Manna, A Figure of Christ
Edward Robinson, Exmouth
If there were ant intention to rivet the attention of the reader on an outstanding verse of Scripture (amongst the many which are beyond the capability of the human mind fully to take in) John 1.1 would, with many, take pride of place. It is concerned of course with a past, and a future, eternity. The great desire of God that the believer should enter more fully than many of us do into the understanding of what is open to us in His word, the Scriptures, is witnessed in the remarkable fact that He says therein that He is prepared to unfold to men all that He is in His inward Being, 'No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.' And to enable us to take in these things He has given the Holy Spirit to find a dwelling place in our hearts-how blessed!
The above is in the nature of a digression, but any digression to John's opening verse must surely be forgiveable. It has been said, 'Christianity is Christ';, a deservedly much repeated definition. Doubtless it is the intention of God that heaven should be filled with those of the order of another Man, 'Jesus Christ', as we read, 'Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that beiieveth on him shall not be confounded', 1 Pet. 2. 6, and sec also Ephesians. 2. 19-22. In this latter scripture, v. 20, we learn that we are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone. (Note, 'Jesus Christ', the new order of man, whereas 'Christ Jesus' represents the same Man glorified.)
At times, God in the accomplishment of His work and purpose, miraculously changes a person to make him (or her) to have the ability to carry out what is the object before Him. At other times, and normally, it is done by a process of education or foundation in the persons elected. So are we to learn to dedicate ourselves to 'grow in grace, and in die knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ', 2 Pet. 3. 18. The wilderness (this world), through which we pass as our training ground, supplies the necessary food, the manna, typical of Christ even as He speaks of Himself as 'that bread which came down from heaven', John 6. 58. Manna is a beautiful figure of Christ, not so much as divine but rather as a man passing through this scene displaying amongst men all the grace of God, 'And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground', Hxod. 16. 14.
In the desert God will teach thee,
What the God that thou hast found,
Patient, gracious, powerful, holy,
All His grace shall there abound.
Light divine surrounds thy going,
God Himself shall mark thy way;
Secret blessings, richly flowing,
Lead to everlasting day.
There, no stranger - God shall meet thee
Stranger thou in courts above - He,
Who is His rest shall greet thee,
Greets thee with a well-known love.
The dew upon which the manna fell, spoken of in Genesis 27-28, was the dew of heaven, suggesting what is refreshing. It is not suprising that in the name 'manna', there is mystery. 'What is it?' is one of the interpretations of the name, which to some extent is always related to what is divine. It is described as small and round, Exod. 16. Small, speaking of Him of whom it was written 'Without him was not anything made that was made', but who could say of Himself 'for I am meek and lowly in heart', Matt. 11. 29, 'And round', for in Him were found no corners, nothing abrasive but the perfect, complete dimension. It was white, as the hoar frost on the ground (here on earth), representing absolute purity. With what delight does the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures depict in detail (sometimes hidden, to be searched) the features of the Saviour.
The choice of the manna sets forth attractively the features of the One who displayed in such detail everything heavenly, on earth, that was expressive of the place from which He had come, so that no stranger-God should meet them (or even be known thus by us even now). The manna 'was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey', Exod. 16. 31. This surely was 'the bread of heaven', Christ. He Himself could say 'I am that bread of life', John 6. 48, 49-58. We do well to feed upon Christ daily. How good, morning by morning, to read a few verses concerning Himself, to meditate upon, allow them to sink into the heart and remain, to recur lo the mind throughout the day. These are formative in us, delighting the Father as speaking to Him of the One who to Him is all in all.