Three Tests in the Wilderness (Pt 2): Want of Food – Exodus 16:1-35

About a month after the Lord delivered the children of Israel from Egypt by His mighty hand, we left them at Elim (15:27) where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. The Lord brought them there after they had grumbled against Him because of the bitter waters of Marah. However, their foretaste of the Promise Land at Elim would come to an end in chapter 16, as they enter the wilderness of Sin. It is here where the entire congregation of Israel grumbled against God again saying, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (16:3). In spite of their grumbling, in mercy the Lord replied to Moses, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God’ (16:12).

While the quail He sent would be temporary on this night and another to come, the bread would rain down for the next 40 years on every day, except on the Sabbaths. This “manna” was supernatural bread from heaven which God miraculously provided. It was unlike anything ever seen before or after. The Psalmist spoke of it as bread from heaven and of angels (Ps 78:24-25), and the apostle Paul called it spiritual food (1 Cor 10:3). The bread that God provided was sufficient as He gave them enough for each day with a double portion for the Sabbath. The bread was also sacred in the sense they were to keep some as a memorial of the Lord’s salvation and provision. Future generations would know what the Lord had done for Israel by this memorial! Lastly, the bread was sanctifying, as Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

These aspects of the manna point to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Bread of Life. Jesus who miraculously fed 5000 with bread, is Himself far more precious for men to feed upon than the manna they had continually in the wilderness. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35; 53-58).

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