The Meaning of the Manna 

 

The Lord Jesus and His word is the antitype of the manna which Israel were given (this thesis is developed throughout John 6). It is a well hacked New Testament theme that Israel's exodus from Egypt through the waters of the Red Sea typified our baptism 91 Cor. 10:1-4); and our struggle through the wilderness of life was prefigured by their wandering through the Sinai scrubland. The manna was provided as the practical means by which they would get through. That thought should set us eagerly looking for how we can eat of it, how we can also relate to this manna which God has given to enable us to reach the Kingdom.  

The Manna And The Word

“Bread” or manna was a phrase the Rabbis commonly applied to the Torah- e.g. they interpreted Prov. 9:5 (“Come, eat ye of my bread”) as referring to the Law. And the Lord was clearly playing on and extending this idea in John 6. The Lord taught that in the same way as Moses gave Israel manna, so He was giving them Himself, and His word. He defines the meaning of the manna in Jn. 6:63 as His words. He is inviting us to eat Him in the sense of His words; He is the word of God. Remember how Jeremiah says that he found God's word and ate it, God's word was unto him the joy and rejoicing of his heart. Think too of the words of Job in 23:12, speaking as a type of Christ on this occasion: " I have esteemed the words of his mouth more  than my necessary food" . We tend to think that as we eat physically, so we should eat spiritually. The point is often made amongst us that as we always find time to eat physically, so we should to eat God's word. But this is not quite what Job is saying. He says that we should relate to our spiritual food even more importantly than to our natural need for food. It's second nature for us to eat regularly, every day; we don't have to schedule time to eat, it flows naturally into our daily organization of life. Now more than this, we should have the word of God in our lives. How often do we complain of the problem of finding time to read the word? Now in a way that's right and understandable, but in another way we ought to be naturally finding a certain amount of time for feeding on the word. And then, after that, we can complain of a lack of time for further study. As the manna was utterly vital for Israel's survival in the wilderness, so is feeding on God's word. Eating the manna was a crucial daily necessity. And so our Bible study is. The victory of the Lord Jesus is described as Him 'prolonging his days' (Is. 53:10), in allusion back to the way Dt. 17:20 teaches that the King of Israel must study the word all the days of his life, with the result that he would " prolong his days" . The almost unbelievable victory of the man Christ Jesus against every aspect of the flesh was due to His saturation with the spirit of God's word. 

Israel were to be filled with the manna, so that they would know  that " I am Yahweh your God" (Ex. 16:12). This was to be the meaning of the manna. There was a daily manifestation of God's glory along with the manna (Ex. 16:7 cp. 12). The daily sense of living with God's glory is so vital for each of us in our deeply personal spirituality. We know that faith comes from hearing God's word; so our feeding on God's word should lead us to know Yahweh. There was something intensely personal about the teaching of the manna: " He fed thee (singular- not " ye" ) with manna, that he might make thee know that (every) man (lives spiritually) by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord" (Dt. 8:3). We must ceaselessly ask: Do we really know God, as a personal Father? God told them to gather the manna to prove them, " whether they would walk in my law, or not" . So their attitude to the manna was their attitude to the law of God. The manna tasted like honey, which is another symbol of God's word. In  Neh. 9:20,21 Nehemiah runs through the history of Israel: " Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them" , and gave them manna. So there is a parallel here between the instruction of God's spirit, and the manna. He speaks of how God’s word came down from Heaven, and then the manna too came down from Heaven (Neh. 9:13,15). 

Although God opened the doors of Heaven to rain manna upon Israel, they “trusted not in his salvation” (Ps. 78:22). The manna, as in John 6, became a symbol of their salvation; and yet the repetitious ordinariness of it all meant they missed the point. Every time we read God’s word, take again the bread of Heaven each week, the more familiar we are with it, the more likelihood there is that this can happen to us.