The Israelites had watched God plague their captors with lice, frogs, locusts, disease, and death. They had followed God, in the form of a pillar reaching from the sky, away from the land of slavery. They followed Him through the Red Sea, stepping on safe, dry ground while their once-taskmasters were consumed by its waters. And a month and a half into their journey, they began grumbling:“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’” (Ex. 16:3).
The same Israelites who saw the plagues, the miracles, and the enormous, extraordinary exodus from slavery complained that God would not provide. They were certain that God had led them all into the wilderness to let them starve, and they wished for the land of their captivity, for the times of full bellies and the good old days of slavery. God overlooked their sorely skewed perspective and “said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you…’” (Ex. 16:4).
From our perspective, Israel appears melodramatic and even childlike, prone to forget about God’s love. Of course God would provide for them—how could they complain and lose faith when He had been so faithful? Yet we can be just as unfocused and unsure. Here are some principles we can learn from our forgetful friends the Israelites and their bread from Heaven:
Keep faith; God provides.
Even when the children of Israel were faithless whiners, God provided them exactly what they needed. God looked down on us “while we were still sinners” and gave us the exact nourishment we needed on a much larger scale. Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven… This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (Jn. 6:51, 58). The Bread that God gives us today does not provide a temporary fix for our hunger, like the Israelites’ manna—it is far better, and eternal satisfying.
Don’t let God’s gift become ordinary.
The Israelites could not have survived without their bread from Heaven, and we would spiritually starve without the Living Bread. Yet, they became discontent and idealized their lives in slavery: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (Num. 11:5-6).The food that God had freely given became commonplace; they got tired of the gift that saved their lives.
Too often, we get bogged down in our own our problems and pursuits and we forget how great a blessing God gave us through Christ. Like the Israelites, our perspective becomes clouded by our desires. They craved the food they ate while in Egypt and forgot the fact that they were slaves. When we dwell on our problems and commence complaining about the things we don’t have, we forget about the gift God gave us: the opportunity for eternal life. The sacrifice that saved us becomes ordinary and unimpressive; we forget entirely that we were slaves to sin, and that without the Bread of Heaven, we still would be.
Christ is sufficient.
Here’s the good news: Christ is enough. There was exactly manna enough to fill each Israelite—none left over, and no lack. Today, Christ is sufficient to fill all your spiritual needs and mine. As he told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Whatever our flawed past, whatever sin struggles we are battling, whatever overwhelming challenges stand before us, the Bread of Life is enough.
Christ is just as nourishing today as He has always been. We can’t let ourselves slip into believing that His sacrifice was ordinary; Christ was precisely what we needed to satisfy an eternal hunger, and His grace will always be sufficient.