It is so delightful to witness the unity of Holy Scripture in its foreshadowings and fulfilment (Exodus 16: 4-15 cf. John 6: 27-40). The beauty of the Book!
God reveals his purpose of human rescue in installments - the earlier phases illustrating the final revelation of his glorious and life-saving Son, Jesus Christ. The whole span of the Scriptures testifies to the coming of the Son. The Old Testament is a compilation of documents filled with anticipation. The writings of the New Testament attest to his marvellous appearance and the range of his accomplishments.
The Bible is bread for the mind and as we chew it over we are feeding on Christ and nourishing ourselves to eternal life. Food for the soul is digested by faith. The soul of the believing reader derives life from the Son of God. He or she partakes of the divine life, imparted by the Spirit from the word, which renews and refreshes us. The word of God joins us to God as our perpetual sustainer and we come to share his eternity.
Spiritual bread, the staff of life, the staple diet of the soul, is what carries us through our pilgrimage to heaven. Starvation of the soul is the hunger that afflicts mankind, which causes us to grumble, and our discontent is converted into discord with God and each other. The hunger of the heart makes us mean, moody as a race, and ultimately murderous. We ravage each other because our constitution is ratty.
Israel was a contentious community under Moses - ill-tempered and unruly. The hunger pangs made them an unpleasant horde of nomads picking fault with everything and blaming their leaders unfairly. The gist of the story concerning the manna from heaven is the patience and forbearance of God who sends miraculous food as a gift upon the undeserving.
Moses’ words are significant: “It is the bread God has given you to eat” (v15).
The unobtainable; it came from above, falling upon Israel through the free favour of God. Beneath the layer of dew were the flakes that would feed the people in their desert experience. God graciously gave good things to grumblers. This episode of divine provision is re-enacted in a fuller revelation in the ministry of Jesus when he feeds the five thousand recorded in the beginning of our chapter (vv. 1-15). This is a sign for the thoughtful, the spiritually hungry to read.
Jesus is the Bread from heaven, the source of satisfying life in God - the Bread God has given you to eat.
The miraculous feeding of the people notches spiritual meaning up to its maximum import. Manna came from God. It was sent by him. The Messiah in their midst was God - the great I AM of the patriarchs of Israel. The forefathers of Israel fed upon Christ in the nutriment of the promise. Accordingly the Lord Jesus averred, “I am the bread of life”.
When the manna appeared Israel was bidden to go out to where it was and collect it. It was free for the taking. Stoop and receive it! Jesus arrives as the true Bread of heaven, of which the manna was a type or sign, and he generously cries, “Come to me!”. To see and believe is sufficient to partake of him and the life he offers. “For it is my Father’s will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” (John 6: 40). The life-giving and soul-nourishing food, that Jesus is to the spiritually hungry, is there for the taking with the guarantee that not a single comer will be turned away. “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (the saying is principally a guarantee of final preservation).
This verse is the warrant for all who hear in the depth of their heart the welcome words of Jesus. They may freely come without hesitation. They need hunger nor linger anymore. The manna of the Lord is not fenced off or difficult to obtain. It is there for all who will stoop, in humble penitence and trust, to gather up into their famished, fearful hearts and be filled. The needy need only to fall to their knees before Jesus.
And then Jesus issues an assurance, his pledge for the future. The unknown future can be frightening as we consider life’s “what ifs”.
Jesus banishes that anxiety concerning circumstances and self. “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (v.35). How can Jesus declare this certainty? It is because those to whom he has given himself have been given to him by the Father: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (v.37). As we have noticed, comers to Jesus are never cast out, not at the outset or ever.
Jesus’ life feeds the life of believers, ever preserving them, and giving them strength to persevere in the faith he has wrought in them through divine enabling. They will never hunger to the point of spiritual death. Furthermore, the Son is strictly charged by the Father to see that the given ones are kept in absolute security and wellbeing. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (v.40).
O, “the wills and shalls of God!”, as Spurgeon exclaimed. We often fail to note their impact. They need to be taken most seriously; not superficially as mere hopeful expressions, but as solemn undertakings on divine oath.
We observe the certain and combined will of the Father and the Son - wills that cannot be frustrated or broken (John 10:25 -30 & 17: 1-3, 24 -26). The divine keeping of the given ones is determined by God at the top of his agenda, and made definite in the cross of the crucified, the purchase of the predestined. He died that believing ones should never die. This promise is the gospel fare, the spiritual food the church spreads out before the world.
Looking around much of the table is bare in our day.
People are fed on the scraps of human baking. The Bread of heaven is set aside. Souls are empty. Folk are famished. God in his displeasure sends his worst judgment on an arrogant western civilization that defies him and increasingly deserts him. The themes of our culture are dark or depraved.
Our manner towards God needs to be changed. But we must pray that even yet the manna of heaven will fall softly on grumblers, and that the dew of heaven will soften hard hearts of western leaders and peoples before our collective starvation results in rigor mortis and the grave death of the soul, the second death to be avoided at all costs - and can be through Christ.