The National Food Problem
W. Fraser Naismith, Kilmarnock
The second food problem was the feeding of the nation of Israel throughout their wanderings in the wilderness over forty years, Exod. 16. 35. The marvel of the divine provision is emphasized in the bestowal of manna every morning except the Sabbath, and it had to be gathered by the people every morning, except on the Sabbath. From the pen of a sweet singer in Israel, Asaph, we learn that what came from above was divinely given from a munificent God. It is designated "angels' food" and "the corn of heaven", Ps. 78. 24-25. In Psalm 105. 40 the manna is called "the bread of heaven". We are quite unaware of the diet on which angels feed; but we are persuaded that no creature of God is self-supporting!
At the first appearance of the manna the people said, "Manna" - "what is it?". It was the divine provision for a wilderness people. The faithfulness of God is evidenced in the giving of the manna; despite their unfaithfulness, God continued to meet the need of the nation of Israel. It was consequent upon entering the promised land - "a land flowing with milk and honey" - that the manna ceased; for in the land of promise the people could enjoy the stored corn of the land, Josh. 5. 12.
The manna is a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ in humiliation; there are some facts given about it which are worthy of note, and can form a most fascinating study. From Exodus 16. 14 we learn that "a small round thing" lay on the ground. It was small - and this would suggest the humility of the Lord - "he humbled himself" is the language used, Phil. 2. 8. It was round - there were no uneven parts in that perfectly balanced life of the Saviour, for all was in harmony with the Father's will. The hoar frost referred to would indicate the sparkling glories of the Lord when here upon earth; as John wrote, "we beheld his glory" and the miracle "manifested forth his glory", John 1. 14; 2. 11. The manna was like coriander seed; this would indicate it was aromatic. The aroma of the divine presence must have fascinated many who were privileged to contact the Lord. It was white, like bdellium, signifying there were no stains in the immaculate Son of God. He was characterized by absolute purity and perfection. It tasted like wafers made with honey, revealing His sweetness.
In John 6 a statement is reiterated by our Lord, namely, "Our fathers did eat manna in the desert", v. 31, but in verses 49 and 58 He altered the pronoun, saying, "Your fathers did eat manna . . .", and on those two occasions Christ added "and are dead".
This truly was a greater food problem than the feeding of the five thousand. It was not a supply for an emergency; it was a provision for forty years to a company approximating three millions. What a God they had, yet despite His faithfulness - and He never failed to send the manna one day during the whole forty years, "He abideth faithful" - they showed marked discontent and wilfulness. Israel got to the state of saying, "Our soul loatheth this light bread", Num. 21. 5. The onions, leeks and garlick had preference in the diet of Israel: things that leave a nasty taste in the mouth were preferred to the divine supply of daily nourishing food.
God instructed Moses to "take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept . . .", Exod. 16. 33. This was to be an abiding witness to the faithfulness of Jehovah, for in verse 32 God had said, "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".
The hidden manna speaks of God's estimate of His Son when the nation despised the provision He made for His people throughout all their wanderings. Though hidden from the eyes of men, yet it was seen by God; what man despised God holds in high esteem. The person of Christ, typified in the manna, is our supply throughout our pilgrimage.
"He richly feeds my soul
With blessings from above; And leads me where the rivers roll Of endless love."
There is also the prospect according to Revelation 2 : 17 of overcomers being permitted to eat of the hidden manna. This would suggest that we shall be allowed into the secret of God's thoughts concerning His Son. What a favour this will be! It surely is worth contemplating in this "little while".
The nation was supplied with all that was essential to its sustenance over a lengthy period. Few had learnt the significance of the roast lamb in Egypt, the manna in the wilderness, and ultimately the stored corn in the promised land. Apart from the priests and Levites, only two men over twenty years of age enjoyed all those foods - in other words Joshua and Caleb apprehended a full Christ - the roast lamb signifying His death, the manna His humiliation, and the stored corn of the land His exaltation and glory.