So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.”
I think sometimes we miss the significance of the whole Exodus. We focus on the parting of the Red Sea or Moses speaking to God in Sinai, or we marvel at the millions of people leaving Egypt and the miracles of the quail, the manna, or the water from the rock. Those are all important things, and the miracles all prefigure moments of Christ’s life – walking on the water, the loaves and fishes, the moment at the well in Samaria. But long before God spoke to Isaiah and promised Emmanuel – “God With Us” – Moses did something remarkable: he brought us the Word of God.
Look at all the Old Testament patriarchs up to that time, and you will see that each one had private time with God as he worked through his life. Adam walked with God in the Garden, Abraham spoke to God at Elon Mamre, Jacob wrestled with God at Peniel. Even Moses spoke to God at the burning bush in Midian. But there came a time when God gave His Word to ALL the Israelites together, when Moses no longer spoke to God to discern just his own path but the path of all Israel on the road to their salvation. The Exodus is the time when the Israelites were faced with something they had never had before – the written Word of God – and suddenly EVERYONE had access to something that had once been limited to a precious few.
When I read today’s verse about the day the Israelites first found manna on the ground around them, it made me realize how amazed and wary they must have been upon hearing that God wanted to speak to them all. Think about it: they’d been slaves for generations, and suddenly this Egyptian-raised Levite shows up and tells them God wants to speak to them all, that God wants to FREE them all. No wonder they grumbled and complained! It was a completely new experience for them to be openly noticed and cared for by God. It was completely new for them to have access to God by any means, whether through Moses in the tabernacle or through the Word written on tablets of stone by the finger of God.
That morning in the wilderness with manna lying all around them, that was a preparation for what was to come, when God’s Word would become the ever-present “daily bread” of their lives. That first morning, they naturally said of this stuff on the ground, “What is it?” The word “manna” in Hebrew is simply “what.” It was so amazing they couldn’t even name it! And yet they had enough manna every day to feed every man, woman, and child for FORTY YEARS of wandering. And God’s Word – first on tablets of stone and later on scrolls and in books – has not left US in over three thousand years! And the Exodus is when that all began, when God first spoke to EVERYONE to bring His message of love for all to know.
So we should not be discouraged when we bring the gospel to someone for the first time and they ask, “What?” We should encourage them to take as much or as little of God’s Word as they need each day, help them to understand His love. Remind them not to store up their “daily bread” but to truly consume it and use it daily, to seek God’s guidance every day. And over time, as the Holy Spirit moves them, they will come to see the wonder and glory of Emmanuel, Christ Jesus moving in their lives to bring them to salvation. Then someday, those who pick up this manna of the Bible can say to the next generation, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.”
Gracious God, how can we praise You enough for bringing Your Holy Word to us? Here is Your message, here is Your love, here is Your daily presence. Here is Your still, small voice thundering across the generations! Thank You for this great gift, Your written Word. Please, Lord God, continue to move the hearts of many to hear Your voice and consume the bread of Your Word daily. Amen.