Notes of an address on Exodus 16:4-18.

1912 129 Two distinct things are taught by this story — the literal providence of God in the affairs of this life, and also the spiritual significance of the way in which He met the needs of the Israelites in this barren land. The wilderness is always trying to the flesh. What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Wherewithal shall we be clothed? These questions were filling them with fear. Is it not just the same at this present day? There is the same disposition to murmur, to find fault with God's ways — so specially objectionable in those under God's immediate care in the wilderness. God had given an unconditional promise to them which included all they could possibly need. He had taken them under His own special care and was leading them on into that good land flowing with milk and honey. But a need comes along; and what happens? There is an utter absence of faith in God. And yet what displays of God's power they had seen — the plagues in Egypt, the Red Sea, the pillar of fire going with them, the visible symbol of God's presence. But the flesh never will learn to trust in God; it has to be put down with a strong hand and not listened to. The people here were in the flesh — collectively that is — and they manifested themselves as a people without faith.

Until Sinai was reached, as you cannot fail to see, God was leading the people in wonderful grace. It was well understood by the One who searches the heart that the murmurings were not against Moses and Aaron, but against Him. What then? Were they followed by some fearful punishment? Just see. "Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you." What abounding grace! grace of the freest character imaginable. In spite of all, God speaks to them in the most gracious, gentle and kindly way, and manifests His unfailing care. He is always doing that with His people; nevertheless this is necessary — the faith of His people must he exercised. In all circumstances of trial of faith and patience God is putting these graces to the test in order to strengthen them. Love is the root and spring of all, as we know, and "as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee." "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten."

All this manifests His love, and goodness, and faithfulness, and care. Our nature is of such an obstinate, obdurate character that it makes rough handling necessary to get us into shape. We do so love to have our own will, to go our own way, but that must not be if we are children of God. "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."

We should learn to trust God about things of this present life, because we have such assurance of His loving care as to temporal needs. But there is a far deeper meaning in the manna than this. You remember how the Lord interprets it in John 6, when the people came to Him and asked, "What shall we do that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign showest thou then, that we may see and believe thee? What Bost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat." Then you have the Lord's answer, "Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven"; and He adds, "I am the bread of life." He is the antitype of the manna — our God provides sustenance in this wilderness life. The wonder of it is such that men have never been able to fathom or comprehend it. "God manifest in the flesh!" — walking here for nearly thirty-four years. What a matchless truth! Here He gives us to enter into the secret of it all. "My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven." We get it all in this massive chapter.

Then look at Deut. 8:3. "He humbled thee and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live." Oh, the power of that word proceeding out of the mouth of the living God ""The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. ""Desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby." God uses the word to impart life to us and then to develop and strengthen it in us.

Now there is one word that needs a little careful explanation. The children of Israel go out in the morning and see this small round thing which they had never seen before, and they say, "It is manna" (ver. 15). It reads like a contradiction. The secret of it is this. When they saw the thing they said "Manna" — "What is this?" — and it got the name through the question. But Moses knew what it was; he had not to ask any question. "This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat."

Are we not reminded of the question asked when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, "Who is this? "They did not recognise Him, though He had been three and a half years going up and down the country, teaching and working miracles among them. "He is despised and rejected of men." "No beauty that we should desire him." There is nothing very magnificent about the hoar frost to which the manna is likened; manna a small round thing — speaking to us of the lowliness of the Lord. What the world admires is the great, the flashing, the powerful. What did the shepherds find at Bethlehem? — "a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And this was the One who had come down from heaven. "Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor." "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the son of man hath not where to lay his head."
"Cold mountains and the midnight air
Witnessed the fervour of His prayer."

The last thing we find the people saying of Him is, "We will not have this man." No, not a bit of it. He did not come up to their expectations, and so they would not have Him! And so the Israelites despised this small, round thing — "What is it?" The same nature is in us — not a bit improved, although I trust grace reigns in us.

Then the manna was round. Roundness always carries the idea of completeness and that you find in perfection in our Lord Jesus Christ. There was never such a life as His. You will find men in whom there is this or that excellent characteristic prominent. In Peter we may see boldness, in John love, and so right through With all the apostles. But in Him there is perfection everywhere, and that is just what we should expect. He came down from heaven, the place of perfection, and "in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily."

"White" is also significant. Why are we told that? White always stands for purity. These little particulars seem to be given thus carefully by the Spirit of God for the unveiling of some beauty and excellency of Christ. There was in Him a perfect, stainless, unsullied purity. The Spirit of God guards the purity of His life. "He made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin." He "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." "Such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens."

We are told even what the taste of the manna was. "The taste of it was like wafers made with honey." What is sweeter than honey? We were singing just now
"How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear."
There is that about the blessed Lord which surpasses all else in the estimation of those who love Him. Nothing is to be compared with communion with Himself. But, you see, the spiritual taste is needed.

The remarkable thing about it all was that in that small round thing there was everything to sustain them through their life in the wilderness; and it seems to have sustained them well. They were always fit for a journey, or for fighting, or whatever came along. The manna was always sufficient. Is it not so with the Lord Jesus Christ? What is there in the world to minister to the new life? But there is everything in Him. The world is in this sense indeed a wilderness; it does not think itself a wilderness, and there was a time when we did not think it so? But when we are drawn near to Christ we receive a new life. Christ living in us has wrought a revolution in our whole being — we are new creatures  in Christ. "My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven" — there you have it.
"Himself our life He bears us up
Right onward to our rest."

"And in the morning the dew lay round about the host. 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 upon the ground."

Now I want you to notice that there is a connection between these two things — dew and manna. What does dew signify? Dew is water, is it not? You may say, "Well, a special form of water." Yes, water in suspension, nevertheless it is water. Now, water in scripture is figurative of the word of God in its cleansing or purifying power. The Israelites got manna in connection with dew — we receive Christ through the word.

If souls neglect the word of God they cannot prosper — it is impossible to get on. If you find a Christian who systematically absents himself from /what the Lord has provided for our help along the road the prayer meeting, the Bible reading, etc. — you will find on investigation that that man has no spiritual growth. I do not speak of those who are hindered, I speak only of those who can be present but are not, through indifference. But I say this, you will never find a soul to prosper without the word. And why? The Lord has provided this means, and if we neglect it how can we expect to get on?

The Psalmist says, Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." That is what God thinks about it. He has settled it in heaven and handed it down to us. It is an amazing book; as we study it, so surely we shall get profit from it.

Now I would refer to several portions in connection with the manna, and these, alas! sorrowful ones. "And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic." Had they forgotten the slavery? "But now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes." Just listen to that! "And the people went about, and gathered it and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it" (Num. 11:4-9).

Here, again, you get manna in connection with dew. You observe the taste of the manna seems to have altered very seriously. At first it was like wafers made with honey, now it is like fresh oil. There is a very considerable difference between the two. Had the manna deteriorated or was the taste of the people vitiated? They no longer relished it; there was a longing for flesh. "There is nothing beside this manna before our eyes" — and they despised it.

In chapter 21 it is worse still. Our soul loatheth this light bread." And immediately the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people — that was His answer. Oh, depend upon it, God is jealous of the honour due to His Christ! He may wait in long-suffering and patience, but judgment is sure to come sooner or later. Everything is popular in the present day except the preaching of Christ and Him crucified.

Now let us notice verse 35 of our chapter. "The children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan"; and in Joshua 5 we read that the manna ceased after they had eaten of the old corn of the land. The land represents the heavenly places (see Eph. 1:2), and in the old corn we have Christ risen. Manna is Christ in humiliation, the old corn Christ in glory. We are looking for Him to put us in possession of that glory which we are to share with Him. It is the will of our glorious Lord that where He is there we should be also, and that will is sure to be carried out.

The great thing for us is to be going on with Him. "Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." You may go down to the great and wide sea and dip and dip and there will still be as much as before; and what treasures are ours, infallibly secured to us in our Lord Jesus Christ! R.K.