What’s the Meaning of Manna?

When the nation of Israel was in the desert between Egypt and the land God promised to give them, stuck in time-out, they needed something to eat. God supernaturally provided a substance called manna. It sustained them for forty years while in the Sinai Peninsula. Although the Bible describes manna, the explanation leaves me wanting. Apparently it was a nutritious foodstuff. It had multiple uses and physically nourished them, either in part or in whole, while living in the desert.

In a practical sense, God gave them manna to keep them alive. However, there’s more.

Moses writes that:

  • God humbled his people. Being hungry will do that. Consider the implications to fasting.
  • In their hunger, God provided for them.
  • The lesson in this was that “man does not live on bread alone.” Yeah, Moses said that. Does it sound familiar?
  • In addition to eating manna (bread) for physical sustenance, God wanted his people to also depend on him for their spiritual sustenance, living on his words – all of them.

Several centuries later, when Satan tempted Jesus to perform a miracle in order to feed himself, Jesus quoted Moses: “Man shall not live on bread alone.” The implication is that even more important than eating food, is hearing God. Spiritual needs trump the physical.

But there’s more. Later, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, one phrase was “Give us today our daily bread.” This is a request to meet both our physical and our spiritual needs.

Manna is a means to live, both physically and spiritually; we need both every day.

[Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4, Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3]

3 thoughts on “What’s the Meaning of Manna?

  1. I love this reflection, Peter, and ponder these themes so often in daily work in Newark. The manna (& quail) story is told more than once and speaks to trust and limits. The story also had God wondering what the People of God will do with God’s providence. Hoard? Limit? Trust? This is one of many stories where providence and “enough” is the test of faith.

  2. I have been listening to Victor Frankl’s account of his survival of concentration camps. They would receive one piece of bread a day. hmmmm.

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