The people of God camped at Elim, a desert oasis, for a few short weeks before moving on. Scripture tells us that when they departed from there they journeyed through the Wilderness of Sin, which was near Mt. Sinai. The LORD was leading them to His holy mountain, where He’d told Moses to come and worship after bringing the people out of Egypt.
God had delivered His children from the hand of Pharaoh. Now He was working in their lives to prepare them for the future. He was developing and discipling them to become the mighty people He’d called them to be, so that when He finally brought them into the Promised Land they would be ready for whatever they might encounter. God used a variety of different means seeking to strengthen the faith of His children.
Though they had recently seen the LORD provide sweetened water at Marah and abundant water at Elim, they soon began to complain once again. They had refilled their water supply, but now became concerned about their lack of food. How would they survive with nothing to eat, and where would they find a reliable source of food in the middle of a desert?
In this morning’s message God will again supernaturally provide for His people’s need. Our focus today will not be on the LORD’s ability to provide - we’ve already seen this displayed clearly and on multiple occasions. Rather, we will discuss the manner in which He provides and the lesson that it teaches about how we are to live as His children.
I. BREAD AND QUAIL (Exodus 16:1-15)
As stated in the introduction, the children of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron accusing them of leading them into the wilderness only to die of hunger. As on previous occasions, the LORD spoke to Moses and told Him how to answer the people’s complaints. God would provide bread for the Israelites in the morning and meat for them in the evening. But how?
Each day, at twilight, thousands quail would descend upon the people. They would land on the ground where they would be easily captured and killed. Thus, the people had plenty of fresh meat to eat. Whats more, every morning a new layer of due would evaporate on the ground leaving behind a thin flaky bread for the people to gather and eat. In this manner, God provided food for the children of Israel.
We have already mentioned in this series that Moses and his followers likely numbered somewhere between 2 and 3 million. Consider for a moment how much quail and bread it would take to feed this amount of people everyday for 40 years. I have read estimates that suggest it would take about 4,500 tons of bread and at least 1 quail per person each day to adequately meet this need. To think that God did this regularly, day in and day out, for 4 decades is absolutely astounding!
I have read and studied the accounts recorded in the Gospels when Jesus fed at least 5,000 people on one occasion and at least 4,000 on another with only a few loaves of bread and fish. As miraculous as Jesus’ actions were, during the exodus God was feeding literally millions of people every single day for 40 full years with bread in the morning and quail at night.
II. GATHERING THE FOOD (Exodus 16:16-21)
The children of Israel were instructed to gather only enough bread to eat for a single day. The exact measurement given in the Bible is one omer per person. Scholars suggest that an omer is somewhere around 10 dry cups. Thus, every morning, the people would go out and gather their daily bread to supply themselves and their families for the day.
None of the bread was to be saved our accumulated. In other words, surplus amounts could not be kept in storage for future use. Of course, some of the people tried to do this (I probably would have tried, too) - but by the next morning the unused portion had bred worms and become foul. Therefore, it was imperative that the people gather fresh bread everyday because none could be saved or kept. Each morning, the excess left on the ground was melted away by the hot sun so that no extra remained.
By providing for the people in this way, God was teaching them to depend upon Him daily. They were forced to rely on God’s provision by starting from scratch each new day. They could not accumulate or amass wealth, but rather had to live one day at a time. We would be wise today, as Christians, to do likewise. We need to become more dependent upon God and less dependent upon ourselves. We need to heed the words of Jesus who taught us not to build up treasures here on earth, but rather in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).
God’s word is our daily bread (Deuteronomy 8:3). We need to start each day by reading it and allowing it to speak to us. We should not expect to receive enough of His bread on Sunday mornings to last us all week long - it just doesn’t work that way. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not the pastor’s job to feed you - it is your responsibility to feed yourself. The life-giving words of the Bible must be gathered anew and afresh everyday. Oh that we as Christians would come to understand the importance of personally spending time in God’s word every day!
III. REGARDING THE SABBATH (Exodus 16:22-30)
There was an exception given by God to regular daily collection of food. On the sixth day, the Hebrews were to gather two days worth of bread rather than one. The reason for this was to provide them with a sufficient amount for both the sixth day and the seventh day. By collecting a double portion, they would not have to gather any bread on the seventh day. The extra day’s food would keep from ruining only on that one particular night of the week so that the people would have plenty for the seventh day.
As originally presented in the story of creation, the LORD set aside every seventh day as a Sabbath Day of rest. In this instance, God began teaching the people to formally recognize the Sabbath by not working on that day. It was to be a holy day in which everyone rested from their labor. But some of the people went out to gather bread on the seventh day and were surprised to find none on the ground. The LORD again expressed exasperation with His people.
The concept of the Sabbath Day runs throughout Scripture. Even today orthodox Jews refuse to do any work on the Sabbath Day, which they recognize to be Saturday. We as Christians also continue the tradition of the Sabbath Day, but we recognize it on Sunday in keeping with the practice of the New Testament church. Early Christians celebrated and memorialized the Lord’s resurrection by meeting and worshiping on the first day of the week - Sunday.
The emphasis is not to be placed on which particular day we rest, but rather that we do so every seventh day - whether it be Saturday, Sunday, or some other day. The Sabbath Day was instituted so that we as God’s people would have one day each week to cease from our worldly pursuits and to focus wholly upon the LORD. It was and is to be a day of refreshing and renewal - both physically and spiritually. Sadly, many Christians today have forgotten the meaning and therefore fail to honor the Sabbath Day.
In the closing verses of this chapter we discover that the children of God named the honey-sweet bread “manna”. The word manna means “What is it?” because this is the question that they asked when it first appeared. Furthermore, we are told that some of this bread would later be gathered and placed inside the Ark of the Covenant. These verses provide us with a preview of things yet to come, as the Ark did not exist at this point.
The message this morning is not speaking against planning ahead or saving for the future - the Bible encourages us and gives counsel on how to do both. It is not condemning the wealthy or prosperous for having accumulated much. Many of the most faithful men in Scripture were rich. Rather, it is teaching that God’s desire is for us to depend fully upon Him every day - not upon ourselves, our stuff, some other person, or anything/anyone else. The Lord is to be our daily bread. We need to trust in Him to be our provision for every new day.