost in every particular noticed in the miraculous food from heaven. All serve rather medicinal than nutritious purposes. They can be gathered only three months in the year, and not all the year round, and then only in small quantities, out of all proportion to the actual consumption of the Israelites, which, calculating the omer at three English quarts (each man had an omer a day, Exodus 16:16), could not have been less than 15,000,000 of pounds a week; they may be preserved for a long time, may be gathered on all days, indiscriminately, without a perceptible increase or diminution in their supply. The manna now found in the Arabian desert is the product of the tamarisk (Tamarix gallica), gathered in June. According to Burckhardt, “it drops from the thorns on the sticks and leaves with which the ground is covered, and must be gathered early in the day or it will be melted by the sun. The Arabs cleanse and boil it, strain it through a cloth, and put it in leather bottles; and in this way it can be kept uninjured for several years. They use it like honey or butter with their unleavened bread, but never make it into cakes or eat it by itself. It abounds only in very wet years, and in dry seasons it sometimes disappears entirely.” The same traveller found in the valley of Jordan “manna like gum on the leaves and branches of the tree gharrob, which is as large as the olive-tree, having a leaf like the poplar, though somewhat broader. It appears like dew upon the leaves, is of a brown or grey colour, and drops on the ground. When first gathered it is sweet, but in a day or two becomes acid. The Arabs use it like honey or butter, and eat it in their oatmeal gruel. They also use it in cleaning their leather bottles and making them air-tight. Tim season for gathering this is in May or June. Two other shrubs which have been supposed to yield the manna of Scripture are the Alhagi maurorum, or Persian manna, and the Alhagi desertorum, thorny plants common in Syria.” In addition to what has been said of the miraculous nature of the manna supply and the character of the natural products just specified, a brief reference to three explanations of the manna may be in place.
1. It is said to be miraculous food, that is, dew changed into bread. “The dew of heaven” promotes the fertility of the earth. During the wanderings of Israel through the wilderness, which is “no place of seed,” the dew, without sowing, brought bread from heaven (Exodus 16:4; Psalms 78:24; Psalms 105:40). So that the manna answers to the wine at the marriage of Cana.
2. The manna is the same food of the desert still found in the peninsula of Sinai. This, of course, lands us in the region of mythical embellishment, and requires a degree of credulity which the writer does not possess.
3. The manna is a miracle of accretion, answering to the miraculous feeding of the multitude in the New Testament, and to the increase of meal and oil by Elijah in the Old. (J. I. Mombert, D. D.)
Bonar gives the following twelve reasons why manna cannot be identified with the exudation of the tarfa-tree.
1. The tarfa exudes only small quantities. The Arabs could not live on it for a week.
2. The tarfa only exudes at certain seasons--March and April.
3. The tarfa does not yield its exudation regularly, even once a year.
4. The exudations of the tarfa come out from the branches of the tree, they do not come down from the air or sky.
5. The tarfa exudations are in composition and consistency somewhat like honey. They are quite unfit for grinding, or pounding, or baking, or boiling.
6. The taste of manna is said to have been as fresh oil (Numbers 11:8). No one who has tasted the tarfa-manna would compare it to oil.
7. The tarfa-manna does not stink, or breed worms, in a single night.
8. The tarfa-produce does not evaporate as soon as the sun arises (Exodus 16:21).
9. Tarfa-manna does not give particular quantities on particular days.
10. The tarfamanna is purgative medicine, not food.
11. The Israelites knew well the tarfatree, but they did not recognize the manna.
12. Israel could not have subsisted so long on this one food.
Dew and manna
Dew corresponds to that inward truth which descends into the soul from the Lord when all is peaceful and happy within. When, in a spiritual morning, this dew has descended upon him, fear is unfelt, solicitude no longer disturbs him; he relies with a child’s confiding trust on the Giver of all good, and feels a freshness and vigour like those of heaven’s own morning over the soul. This cheering, inward, blessed sensation is often in the Word described by dew (Micah 5:7; Isaiah 18:4; Hosea 14:5). When, on a summer’s morning, we walk forth in a beautiful country, the red light of the early dawn tinging the whole eastern horizon with golden splendour, a holy quiet reigning round, not broken, but charmed and enriched with the thrilling songs of the birds, while every leaf, blade, hedgerow, and flower are gemmed with pearly dew glittering like diamonds in the sun’s new beams, there is an image of the soul--calmed, illuminated, and blessed with the truth of peace. But after the dew we come to the manna--the substantial food which gave so much pleasure and so much support. When it is seen that solid food in Divine language corresponds to goodness, which supplies the will of every one who is living for heaven with energy and delight, and remember that this manna was given to supply food to the Israelites while they were in the transition period between living in Egypt and living in Canaan, we shall easily perceive that it is the symbol of that heavenly goodness which the Lord can impart to the soul of man while it is in the transition state, labouring to become regenerate, following the truth, fighting against its evils as they from time to time present themselves, but not yet entered into that phase of the spiritual life in which he feels at home in heavenly things. Hence the manna describes the goodness and the delight which the Divine mercy imparts to man while labouring to become regenerate. It is small, because, as compared with true angelic joy, it is of little account. It is round, because roundness expresses the smoothness, and also the completeness, of goodness, as compared with truth--truth is ever sharp and piercing. It is white, to denote its purity, and sweet, to express its deliciousness. It is like a thin cake, or wafer, to mark its inferiority, its shallowness, so to speak, when compared with true celestial joy. Yet feeble as it is, so far does it transcend all merely human and external joy, that when it is first truly awakened in the soul, all other delights in the estimation of the possessor become as nothing, and he cries out in the spirit, “What is this?”--for he knows not what it is. It is a state of peace, of richness, of sweetness that passeth all understanding. It may be felt, but cannot be described. It is as if every fibre of the soul thrilled with joy. It is blessedness unspeakable. All other delights seem now unutterably poor. They are as the lights of earth in the presence of the sun. By receiving each day the food for the day, and no more, the important lesson is conveyed that we should ever be guided in our wish to receive heavenly blessings not by the desire of selfish gratification, but by the love of use. So much as we need for our work, so much should we desire to receive. Seek food for use and delight will be given in. Seek it also for the duties of to-day. The only way to make any advance in heavenly things is to do our duty now. The good not used now will vanish when the sun of selfishness becomes vigorous within us. If we attempt to save it for the future, and to deceive ourselves with the good we will some day do, it will breed the worms of vain conceits, flattering and false, It may become polluted hypocrisy, most abhorrent in the sight of God and angels, but can never be saving good. The lesson involved in the corruption of the manna in the hands of those who gathered to hoard and not to use is of inestimable value. To be a miser is bad in earthly things, but far worse in heavenly. And it is to be feared that spiritual hoarding is even more prevalent than natural. How many sermons do we hear with delight, but whose influence goes no farther than to stock our memories! How many good books do we read whose pages unfold to us exalted lessons and truths of sterling worth! We hear, we read, and we admire, but our hearts remain as cold, heedless, and unpractical as before. We are no better, we admit; but we do not suspect what is the real truth--that we are worse. The manna we are hoping to preserve for future use is becoming corrupted and defiled. We are gliding into states of self-dependency, self-complacency, self-flattery. We are supposing we are righteous, or, at least, in no danger, because we know righteous things, while with every effort we make we are strengthening our inherent evils, our hereditary tendencies. We are not searching out our frailties and opposing them, but indulging them and salving them over with our religious knowledge and pious observances. The richest substances become, when corrupted, the most loathsome; and nothing is so abhorrent in the Divine sight as a religion unused for good, pandering only to self-gratulation and deceit. Our whole progress depends on eating to-day what God gives to-day. The same lesson would teach us also the duty of doing as it comes the work of each successive stage of our business of life and the reception of its proper and present blessing. “Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man. Let no man leave it until the morning” (Exodus 16:16; Exodus 16:19). One exception to this rule, however, there was (Exodus 16:29). Days for the soul are states. The six days of labour represent the states of the soul in which it is striving to obey a truth, although as yet it is laborious to do so in consequence of oppositions within and without. The sixth day is the end of this struggle, when the soul has succeeded in realizing not only the truth of a duty or a principle but also the good, the blessedness of it. Two omers are then received, the bread of two days. One more incident we would notice. The manna was gathered by an omer full at once, and no otherwise; and we are informed at the conclusion of the narrative, “Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah” (Exodus 16:36). There were three chief measures for dry articles, each ten times larger than the other--the omer, the ephah, and the homer (Ezekiel 45:11). These three measures, like the three kinds of bread of the tabernacle--the loaf, the cake, and the wafer--we may readily conceive, have relation to the reception of heavenly good by the three grand classes of Christians who form afterwards the three heavens of the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:2). The good which they receive who have entered fully into love to the Lord as the supreme source of all their operations is of the largest measure, the homer. The good of those who glory rather in the light than the love of heaven, though they are true to the light and sons of the light, is of the second measure, the ephah. The good of those who are not even intellectual Christians, but still steadily obey what they see to be enjoined in the Word, is the lowest measure, the omer, which is the tenth part of the ephah. And this is the measure by which we all receive heavenly good in our spiritual journey. Our law of duty is to obey the Ten Commandments. Each commandment obeyed brings its omer of blessing. (J. Bailey, Ph. D.)
Christ the true Manna
I am told there is a country where men in times of want eat clay in great lumps, and fill themselves with it so as to deaden their hunger. I know that many people in England do the same. There is a kind of yellow clay (gold) which is much cried up for staying spiritual hunger: heavy stuff it is, but many have a vast appetite for it. They prefer it to the choicest dainties. Many try to stave off hunger by indifference, like bears in winter, which are not hungry because they are asleep. They would not like to be aroused, because if they were they would wake up to an awful hunger. I wish they could be awakened, for that hunger which they dread would drive them to a soul-satisfying Saviour. Depend upon it, the only way to meet hunger is to get bread, and the only way to meet your soul’s want is to get Christ, in whom there is enough and to spare, but nowhere else. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Satisfied with God’s provision
Another time Billy Bray tells us that his crop of potatoes turned out poorly; and as he was digging them in the autumn, Satan was at his elbow, and said, “There, Billy, isn’t that poor pay for serving your Father the way you have all the year? Just see those small potatoes.” He stopped his hoeing, and replied, “Ah, Satan, at it again, talking against my Father, bless His name. Why, when I served you, I didn’t get any potatoes at all. What are you talking against Father for?” And on he went hoeing and praising the Lord for small potatoes. A valuable lesson for us all.
Bread from God
Some time ago a good Christian man was living among the hills of Scotland. He was very poor, but so good that every one who knew him loved and honoured him. One winter there was a violent snowstorm. The wind was high, and drifting snow blocked up the roads, and quite covered the humble dwelling of poor Caleb, as this good man was called. For three days he had been unable to go out and get food for himself and family. They were in great need, and had prayed earnestly for relief. A gentleman living in that neighbourhood, who knew Caleb well, awoke suddenly one night. It seemed as if a voice was calling to him which said, “Send provisions to Caleb.” He thought little of it, but turned on his pillow and went to sleep again. Again the voice seemed to sound in his ears, “Send provisions to Caleb.” Again he slept. A third time the call came. Then he arose hastily, dressed himself, called up his servant, and told him to harness the horse, while he filled a basket with provisions of all kinds. “Take this basket to Caleb,” said he, “and if he asks who sent it, tell him it comes from God.” The servant did as he was bidden. A path was made through the snow. The basket of food was left at Caleb’s cottage: and he and his family received it with hearty rejoicings. They felt sure that it was food from heaven, just as truly as the manna was in the wilderness on which the Israelites lived. Moses secured the blessing of bread for the Israelites in the wilderness, and Jesus is “the Prophet like Moses,” because He secures this blessing both for the bodies and the souls of His people. (R. Newton.)
Food providentially supplied
At the Turners’ banquet given in his honour a short time since, Mr. Stanley alluded to the strange sufferings in which he shared fifteen or sixteen months ago. For six weeks they had not seen a bit of meat; for ten days they had not seen a banana or a grain, and the faces of the people were getting leaner, and their bodies were getting thinner, and their strength was fading day by day. One day the officers asked him if he had seen anything like it in any African expedition before. He replied “No,” though he remembered on a former occasion when they were nine days without food, and ended their famine with a fight. Then, however, they knew where there was grain, and all they had to do was to hurry on; but in the late expedition they had been ten days without, and they did not know when their hunger was to terminate. They were all sitting down at the time, and he expressed his belief that the age of miracles was not altogether past. Moses struck water out of the Horeb rock, the Israelites were fed with manna in the wilderness, and he told them that he did not think they should be surprised to see some miracle for themselves--perhaps on the morrow or the following day. He had scarcely finished when some guinea fowl flocked round them and were at once seized.
Soul food necessary
A man was leaving a church at St. Louis where Mr. Moody had been holding a service. The eminent preacher noticed him, and gives the following account of their conversation--“I said to him, ‘My friend, why is it that you don’t accept Christ?’ He shook his head, and said he didn’t know. ‘Well, what is your soul feeding on?’ He said it was feeding on nothing. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘that is pretty hard for the soul, isn’t it--giving it nothing to feed on?’ He was a man about my age, forty years old, and he had given his soul nothing for forty years; he had been starving that soul. And that man is but a type of thousands and tens of thousands in this city to-day; their poor souls are starving. This body that we inhabit for a day and then leave, we take good care of that; we feed it three times a day, and we clothe it and take care of it and deck it, and by and by it is going into the grave to be eaten up by the worms; but the inner man, that is to live on and on for ever, is lean and starved.”
Symbolic meaning of the manna
In the sixth chapter of St. John, where our Lord so emphatically applies to Himself the miracle of the manna, it will be seen He discovers no wish to take from the high estimate which the Jews entertained of this ancient miracle, so only that it was considered as a type, not a mere interposition of Providence to provide by miracles means for their daily support. And casting aside many minor analogies which have been contended for, but which are too much of the nature of fanciful refinements, it is not difficult to trace between the manna and Christ, the True Bread, several broad and instructive resemblances.
1. Thus both were the free, unsolicited gift of heaven, prompted by the sight of man’s helplessness and man’s misery. “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven,” saith our Lord; “but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.” But observe, the gift in either case was the unmerited bestowment of the Eternal Father; whether to nourish the physical life of those wilderness wanderers or to support the spiritual life of believers to the end of time. Jesus Christ is a gift, the eternal life is a gift, enlightening, converting grace is a gift. Human efforts could no more avail to procure these things than the sowing of coriander seed could produce a harvest of manna.
2. Again, this gift was to preserve life. “Ye have brought us forth into the wilderness,” said the Israelites to Moses, “to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” They saw nothing before them but certain death. The place was desert; a curse of barrenness and drought laid upon it. The whole is a picture of man in this wilderness-world. His soul perishes with hunger; he has the sentence of death within him, a prospect of death before him. But God has rained bread from heaven. Christ, the Wellspring of all spiritual life; Christ, the Source of every active and passive grace; Christ, the energizing Principle of all acceptable obedience. “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.” It saved them not from the common lot of all men, this bread ye boast of, but “I am the living Bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this Bread he shall live for ever.”
3. Trace this parallel further, in the universality of the gift. There were in that wilderness all diversities of character--masters and disciples, owners of flocks and keepers of flocks; rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, and rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: yet to all was to be given the same portion, “an omer to every man, according to the number in their tents.” And in like manner, as far as concerns the offer of the blessing, Christ is a universal portion. (D. Moore, M. A.)
Manna and dew
Does not the manner in which this bread descended from above, along with the gentle, silent dew, apply very beautifully to the True Bread from heaven? It is not in the bustle of the world or in the excitement of religion, but in secret and in silence that Jesus descends upon the soul, when the spirit communes with God--when the eye is turned within in earnest searching self-examination--when the heart calmly meditates on the Divine Word. And what is the “dew” on and with which He descends? What but the Spirit of God, of which the dew is the constant symbol in Scripture? When the Spirit falls gently upon our hearts, then Jesus descends there. Where the one is, the other is--yet they are distinct. It is not the Spirit, but Christ in His living Person who is the Bread of Life. The Spirit is as the dew; Jesus as the manna, the Bread from heaven. We must, then, cherish every gentle influence of the Spirit of God if we would have our souls nourished. (G. Wagner.)
Sufficiency of Providence
The following anecdote of Mr. Spurgeon is well authenticated:--On a certain occasion, when dining at a lady’s house in Regent’s Park, with the late Dr. Brock, he (Mr. S.) remarked that £2,000 had to be forthcoming for his builder to-morrow, and though nothing was in hand, the money would be paid at ten o’clock. “I wish you would not say that,” Dr. Brock replied; but immediately after, while they were still at the table, a telegram came to say that A. B. had just left £2,000 for the Orphanage; and then, confessing that he had never seen anything like that, the doctor called upon all to put down their knives and forks and return thanks to God. They never knew who A. B. was, nor whence he came. (Gleanings in Harvest Fields.)
Supply of Providence
Harms of Hermannsburg, the pastor of a poor village on the Luneberg Heath in Hanover, said in his annual missionary sermon in 1857: “I have expended much in the past year in sending out the ship with her fifteen passengers, for the printing house, the press, and the paper, altogether 14,781 dollars, and I have received altogether 14,796 dollars, so I have fifteen dollars over. Is not that a wonder? So much spent, and yet something over! And I thank God that He has given us the fifteen dollars overplus. Riches only make cares. God has heard all my prayers. He has given me no riches, and I have also no debts. We have neither collected nor begged, but waited patiently on God in prayer.”
Constancy of Providence
“Never did man die of hunger who served God faithfully,” was a saying of Cuthbert, the apostle of Northumbria, when he and his companions were overtaken by night without food or shelter. “Look at the eagle overhead,” he would add; “God can feed us through him if He will.” And this faith was on one occasion signally justified by the bird in question letting fall a fish, which furnished the needed meal. (J. R. Green’s Short History.)
Since the journey of Israel is throughout full of sacred meaning, no one can fail to discern a mystery in the silent ceaseless daily miracle of bread-giving. But we are not left to our conjectures. St. Paul calls manna "spiritual meat," not because it nourished the higher life (for the eaters of it murmured for flesh, and were not estranged from their lust), but because it answered to realities of the spiritual world (1 Corinthians 10:3). And Christ Himself said, "It was not Moses that gave you the bread out of heaven, but My Father giveth you the true Bread from heaven," making manna the type of sustenance which the soul needs in the wilderness, and which only God can give (John 6:32).
We note the time of its bestowal. The soul has come forth out of its bondage. Perhaps it imagines that emancipation is enough: all is won when its chains are broken: there is to be no interval between the Egypt of sin and the Promised Land of milk and honey and repose. Instead of this serene attainment, it finds that the soul requires to be fed, and no food is to be seen, but only a wilderness of scorching heat, dry sand, vacancy, and hunger. Old things have passed away, but it is not yet realised that all things have become new. Religion threatens to become a vast system for the removal of accustomed indulgences and enjoyments, but where is the recompense for all that it forbids? The soul cries out for food: well for it if the cry be not faithless, nor spoken to earthly chiefs alone!
There is a noteworthy distinction between the gift of manna and every other recorded miracle of sustenance. In Eden the fruit of immortality was ripening upon an earthly tree. The widow of Zarephath was fed from her own stores. The ravens bore to Elijah ordinary bread and flesh; and if an angel fed him, it was with a cake baken upon coals. Christ Himself was content to multiply common bread and fish, and even after His resurrection gave His apostles the fare to which they were accustomed. Thus they learned that the divine life must be led amid the ordinary conditions of mortality. Even the incarnation of Deity was wrought in the likeness of sinful flesh. But yet the incarnation was the bringing of a new life, a strange and unknown energy, to man.
And here, almost at the beginning of revelation, is typified, not the homely conditions of the inner life, but its unearthly nature and essence. Here is no multiplication of their own stores, no gift, like the quails, of such meat as they were wont to gather. They asked "What is it?" And this teaches the Christian that his sustenance is not of this world. They were fed "with manna which they knew not ... to make them know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live" (Deuteronomy 8:3). The root of worldliness is not in this indulgence or that, in gay clothing or an active career; but in the soul's endeavour to draw its nourishment from things below. And spirituality belongs not to an uncouth vocabulary, nor to the robes of any confraternity, to rigid rules or austere deportment; it is the blessedness of a life nourished upon the bread of heaven, and doomed to starve if that bread be not bestowed. Let not the wealthy find an insuperable bar to spirituality in his condition, nor the poor suppose that indigence cannot have its treasure upon earth; but let each man ask whence come his most real and practical impulses and energies upon life's journey. If these flow from even the purest earthly source--love of wife or child, anything else than communion with the Father of spirits, this is not the bread of life, and can no more nourish a pilgrim towards eternity than the husks which swine eat.
There is no mistaking the doctrine of the New Testament as to what this bread may be. By prayer and faith, by ordinances and sacraments rightly used, the manna may be gathered; but Jesus Himself is the Bread of life, His Flesh is meat indeed and His Blood is drink indeed, and He gives His Flesh for the life of the world. Christ is the Vine, and we are the branches, fruitful only by the sap which flows from Him. As there are diseases which cannot be overcome by powerful drugs, but by a generous and wholesome dietary, so is it with the diseases of the soul--pride, anger, selfishness, falsehood, lust. As the curse of sin is removed by the faith which appropriates pardon, so its power is broken by the steady personal acceptance of Christ; and our Bread and Wine are His new humanity, given to us, until He becomes the second Father of the race, which is begotten again in Him. An easy temper is not Christian meekness; dislike to witness pain is not Christian love. All our goodness must strike root deeper than in the sensibilities, must be nourished by the communication to us of the mind which was in Christ Jesus.
And this food is universally given, and universally suitable. The strong and the weak, the aged chieftain and little children, ate and were nourished. No stern decree excluded any member of the visible Church in the wilderness from sharing the bread from heaven: they did eat the same spiritual meat, provided only that they gathered it. Their part was to be in earnest in accepting, and so is ours; but if we fail, whom shall we blame except ourselves? In the mystery of its origin, in the silent and secret mode of its descent from above, in the constancy of its bestowal, and in its suitability for all the camp, for Moses and the youngest child, the manna prefigured Christ.
Every day a fresh supply had to be laid up, and nothing could be held over from the largest hoard. So it is with us: we must give ourselves to Christ for ever, but we must ask Him daily to give Himself to us. The richest experience, the purest aspiration, the humblest self-abandonment that was ever felt, could not reach forward to supply the morrow. Past graces will become loathsome if used instead of present supplies from heaven. And the secret of many a scandalous fall is that the unhappy soul grew self-confident: unlike St. Paul, he reckoned that he had already attained; and thereupon the graces in which he trusted became corrupt and vile.
The constant supply was not more needful than it was abundant. The manna lay all around the camp: the Bread of Life is He who stands at our door and knocks. Alas for those who murmur for grosser indulgences! Israel demanded and obtained them; but while the flesh was in their nostrils the angel of the Lord went forth and smote them. Is there no plague any longer for the perverse? What are the discords that convulse families, the uncurbed passions to which nothing is sacred, the jaded appetite and weary discontent which hates the world even as it hates itself? what but the judgment of God upon those who despise His provision, and must needs gratify themselves? Be it our happiness, as it is our duty, to trust Him to prepare our table before us, while He leads us to His Holy Land.
The Lord of the Sabbath already taught His people to respect His day. Upon it no manna fell; and we shall hereafter see the bearing of this incident upon the question whether the Sabbath is only an ordinance of Judaism. Meanwhile they who went out to gather had a sharp lesson in the difference between faith, which expects what God has promised, and presumption, which hopes not to lose much by disobeying Him.
Lastly, an omer of manna was to be kept throughout all generations, before the Testimony. Grateful remembrance of past mercies, temporal as well as spiritual, was to connect itself with the deepest and most awful mysteries of religion. So let it be with us. The bitter proverb that eaten bread is soon forgotten must never be true of the Christian. He is to remember all the way that the Lord his God hath led him. He is bidden to "forget not all His benefits, Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, Who healeth all thy diseases ... Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things." So foolish is the slander that religion is too transcendental for the common life of man.
Gather of it every man according to his eating.
Why did each receive but three quarts a day? Might not a nutritious and delicious food like this be stored, and become an article of merchandise and a source of wealth? No, the Edenic law was not merely a penalty, but a method of mercy, of life, and health. It required labour. But there is a profounder reason for the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We are to get out of to-day all we can, and trust God for to-morrow. We possess only what we can assimilate, so the miracle does no more than provide for one day. You say that you possess property. No; another may more truly possess it. I who tarry by your garden, or the beggar who feasts upon its beauty with appreciating and admiring eyes, gets more out of it than you. You hurry away to business early in the morning, and are gone till dark, too burdened, it may be, to give it a glance. So with your library or pictures. He possesses who assimilates. If your wealth makes you anxious, or leads you to dissipation, then you possess not wealth, but anxiety and disease. You may give your child wealth, but it is better to put moral wealth into mind and heart than to burden down with money, which may sink his soul in ruin. So with books and associates. We grow by what we eat. What does that child read? Who are his friends? We really eat both. Christ used this figure, and said we were to eat His flesh and drink His blood. This means the assimilation of spiritual forces, the incorporation of His life and character as we grow to be like those we make our bosom friends. Our character is warped, shrivelled, and weakened, or it is enriched and ennobled by those with whom we habitually and intimately live, as they are mean and wicked, or pure and princely. (E. Braislin, D. D.)
We are hereby taught--
1. Prudence and diligence in providing food convenient for ourselves and our households; what God graciously gives we must industriously gather, with quietness working, and eating our own bread, not the bread either of idleness or deceit. God’s bounty leaves room for man’s duty.
2. Contentment and satisfaction with a sufficiency; they must gather, “every man according to his eating”; enough is as good as a feast, and more than enough is as bad as a surfeit. They that have most have for themselves but food and raiment and mirth; and they that have least generally have these; so that “he who gathers much,” etc. There is not so great a disproportion between one and another, in the comforts and enjoyments of the things of this life, as there is in the property and possession of the things themselves.
3. Dependence upon Providence. “Let no man leave till morning” (Exodus 16:19), but let them learn to go to bed and sleep quietly, though they have not a bit of bread in their tent, nor in all their camp, trusting that God, with the following day, will bring them their daily bread. It was surer and safer in God’s storehouse than in their own, and would thence come to them sweeter and fresher. (M. Henry, D. D.)
It is said that when J. C. Astor was once congratulated by a certain person for his wealth, he replied by pointing to his pile of bonds and maps of property, at the same time inquiring, “Would you like to manage these matters for your board and clothes?” The man demurred. “Sir,” continued the rich man, “it is all that I get.” (J. Denton.)
A young man stood listlessly watching some anglers on a bridge. He was poor and dejected. At last, approaching a basket filled with fish he sighed, “If now I had these I would be happy. I could sell them and buy food and lodgings.” “I will give you just as many, and just as good,” said the owner, who chanced to overhear his words, “if you will do me a trifling favour.” “And what is that?” asked the other. “Only to tend this line till I come back; I wish to go on a short errand.” The proposal was gladly accepted. The old man was gone so long that the young man began to get impatient. Meanwhile the fish snapped greedily at the hook, and the young man lost all his depression in the excitement of pulling them in; and when the owner returned he had caught a large number. Counting out from them as many as were in the basket, and presenting them to the young man, the old fisherman said, “I fulfil my promise from the fish you have caught, to teach you, whenever you see others earning what you need, to waste no time in foolish wishing, but cast a line for yourself.” (W. Baxendale.)
No position has a surplus of happiness
When Napoleon returned to his palace, immediately after his defeat at Waterloo, he continued many hours without taking any refreshment. One of the grooms of the chamber ventured to serve up some coffee, in his cabinet, by the hands of a child whom Napoleon had occasionally distinguished by his notice. The Emperor sat motionless, with his hands spread over his eyes. The page stood patiently before him, gazing with infantine curiosity on an image which presented so strong a contrast to his own figure of simplicity and peace; at last the little attendant presented his tray, exclaiming, in the familiarity of am age which knows so little distinctions: “Eat, sire; it will do you good.” The emperor looked at; him, and asked: “Do you not belong to Gonesse?” (a village near Paris). “No, sire; I come from Pierrefite.” “Where your parents have a cottage and some acres of land? Yes, sire.” “There is happiness,” replied the man who was still the Emperor of France and King of Italy. (J. Arvine.)
No satisfaction in mere accumulation
“I once had occasion to speak of a certain charity to a prosperous mechanic. He seemed not much inclined to help it, but after listening to my representations awhile, he suddenly gave way and promised a handsome subscription. In due time he paid it cheerfully, and said, “Do you know what carried the point with me that day when you made the application?” “No,” I replied. “Well, I’ll tell you. I was not so much moved by anything you said till you came to mention the fact about the Israelites, ‘He that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.’ Thinks I, that is just my own history. Once I was a poor, hard-working young man; now I’ve got a good deal of property, but as for real comfort and use, I get no more out of it now than I did then. Now, when I gather much, I’ve nothing over, and then, when I gathered little, I had no lack.” (Family Treasury.)
To-day ye shall not find it in the field.
The Sabbath in relation to secular toil
I. That men must not engage in secular toil on the sabbath. Men must not even earn their daily bread on the Lord’s day,--they must provide it before.
II. That men engaged in secular toil on the sabbath will, as a rule, find their labour vain and profitless.
III. That men engaged in secular toil on the sabbath show plainly that they have no regard for the commands of God. They are selling their souls for gain.
IV. That men engaged in secular toil on the sabbath have no delight in the culture of their moral nature. It is especially on the day of rest that men of secular toil have the leisure and opportunity for soul-culture, by inward meditation, by earnest devotion, by wise reading, and by the ministry of the sanctuary. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The day of rest
In one of the most densely populated parts of the city a gentleman lately visited the house of a poor, hard-working, infidel cobbler. The man was busy at his last, and had scarce time to look up at his unwelcome visitor. “That is hard work.” “It is, sir. “For how many hours a day have you to labour here--twelve?” “Yes, and more, sir. I am never off this seat under a fourteen or fifteen hours’ spell of it.” “That is sore toil for a bit of bread.” “Indeed it is, sir; and very thankful am I when the week’s end comes. What would become of me, and the likes of me, without that rest.?” “And who, friend, think you, gave you that rest? Came it by accident, or arrangement, or how?” There came no answer to that; the cobbler hung his head; the man was honest; the sceptic was ashamed.
Queen Victoria and the Sabbath
One Saturday night, in this first year of Queen Victoria’s reign, a certain noble visitor came at a late hour to Windsor. He informed the Queen that he had brought down some documents of great importance for her inspection, but that, as they would require to be examined in detail, he would not encroach on Her Majesty’s time that night, but would request her attention the next morning. “Tomorrow is Sunday, my lord,” said the Queen. “True, your Majesty, but business of the State will not admit of delay.” The Queen then consented to attend to the papers after Church the next morning. The nobleman was somewhat surprised that the subject of the sermon next day turned out to be the duties and obligations of the Christian Sabbath. “How did your lordship like the sermon?” asked the Queen on their return from Church. “Very much indeed, your Majesty,” was the reply. “Well then,” said the Queen, “I will not conceal from you that last night I sent the clergyman the text from which he preached. I hope we shall all be improved by the sermon.” Sunday passed over without another word being said about the State papers, until at night, when the party was breaking up, the Queen said to the nobleman, “To-morrow morning, my lord, at any hour you please--as early as seven, my lord, if you like--we will look into the papers.” His lordship said he would not think of intruding upon Her Majesty so early as that, and he thought nine o’clock would be quite early enough. “No, no, my lord,” said the Queen, “as the papers are of importance I should like them to be attended to very early; however, if you wish it to be nine, be it so.” Accordingly, at nine o’clock next morning the Queen was in readiness to confer with the nobleman about his papers. (T. E. Ball.)
Training for Sabbath observance
No doubt, in the oppression and darkness of Egypt, the seventh-day (Sabbath) observance had fallen into partial disuse; though even in Egypt in that era, as among the more eastern peoples, the traditional seventh-day rest seems to have lingered, and therefore the usages of Egypt may not have militated against the rest on the seventh day. However that may be, still there was need of this training to the Sabbath observance; and this ordinance of the manna was just the preparation needful for their receiving heartily the statute, “Remember the Sabbath day,” when it coma to them through Moses from the mount. (S. Robinson, D. D.)
A lesson on Sabbath keeping
In all the Jewish history there never again occurred as favourable a time for imposing the Sabbath observance upon the people as at the giving of the manna. For forty years, comprising more than two thousand weeks, they were to subsist upon manna as their daily food. God was to furnish it every day; they were to gather it every day. Thus was presented the opportunity both for God to mark the day and for man to keep it. During all these two thousand weeks God gave them a double supply on the sixth day, and preserved that given on that day fresh for two days instead of one. Two thousand Sabbaths came, but on them no manna. It was vain for them to look for it. Soon they ceased to do so altogether. What a lesson for beginners! The most stupid and the most obdurate alike learned it. Time and the world may be searched for another series of events by which it would be possible to impress the idea of a Sabbath upon the minds of the people as effectually as by this. (A. M. Weston, D. D.)
Sabbath gains a curse
Whatever is earned on the Sabbath is a curse in a man’s property. (A. Clarke, D. D.)
Faithful to God’s command
A delicate man, once a ringleader in all sorts of mischief, was recently found by some of the Mildmay Deaconesses in a common London lodging-house, and as it was discovered that the poor fellow could not work continuously at his trade, he was started in business in a small shop. Late one Saturday night, as many, through curiosity, or seeing the contents of the shop looking fresh and new, filled it up, and were asking one question and another, one woman said: “Here is 4d.; I’ll come in to-morrow with the other few pence, and you will give me the parcel then.” “This shop will never be open for traffic on the Lord’s Day,” was the answer, at which announcement the people all turned to gaze at the speaker. A quiet look of firm resolve was on his delicate face, which seemed to make the crowd silent for a minute or two; then one laughed, and said: “Are you religious?” “Yes,” said the proprietor; “I may as well declare it from the very first night of opening. You will never, with God’s help, see either buying or selling here on Sundays.” “Oh!” said a scoffer; “then you will soon shut shop.” The owner of the shop replied: “Do you see that little card with the blue ribbon tying it up?” The eyes of all were turned towards the card, on which were the words, “Kept by the power of God.” “This,” continued the speaker, “is my motto; He is able to keep me, and maybe some of you will find out ‘tis better to have Him as a friend than any one in the world.” (Christian Herald.)
Put an omer full of manna therein.
An instructive memorial
I. By whom the memorial was enjoined. “The Lord.” We have need to set up memorials in our lives which shall call upon our souls to remember the benefits of the Lord. It is the will of heaven that its gifts should be held in constant remembrance.
II. In what the memorial consisted. “Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations.”
1. This memorial was reasonable.
4. Valuable. Golden pot (Hebrews 9:2).
And the memorials of the soul should not find expression in valueless things, but in the richest treasures of man. God is worthy our best offerings.
III. Where the memorial was deposited. “And lay it up before the Lord.” “So Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.” And so this memorial was laid up before the Lord, in the ark of the covenant. Thus we must keep the memorials of the soul in devout spirit, and with a constant trust in the mediatorial work of Christ.
IV. The design the memorial contemplated. “That ye may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness.” “To be kept for your generations.” Each generation leaves a moral deposit behind it, for good or evil. Lessons:
1. The soul must have a memorial of the Divine mercy.
2. The memorial of the soul must consist of the best thing it possesses.
3. The memorial of the soul will have respect to the redemptive work of Christ. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
An instructive memorial
One day when George Moore--now a man of wealth--was accompanying his friend, Colonel Henderson, through the Waver wood on a partridge-shooting expedition, a curious ramshackle object appeared before them. It seemed to be a sort of big dhrosky with a long, broad trunk at the back end. “What is that?” asked the colonel. “Why,” said George Moore, “that is the trap which I have driven into every market town in Great Britain and Ireland!” It was the carriage he had used whilst achieving such great success as a commercial traveller. (H. O. Mackey.)
Former mercies remembered
Mr. Kidd, minister of Queensferry, near Edinburgh, was one day very much depressed and discouraged. He sent a note to Mr. L--minister of Culross, a few miles off, informing him of his distress of mind, and desiring a visit as soon as possible. Mr. L--told the servant he was so busy that he could not wait upon his master, but desired him to tell Mr. Kidd to remember Torwood. When the servant returned, he said to his master, “Mr. L--could not come, but he desired me to tell you to remember Torwood.” This answer immediately struck Mr. Kidd, and he cried out, “Yes, Lord! I will remember Thee, from the hill Mizar, and from the Hermonites!” All his troubles and darkness vanished upon the recollection of a day which he had formerly spent in prayer along with Mr. L--in Torwood, where he had enjoyed eminent communion with God. (W. Baxendale.)
An expressive memorial
It was during the wars that raged from 1652 to 1660, between Frederick III. of Denmark, and Charles Gustavus, of Sweden, that after a battle in which the victory had remained with the Danes, a stout burgher of Flensburg was about to refresh himself, ere retiring to have his wounds dressed, with a draught of beer from a wooden bottle, when an imploring cry from a wounded Swede lying on the field made him turn, and, with the very words of Sidney--“Thy need is greater than mine,” he knelt down by the fallen enemy to pour the liquor into his mouth. His requital was a pistol-shot in the shoulder from the treacherous Swede. “Rascal!” he cried, “I would have befriended you, and you would murder me in return! Now will I punish you. I would have given you the whole bottle, but now you shall only have half.” And drinking off half himself, he gave the rest to the Swede. The king, hearing the story, sent for the burgher, and asked him how he came to spare the life of such a rascal. “Sire,” said the honest burgher, “I could never kill a wounded enemy.” “Thou meritest to be a noble,” the king said, and created him one immediately, giving him as armorial bearings a wooden bottle pierced with an arrow. The family only lately became extinct in the person of an old maiden lady.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 16". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24