Gleanings In Exodus
23. Manna—A Type of Christ
In our last chapter we considered the "manna" with which Jehovah supplied the bodily need of Israel in the wilderness as a type of the Food which God had so graciously provided for the sustenance of our souls. That Food is His own blessed Word. But "the Word" is used both of the Scriptures and of the Lord Jesus Christ. The two are most intimately related. "In the volume of the Book," said Christ, "it is written of Me" (Ps. 40:7); and again, "Search the Scriptures... they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39). Almost everything that can be postulated of the one can be predicted of the other. But the chief value of the written Word is to set forth the perfections and bring us into communion with the incarnate Word. It is only as we feed upon Christ Himself that we truly feed upon the written Word. Therefore in this article we shall confine our attention to the manna typifying the person and perfections of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Beneath many a figure and behind innumerable shadows and symbols the anointed eye may discern the glories of our blessed Lord. It should be our chief delight as we read the O.T. Scriptures to prayerfully search for that which foreshadows Him of whom "Moses and the prophets" did write. All doubt is removed as to whether or not the manna pointed to the incarnate Son by His own words in John 6:32, 33. There we find the Savior saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from Heaven; but My Father giveth you the true Bread from Heaven. For the Bread of God is He which cometh down from Heaven and giveth life unto the world." May the Spirit of God now condescend to open our sin-blinded eyes as we earnestly desire to behold "wondrous things" out of His perfect Law.
1. The Occasion of the giving of the Manna is both striking and solemn. After being the recipients of wondrous mercies from the Lord, Israel arrived in the Wilderness of Sin. But no sooner had they come thither than we find that the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, "Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (v. 3). A more fearful exhibition of unbelief, ingratitude, and rebellion could scarcely be imagined. The marvel is that the fiery judgments of God did not consume them there and then. But instead of pouring upon them His wrath, He dealt with them in marvelous grace by raining bread from Heaven for them.
Strikingly does this picture the condition of that world into which the Lord of Glory descended. For four thousand years the temporal and governmental mercies of God had been showered upon the human race, making His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, sending His rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). And what had been man’s response? "When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were they thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the un-corruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and to four-footed beasts, and creeping things" (Rom. 1:21-23.) Little better was it with Israel, as a glance at their O.T. history will show. What wonder, then, if God had abandoned the whole race! But no; in matchless, wondrous grace, He sent forth His own beloved Son to a world wherein every human creature had forfeited every possible claim upon His goodness and mercy.
2. The Place where the Manna fell is also deeply significant. It was in the "Wilderness of Sin" (16:1) that the "bread from Heaven" first fell. Surely it were impossible to select a more fitting title to accurately describe the character of that world into which the Son of God descended. Verily, a wilderness of sin was this world to the Holy One of God! A wilderness! What is a "wilderness"? It is a homeless place. No one would think of building a house there. And a homeless place was this world to the Son of God. No room in the inn at His birth; not where to lay His head during the days of His public ministry; a borrowed grave for His crucified body, sums it all up. A wilderness of sin! Never was that more apparent than when the Sinless One was here. How the Light exposed the hidden things of darkness! How the murder of the Savior demonstrated the sinfulness of Jew and Gentile alike!
3. The Glory of the Lord was linked with the giving of the Manna. "And it came to pass as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory, of the Lord appeared in the Cloud" (v. 10). This is very striking indeed. It is the first time we read of the appearing of "the glory of the Lord," not only in connection with Israel, but in Scripture. Marvelously accurate is this detail of our type. Not until the Son of God became incarnate was "the glory of the Lord" fully revealed. But when the eternal Word became flesh and tabernacled among men, then, as the beloved apostle declares, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father (John 1:14). The "glory of God" is seen "in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).
4. The Manna came down from Heaven. "Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold I will rain bread from Heaven for you." The manna was not a product of this earth. It grew neither in the wilderness nor in Egypt. It was neither produced by human efforts nor manufactured by human skill. It descended from God. It was a gift from Heaven come down to earth. So our Lord Jesus was no native product of this earth. As we read in Ephesians 4:10, "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens." The first man (Adam) was of the earth, earthy; but the second Man (Jesus Christ) was "The Lord from Heaven" (1 Cor. 15:48.)
5. The Manna was a free gift from God. "And Moses said unto them. This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat" (v. 15). No charge was made for this manna. It was neither a wage to be earned nor a prize to be won, but was a token of God’s grace and love. No payment was demanded for it. It was without money and without price. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Let us join with the apostle in saying. "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift" (2 Cor. 9:15).
6. The Manna was sent to the Israelites. "Behold I will rain bread from Heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day" (v. 4). Two truths are here illustrated. First, the Manna was God’s provision for His elect people, and for none others. We do not read of God raining manna upon Egypt nor upon Canaan. It was given to Israel in the wilderness and to them alone. just as the Pascal lamb was for them and not for the Egyptians. So, too, Christ is God’s Provision for those whom He "ordained unto eternal life." Listen to His own words in John 17:19: "For their sakes I sanctify Myself"—set Myself apart unto death. It was for "the sheep," not the goats, that He gave His life (John 10:11).
But second, this manna was also sent to a needy and foodless people. Whatever food Israel had brought with them out of Egypt was, by this time, all consumed. From the human side, they seemed in imminent danger of starving to death. Had not God met their need they would have perished in the wilderness. But from the Divine side everything was sure. God had purposed to bring Israel to Sinai (3:12), and His counsel cannot fail. A complete provision did He make for His needy people. It is the same now. By nature, the elect of God are "children of wrath, even as others" (Eph. 2:3). Shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, their lot is indeed a desperate one. But praise be to God, full provision is made for them. The Bread of Life is their all-sufficient supply. Even before His birth it was announced, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
7. The Manna came right down to where the Israelites were. The Israelites were in immediate danger of starving to death, but as we have seen, God graciously made provision to supply their need and now we would notice that no long journey had to be taken in order to secure that which would satisfy their hunger—the manna fell all around the camp. "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" (vv. 13, 14). Here we have foreshadowed the blessed fact that, to the sinner conscious of his need and anxious to meet with the Savior, God says, "Say not in thine heart Who shall ascend into Heaven? (that is to bring Christ down from above) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring Christ again from the dead). But what saith it? The Word is nigh thee." And out of this very nearness springs the sinner’s responsibility. All around each tent door lay the manna. Something had to be done with it. It must either be gathered or trodden under foot! Sinner, what are you doing with the Christ of God? Remember His searching words, "He that is not with Me is against Me."
8. The Manna must be gathered by each individual. "This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating" (v. 16). It is so spiritually. Receiving Christ (John 1:12) is a personal matter. No one can believe for another. There is no salvation by proxy. The gospel of Christ is, "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16), and "he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16: 16). Saving faith is that act whereby each awakened sinner appropriates Christ unto himself. It is true that Christ loved the Church as a whole, and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25), but it is also the happy privilege of each member of that Church to say with the Apostle Paul, "Who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Have you, dear reader, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ?
9. The Manna met a daily need. "Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day" (v. 4). The manna which they gathered today would not suffice them for tomorrow. They needed to obtain a fresh supply each day. It is just here that so many of the Lord’s people fail. We, too, need to feed upon Christ "every day." Just as in the physical realm the food which I ate yesterday will not nourish me today, so my past experiences and attainments will not meet the exigencies of the present. Christ must be kept constantly before the heart. "Give us day by day our daily bread," should be the prayer of every child of God.
10. Appetite determined the amount gathered. "This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded. Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less" (vv. 16, 17). Thus we see that the appetite governed the amount gathered. How strikingly and how solemnly true is this of the believer, "We all have as much of Christ as we desire, no more, no less. If our desires are large, if we open our mouth wide, He will fill it. We cannot desire too much, nor be disappointed when we desire. On the other hand, if we are but feebly conscious of our need, a little only of Christ will be supplied. The measure, therefore, in which we feed upon Christ as our wilderness food, depends entirely upon our felt spiritual need—upon our affections" (Ed. Dennett).
11. The Manna was despised by those who were not the Lord’s people. "And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting, and the children of Israel also went 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. But now our soul is dried away; there is nothing left at all, beside this manna, before our eyes" (Num. 11:4-6). How these words remind us of the language of Isaiah 53—"And when we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire of Him. He is despised and rejected of men." The sin-blinded eyes of the natural man are incapable of perceiving the attractiveness of the Lord Jesus: His wondrous perfections he is unable to discern. So, too, he sees not his deep need, and how Christ alone is able to meet that need. Hence he neither comes to Christ nor desires Him.
12. The Manna fell upon the
dew, not upon the dust of the ground. "And when the dew fell upon the camp
in the night, the manna fell upon it" (Num. 11:9). Everything in the
Scriptures has a spiritual meaning and application. What, then, is the
significance of the above? Genesis 3:19 throws light on this passage—"dust
thou art and unto dust thou shalt return." These words were spoken to
fallen man and called attention to the corruption which sin had worked in him.
"Dust," here, and onwards, speaks of fallen humanity. Now the manna
fell not upon "the dust," but upon the dew. How clearly this
foreshadowed the uniqueness and incorruptibility of our Lord’s humanity! The
Word became flesh, but in His humanity the Lord Jesus shared not our corrupt
nature. He took upon Him the form of a servant, but the body which was prepared
for Him (Heb. 10:5) belonged not to the "dust" of this earth. Before
He was born the angel announced unto His mother, "The Holy Spirit shall
come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore
also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of
13. The Manna was white in color. We read in Exodus 16:31, "And the house of Israel called the name thereof manna; and it was like coriander seed, white." This speaks of the spotless purity of our Lord as manifested outwardly in His daily walk. He "knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21). "He was without sin" (Heb. 4:13). "He did no sin" (1 Pet. 2:22). He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Heb. 7:26). In 1 Peter 1:19 we are told that He was a lamb "without spot and without blemish." The former expression referring to the absence of outward pollution, the latter to the absence of inward defect. In His walk through this scene of corruption He contracted no defilement. He only could touch the leper without becoming contaminated. He was "without spot," pure, white.
14. The Manna was sweet to the taste. "And the taste of it was like wafers of honey" (v. 31). We need to go to the Song of Solomon for the interpretation of this. There we read, "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons. I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste" (2:3). And again, "His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers; His lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh . . . His mouth is most sweet; yea, He is altogether lovely" (5:13, 16). The Lord grant that our "meditation of Him shall be sweet" (Ps. 104:34).
15. The Manna was ground and baked. "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" (Num. 11:8). How this speaks to us of the sufferings of our blessed Lord! Such expressions as "He groaned for their hardness of heart," He "sighed" because of their unbelief, He "wept" over Jerusalem. and many others, tell of the grinding of the manna. His treatment at the hands of the Jews and the brutal soldiers in Herod’s judgment-hall show us the beating of the manna. On the Cross we behold Him subjected to the fierce fires of God’s wrath. Thus we learn that the manna, ground and beaten, speaks to us of Him who "was bruised for our iniquities."
16. The Manna was preserved on the Sabbath. "And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, to-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord, bake that which ye will bake, and seeth that ye will seeth, and that which remaineth over, lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade; and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein" (vv. 23, 24). On the Sabbath day the manna was preserved, and in this, too. it speaks to us of our blessed Lord. He is the only one who was preserved through death. He lay in the tomb on the Sabbath day and was "kept," for God had said, "Neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption" (Ps. 16:10).
17. The Manna was laid up before the Lord. "And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord (v. 33). Concerning the anti-type, we read, "For Christ is not entered into the holy place made with hands which are the figures of the true; but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Heb. 9:24). The golden pot in which the manna was preserved tells of how God is glorified in Him whom it foreshadowed. "Although the Son of Man it is that gives it to us; although it is humanity here that we know, and humanity in the form in which we shall not find it when we shall reach Him above, yet it is humanity in which God is glorified now, and so He will be glorified in it forever. We shall find in the One upon the Throne of Glory, though no longer ‘with a face marred more than any man’s,’ and a form more than the sons of men—the very One whose face was marred—the very One whose heart put Him into the sorrow in which we, of necessity there, learned to know Him thus" (Mr. Grant).
18. The Manna is called angel’s food. We read in Psalm 78:25, man did eat angel’s food; He gave them meat to the full"; the reference here is to the giving of the manna to Israel in the wilderness. The anti-type of this is brought before us in several passages in the last book of Scripture. Christ not only feeds the souls of those of His people who are upon earth, but He also satisfies the hearts of celestial beings. The unfallen angels find their chief delight in feeding upon Christ. They worship Him, they serve Him, and they tell forth His praises.
19. The Manna was given in the night. It was during the hours of darkness that the manna was sent to the Israelites. It is while they were asleep (picture of man’s helplessness, for we are never so helpless as when we are asleep) that the bread was given from Heaven. So, too, it was when we were in darkness and unbelieved impotent, "without strength," that Christ came to us. Moreover it will be at the close of this world’s night, when "the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people," that the Bread of God shall return and give life to the world.
20. The Manna is now hidden. In Revelation 2:17 we read, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna." So, too, Christ, of whom the manna continually speaks, is now "hidden." Unseen by the eye of sense, He remains in Heaven till that day when He shall be manifested before all the world. "We shall not only ‘see’ the Heavenly manna, but we shall ‘eat’ of it again. Fresher than ever will be our realization of His love and the perfection of the grace which is manifested toward us. It is then in fact, when we come to be there, that we shall have the full enjoyment; knowing as we are known, of all the experiences, which though they be experiences of the wilderness, yet, wait for the land to which we are hastening to find their full interpretation and blessing. The meat endures to everlasting life. The meat itself endures. We are enjoying that which shall be our joy for eternity. We are feeding on that which shall be our food for eternity" (Mr. Grant).
We are conscious that our treatment of this wonderful and precious type is most inadequate and unworthy. But if it leads our fellow-believers to a more careful study of the written Word, and to a deeper longing to become better acquainted with the incarnate Word, our feeble efforts will be well repaid.