We can find one of the most fundamental truths about the Christian life in how God provided manna for Israel during their forty-year journey through the wilderness.
Exodus 16:4-5 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. 5 And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”
The purpose of the manna was not just to provide food for God’s people but primarily to test them in their faith and obedience. To see if they would follow God’s commands.
For forty years, God fed Israel supernaturally in the wilderness by raining down a fine bread-like substance from Heaven daily. It fell to the Earth every night for six days during the week. It fell in the form of tiny white specs and tasted like wafers with honey.
The Israelites were commanded to collect about a half gallon of manna per person daily. On the sixth day, they were to gather a double portion because no manna fell on the sabbath day. Any leftover manna would stink and breed worms, so they could not live off the manna from yesterday. It must be gathered daily according to God’s instructions and a double portion for the Sabbath.
What is this strange story telling us about our Christian life today? Every story, every interaction, and every encounter with God we see in the Old Testament is for our instruction in the New. Everything from Genesis to Revelation points to Christ and Christian living.
Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
The word “manna” means; “What is it?” That is what the Israelites said when they first saw it lying on the ground. Manna is a type of the Word of God.
Israel didn’t understand God’s reason for the manna, much like the modern Church does not understand the divine purpose and significance of the Word of God. Israel did not just disobey God’s instructions concerning the manna; they complained about it continually. They did not appreciate that God was demonstrating His love, care, and commitment to them daily through this bread-like substance that fell from Heaven.
Had Israel obeyed God’s instructions about the manna, they would not have wandered in the wilderness for forty years and died without ever reaching the promised land.
Christians behold God’s written word today and say the same thing in their hearts, “what is it? I don’t understand it. I have heard that before. I’m tired of eating the same old manna every day.” Not understanding that this is the very thing that gives spiritual life and health to the believer.
Despising the written Word hinders us from hearing the spoken word when the Holy Spirit speaks to us in the “still small voice.” It also hinders us from intimate relationships with Christ, the living Word.
Not properly appreciating the written word leads us to seek the leavened bread of entertaining teachers and preachers that make us feel good instead of transforming us into His image. It causes us to have itchy ears and perpetuates a self-deception that disqualifies us from the blessings of the kingdom of God.
Some would say, “I don’t despise God’s word!” Thinking that despising means to hate. Yet despising in biblical terms means to lightly esteem, to treat contemptible, or not to honor appropriately. God takes this personally.
We despise the Lord when we do not honor the His word correctly. It is a heinous act of unbelief and brings serious consequences.
If we desire our old lifestyle as the Israelites did or mingle bits of the old lifestyle into our Christian walk to make it more comfortable and less challenging, we are in the same boat as they were. We must lay down our old life to embrace the new life promised in Christ Jesus.
John 12:24-26 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
God was not pleased with the generation of Israel delivered from Egypt. They continued to complain and desire to turn back to their old lives despite the supernatural demonstration of God’s love that they experienced daily. Their unbelief made judgment so severe that God would not allow them to enter the Promise Land. God let that unbelieving generation die before He led His people into the promised land.
The old man must still die before we enter the kingdom of God.
Despising the Word of God still hinders us from receiving His promises in our lives today. He will not reward unbelief. Those that honor Him will be honored, and those that despise Him will be lightly esteemed. It doesn’t mean we are not loved, and it doesn’t mean He won’t provide for us. It just means our heart is not right, and we are filled with unbelief. It also means that we risk disqualifying ourselves from the fullness of God’s blessing in our lives.
Just because we have a promise from God and can quote the scriptures and make good confessions does not mean we will receive any of the promises of God if our heart is not right before Him.
What does Israel’s manna story tell us about the living Word of God we have in the New Testament?
Eat my flesh, and drink my blood – the New Testament manna
One of the most controversial messages that Jesus preached was at the synagogue at Capernaum, recorded in John chapter 6. In His message, Jesus declared Himself “the bread of life which came down from Heaven.” He told those listening that they had no life in them unless they ate His flesh and drank His blood. This sermon caused many of His disciples to stop following Him. He even asked His ministry team (the chosen 12 disciples) if they wanted to leave.
John 6:48-58 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
All those listening took Jesus’ words literally, but He was speaking by the Spirit and referring to spiritual things. So, what does it mean to “eat His flesh?”
We must go back to the first chapter of John to understand precisely what Jesus is talking about. In the first few verses of the gospel of John, we see that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God. If we jump down to verse 14, we see that the Word became flesh.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. The written Word is here to test us, try us, purify our hearts and renew our minds. The primary purpose of God’s word is to test us, to see if we will eat His flesh and drink His blood so that we too can become the Word, made flesh.
A “word” is a written or verbal expression of an idea that creates images in the minds of those that hear it. We use words to communicate with each other and share our ideas, feelings, thoughts, and intentions. Jesus is called the living Word because He is the expression of God, His thoughts, His feelings, and His intentions. A perfect representation of the Father. Only through eating the bread from heaven, The Word of life, is the image of God restored to humanity.
We are blessed in this generation to have the written word of God recorded and put into many easily accessible formats. The Greek word translated as “Word” in John 1:14 is “logos.” Logos is not merely the written word, as many of us have been taught, but it is the divine expression of God Himself, the communication of His nature and will. Above all other things expressed by words, the truth has the creative power to change the very nature of things exposed to it.
Everything in creation is subject to the truth of God’s Word, and everything in creation must eventually align itself to that Word or bow to it. We have yet to grasp the reality of just how powerful and significant the written word is.
The Word (logos) was first spoken (Rhema), so it could be recorded. It was recorded to be continually heard, spoken, eaten, and digested.
As we abide in the word, the word will become flesh in our lives.
The Word is still becoming flesh
God’s Word still becomes flesh as we abide in it. Understanding this is essential because it exposes our created purpose and reveals God’s divine mystery in and through us.
Notice that after the Word became flesh, we then beheld His glory. Glory, in this sense, means any made seen expression or known attributes of God. It means that the Word becoming flesh results in God’s glory being revealed to all.
Colossians 1:26-27 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Christ in us is the Father’s hope of making Himself seen and known to the world through His chosen people. We are the hope of His glory revealed. This is one of the gospel’s great mysteries.
Christ in us, the hope of making God seen and known to the world.
Israel remained bound by a slave’s mentality. They could not embrace their identity as chosen sons, partly because they despised the manna. Instead of being thankful for daily provision, they complained about it, not realizing that God was meeting them every day, trying to penetrate their hardened hearts by revealing His goodness and faithfulness. They refused to believe and obey.
If we despise God’s written Word today, we will not have the knowledge, understanding, or strength to believe and obey Him. Only by abiding in the truth of His Word will we be freed from the bondage of sin consciousness.
John 8:31-32Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.“
The Christian life is sustained by abiding in the truth of the Word of God. Only then can we truly say we are His disciples. Only then will the glory of our freedom in Christ be revealed to the world.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Do we truly understand the power of the living Word? Where is God’s Word on our priority list? Are we abiding in the Word or just incorporating portions of it into our lives where we think we need it?
What are the three most essential things in your life right now? The spouse and kids? The career? Hobbies? Financial security? All these things are important, but if the word of God is not above all on the priority list, you cannot love and steward those things to your highest potential.
God has designed us in a way that requires dependence upon Him to reach our full potential and highest expression in this life. He has called us to partner with Him in this glorious journey. The life of God we experience on this journey is directly related to how much we abide in His Word.
John 15:7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
Jesus said when tempted by the devil, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
The life of God comes from the word of God. Not listening to preachers and teachers; those are for our equipping. Reading books from our favorite Christian authors, watching Christian TV, or listening to Christian radio are all leavened bread and should be viewed as supplements to the pure spiritual food of God’s Word. We can survive off those other things, but we cannot thrive. The life of God comes from the unleavened bread of His pure Word. It can be acquired no other way.
Just like a newborn baby will cry for the life-giving milk every few hours, we should hunger for God’s Holy Word.
1 Peter 2:2-3 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
The Word of God should be the joy and rejoicing of our hearts. The bread from Heaven gives life and strength to fight spiritual warfare. If we are not fully engaged with God’s word, we cannot fully engage the enemy in spiritual warfare.
Jeremiah 15:16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.
The word of God gives us strength and faith to walk in obedience to His commands. God’s loving and merciful provision sustains us and proves our faith in Him. His mercies are new every morning, and we can find a significant portion of that mercy in His written word.
Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Transformation comes from a renewed mind. It is the renewed mind that proves the will of God. God’s word breaks the yoke of conformity to this world and transforms us into vessels of His glory.
He has given us His flesh and blood to consume through His written word to test us, to see if we truly believe.
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