Fall has arrived and the weather has demanded I dig out a warm coat for those brisk mornings we all love. Last week I went searching and found my trusty, old, a bit too big for me, black hooded pea coat. Every year I look forward to putting on this coat in particular because I know what I'll find in the pocket. Amongst the occasional random old chapstick from last season I've forgotten about and some loose change, there's a folded up page of notebook paper. Every year I pull it out to reminisce, with a sigh, not being able to hold back a smile. The paper isn't special and neither was the person who wrote on it, but the message is one that God used to change my life. I've developed the habit of keeping it in this certain jacket for a reason. A very dear friend of mine can't stand the sight of this coat, even the thought of it can rouse a reaction out of her because as she'd put it, I "lived" out of this jacket for a portion of my life. It was a time when I was searching but didn't know for what, a time I'm not too proud of, a time by the grace of God I never have to go back to. Thank God for the message written on this worn piece of paper.
So, what's the message already? is what you're thinking. It's a Bible study comparing wandering Israel's manna to the Christian's Bread of Life, Jesus. Stories of the Old Testament are so often overlooked, but when we allow the Holy Spirit to discern the spiritual lessons out of them for us, buried treasure is often discovered.
For those not familiar with the story about Manna, it can be found in Exodus 16:14-36. We read there how God miraculously provided food for Israel while they were in the wilderness wandering. Every morning, excluding the Sabbath, the people would emerge from their tents to find this "superfood" covering the ground like dew. They were each to gather the day's portion of required food before the sun grew hot and the manna melted away. Moses encouraged the people to trust God to send Manna again thus negating their need to store any over night. For those who didn't obey, quickly they found out that the manna had bred worms and stank, except for the Sabbath day. Every day the manna appeared was a miracle, but even more so pertaining to the Sabbath, because on Friday a double portion of manna would be gathered, prepared, and uncharacteristically keep over night. Then, on Sabbath morning, there would be no manna to gather. What a story of God's ability to supply our physical needs! But is this story just about God graciously supplying our temporal needs? What's the spiritual application for our lives in this modern world?
Jesus Christ in response to the Pharisees' argument of how much greater Moses was compared to Jesus, because Moses had given them Manna in the wilderness (how disappointing that man was given the credit and not God), the Saviour replied that He was the Bread of Life sent from Heaven. Did you catch that? Christ likened Himself to Bread provided by Heaven. Was not the Manna Heavenly provided bread? Let's take a look at the similarities between Christ, the Bread of Life, and Israel's Manna...
Israelites were people much like us who needed to eat. God chose Manna for their physical diet. But there's more to life than just physical food and I think Jesus said it best in Matthew 4:4, "That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." We need spiritual food as well as physical and praise be to God for providing both! Jesus has a spiritual lesson for us through this physical truth. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy skipping a meal. Eating is crucial to our overall health. Lack of proper nutrients we gain from food will lead to lethargy, weakness, sickness. If we continue to not eat, death is an imminent consequence. So spiritually speaking? When was the last time you partook of the Bread of Life? Do you skip meals? Maybe you only eat once a week at church. Just like with the lack of physical food, if we don't have a healthy spiritual diet including the Word of God we will become spiritually lazy, weak to temptation and sin sick. Another physical principle to manna that applies spiritually is the fact that the food would have done the Israelites no good had they not eaten it. Is the Word of God going to have any affect on my life if I don't apply it? Simply reading the Bible or listening to a sermon at church can have no impact on my life unless I choose to take it in, digest it, so to speak. Jesus, the Word of God, needs to be eaten, chewed up or mulled over, and swallowed so it can nourish and strengthen us against the attacks of the enemy.
In closing, I'll share a few of the points that really convicted me to get up every day and spend time with Jesus. So often our pastors and teachers share the importance of personal devotions with us. Over and over again I had heard their message but was too busy or too tired for Christ. But in this study of the Manna being connected to Jesus, I saw the Bible telling me it was necessary to study each morning. What happened to the Manna as the sun grew hot? It melted. The sun grows hotter as morning turns to afternoon, just as our connection with Jesus will slowly melt away as the day's time passes. Our intensity, the ability to gather Jesus, is at its peak in the morning when we first rise. He wants us to give Him our first part of the day, our very best, simply because He's trying to prepare us for the challenges He knows the future holds. There couldn't be a better description of what spending time with Jesus every morning will be like than what's recorded about the Manna in Exodus 16:31, "..and it was like coriander seed, white: and the taste of it was like honey." Here, God is promising that one on one time with Him every morning will be pure and sweet. This is part of the reason I continue to tote this message around in my dirty, old jacket. Jesus planted the seed of this study, knowing it would lead me to get up every morning (sometimes even at 4am!) and eventually transform my whole life. That jacket reminds me of a very impure time that was filled with sadness and anger, everything opposite of what Jesus wanted to give me. All I was able to offer Him was a very broken girl in a filthy, stained black jacket and in exchange, He gave me His flawless, white Robe of Righteousness.
There are countless other personal lessons to be learned from comparing Jesus to the Manna story. Study it out and share them here. My prayer is that you too would "taste and see that the Lord is good" each and every morning by gathering the Manna thus enabling Him to transform your life too.
By Jessica Atwell, Outreach Coordinator for NMI