Bread from Heaven - Glimpses of Christ

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The Book of Exodus Bible Study - Chapters 15-16

Bread from Heaven - Glimpses of Christ

by I Gordon

In the last few studies we have seen Jesus pictured through what we called 'The Red Sea Baptism into Christ.' This study will focus on the next section in Exodus - Chapter 15:22-16:36. Here we see Christ pictured again, but in a new way. We shall see Jesus pictured through the bitter waters at Marah as well as in the manna provided from Heaven. You would do well to read chapters 15 and 16 before we start and meditate upon them with the person of Christ in mind.

Turning your dancing into moaning!

Exodus 15:22-24 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, 'What are we to drink?'

We saw in the last study some wonderful praise to God for His marvellous deliverance at the Red Sea. The mourning of the Israelites had been turned into dancing. They couldn't contain themselves! All the sons of Israel sang with gratitude to the Lord. Everything was peaches and cream you could say. And then...we read the next two verses! It's only three days later but the dancing and songs are definitely missing, and all thought of God's wonderful previous deliverance is gone. The dancing has turned into moaning! Not that I am pointing the finger at the Jews alone however. No... I'm sure you are the same... (I'm not of course!)

The tree that makes even the bitter, sweet

Exodus 15:25-26 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, 'If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.'

So the waters at Marah were bitter and the people weren't much better! What was God's solution? He showed Moses a tree... a tree that could turn that which is bitter into something that is sweet. What a good picture of the cross of Christ this is - the tree on which Christ was crucified! It has the power to soften and sweeten the hardest and bitterest of hearts. The Lord is our healer as the text says and it was 'by his (Jesus) wounds that we are healed.' (Isa 53:5). This passage also speaks to us in our Christian lives. We all face difficulties and trials like Israel did here. Do we get bitter or take the cross?  [1]  We never fully understand why things happen, but when we submit ourselves to God and take the cross, God still uses that tree to turn bitter experiences into sweet. And let's look at what happens after submitting themselves to God...

Exodus 15:27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.

See! After looking to God, and taking the 'tree', what do we find? We find that there is refreshment and times of rest. The Lord has comfort as well as the cross!  [2] 

The Living Bread from Heaven

Exodus 16:1-3 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, 'If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.'

If you read Exodus 16:1-3 you will notice that Israel was back again doing what Israel did well - moaning and groaning looking only at the natural, and completely forgetting, once again, the gracious and miraculous provision that God had repeatedly made for them. You will also note that they were even starting to exaggerate as to how good it really was back in Egypt! Moral of the story? Always remember God's goodness and be confident of His future grace.

Now, before we race into the rest of the chapter, I have decided to do things slightly differently. I asked at the start of this study that you read the entire chapter of Exodus 16, thinking while you do so of how it relates to Jesus. Now that we are at that chapter I'm getting the distinct impression that you didn't even read it! The only way to confirm my deep seated suspicions is with a good old fashioned quiz. Now, in answering these questions,  remember that it is how it relates to Jesus and the Christian life  that is the most important.

  1. Does the New Testament link Jesus to the manna in Exodus?
  2. If so, where and in what ways?
  3. How often did the people gather the manna?
  4. When did they gather?
  5. Was the manna accessible?
  6. Was the manna a complete food?
  7. Was the manna a reminder of anything else?

That should be enough to prove your guilt! Let's look at the answers comparing them to Exodus chapter 16.

 1 & 2: Jesus compared Himself to the manna from Heaven. 

John 6:32-35 Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth,  it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world  .' 'Sir,' they said, 'from now on give us this bread.' Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

So Jesus contrasted Himself with the manna from Heaven, saying that He was the true bread from Heaven. In doing so, He emphasised that just as the manna was supplied straight from God in Heaven, so He was God's provision from Heaven, for mankind. This is what was declared in Exodus 16:4  'Then the LORD said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you.' 

3: The people gathered every day

Exodus 16:4 The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.

Clear enough isn't it? They were to gather every day... except on the Sabbath however, as the seventh day was a day of rest. I'm sure you see the application here - Jesus is the true manna from Heaven. We are to feed on Him as Jesus Himself said. That is, we are to find our nourishment and spiritual strength through our relationship with Christ. And notice that they gathered every day. So is the Christian life a daily relationship.

Exodus 16:19-20 Then Moses said to them, 'No one is to keep any of it until morning.' However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

Notice also the reason that the manna was collected each day... because it didn't last till the next day. It gave strength and nourishment for that day but not beyond. Have you found that in your Christian life? Now I'm not saying that Jesus is of no use for you tomorrow... Far from it! But this passage again emphasised the need of daily feeding on Christ and His word. When you go through hard trials you definitely see the wisdom of this! The strength you received yesterday is not enough for today. Renewing your mind with the truth is on a daily basis and is essential in the difficult times. It also emphasises the need to use what God provides.  [3] 

4. They gathered in the morning

Exodus 16:21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.

They had to gather in the morning before the manna was melted by the hot sun. The application? Well, there are certainly verses in the Bible which emphasise starting each day with the Lord (especially in the Psalms such as 5:3, 59:16, 143:8). It makes sense to renew your mind early with God's word so that you start each new day with how God sees things. Whatever you do however, don't read this footnote.  [4] 

Exodus 16:17-18 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little...he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.

Notice also these little verses. For an application of this verse, it could be said that the amount of feeding on Christ and His word isn't the main emphasis. The need of a daily feeding is. Those who gathered a little did not have too little. And those that gathered a lot didn't have too much! That's not to encourage laziness in anyway when it comes to our quiet time with the Lord, but it does show that the Lord can still feed us when we look to Him and don't have the time to 'gather much'.

5. The manna was easily accessible

Exodus 16:13-14 ' the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.'

Just a small point, but the manna was easily assessable. They didn't have to struggle and strive to get it. They didn't have to cross great rivers or hills to obtain it. God brought it straight to the people. God has also made Jesus assessable for all. The word encourages us to come boldly to His throne of grace! Fantastic! This also challenges us concerning our quiet times for God has opened the way for us to come freely and easily. No going through a priest on earth. No sacrificing an animal. The challenge is, are we going to come? Are we going to receive God's provision daily? Are we going to gather?

6. The manna gave them everything they needed

For 40 years, while Israel wandered in the wilderness, they lived on the manna! It was a complete food in and of itself, giving them everything that their bodies needed. The Psalmist called it the 'bread of angels'. (Ps 78:25). This gives us a picture of how Jesus is totally complete in Himself and is all we need. Watchman Nee once said  'It does not matter what your personal deficiency is... God has always one sufficient answer, His Son Jesus Christ, and He is the answer to every human need.' 

So the challenge is, what are you feeding on? If you are a born again Christian then you are a heavenly person. And a heavenly person needs to be sustained by heavenly things! A.B Simpson hammers it home when he writes  'The reason why multitudes of Christians are famished and feeble is because they are trying to live upon the husks or the fruits of this world. They are longing for the flesh pots of Egypt  or the quails of lust and are weary of the simple bread of God. They feed on man's philosophies, the protoplasm's of materialism, the sensationalism of the novel... or the husks of the market and stock exchange, instead of the pure, sweet, sustaining word of God.' 

7. The manna was a daily reminder of the things to come!

Exodus The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.

I think I like this the best! The manna tasted like wafers made with honey. So everyday, if they gathered, God gave them a small taste of what was to come...a small taste of their final destination - the Promised Land 'flowing with milk and honey!' So it is with Jesus! The Bible says that we currently  'see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.'  (1 Cor ). It seems a good place to stop as we think of how awesome that day will be when

 '...the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' 

We may only see and experience the Lord Jesus in part right now, but it is certainly a good taste of the wonderful things still to come! And one day soon it will be face to face!

[1] ↩  As Derek Prince used to say 'the cross is where your will and God's will cross!' It is usually in times of difficulty when you would like to walk (um, sprint ) one way and God is calling you in another. Like it was 2000 years ago, the victory is pictured in Jesus' words - 'Never the less, yet not my will but yours be done.'

[2] ↩  Written in my Bible, at the top of the page ( I probably stole it from somewhere but can't remember where) are these words - 'The Lord allows trials in our life and even blocks our natural means of support so that we will look only to Him. Here even the waters were bitter! Yet with God, even the trial is turned into something good. Joseph had his dungeon but God turned it into the means by which he would eventually rule. John Bunyan was sent to jail for preaching the gospel, yet this 'prison' became his office in which he wrote Pilgrims Progress. God always has the last word!

[3] ↩  This is of course is the meaning of Luke -18. What revelation God gives you... use! Use it in your life, use it to help others. Let your light shine. If you use what is given, God will always keep providing.

[4] ↩  Ok, in the mighty fine small print I may just have to acknowledge that I'm being a bit of a hypocrite with this point. You see, I'm more of a night owl! I do most of my study and reading at night. Well, all actually. I'm simply not at my best in the mornings! So, while I see the wisdom in what I'm writing, I'm afraid this is a case 'do as I say, not as I do!'