February 5, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Then Moses told Aaron, ‘Say to the entire Israelite community, “Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.”’ While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud. The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, “At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”’ That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: “Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.”’”—Exodus 16:9-16 (NIV)
I vividly remember being nine years old, sitting with my parents at a restaurant, and scarfing down these delicious fried rings which I was unfamiliar with. After I devoured almost the entire plate, I found out it was calamari, which is squid. Was I grossed out? Not even a little bit. I didn’t care because it was just so wonderful.
Even though the Israelites had complained against Him, God shone His mercy and glory by providing meat at night and bread in the morning. And even though He told them He’d provide them with bread, they still asked, “What is it?” (The words used to phrase this question is where the term manna comes from). It was manna, or bread from heaven, but they didn’t see if for what it was at first. This shows us something powerful: When God’s provision comes, we don’t always recognize it.
God met the great needs of Israel, but He did it in a way they didn’t expect. Can you think of another time involving bread when this happened? In John 6! After having fed thousands of people with just five loaves and two fish, Jesus is approached the next day for more free meals. He says to the crowd, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6:27 NIV). Then, Jesus tells them all they need to do is believe in Him!
So again, God shows up, provides what the people need most, but they don’t recognize Him. They want another miracle—bread from heaven. To this, Jesus responds, “The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33 NLT). And when they ask for this bread, Jesus drops a bombshell saying, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35 NLT).
“What is it?” It’s so fitting this bread took on this name, based on a question, because that bread in the desert wasn’t the answer. 1,500 years later, God spelled out the answer regarding the provision for the great need of all people: His name is Jesus, the ultimate display of God’s mercy, kindness, and love to humanity.
In the gospel, we discover Jesus is all we need, that knowing Him provides true satisfaction, and that He give us eternal and abundant life. Through the gospel, we see the glory of God. And by faith, which is in and of itself a provision of God, a gift imparted on us through the Holy Spirit, we know that He is Lord! By the gospel, we “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8 NIV).
I pray that as His followers, we may reflect this and draw people to ask, “What is it?” and that we’re ready to share the gospel. I pray we would make the goodness of God recognizable to others.
Pause: What parallels can you draw between Exodus 16 and John 6? How does Jesus provide all we need?
Practice: Write down everything God has provided for you in Christ—spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Consider all the blessings, redemption, reconciliation, salvation, life change, and heart change that has taken place in your life since you received Him.
Pray: Lord, thank You for the bread of life. Thank You for sending Jesus, the true manna, the answer to all of life’s questions, the source of life, goodness, grace, peace, joy, and satisfaction. Thank You that in Him I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Thank You for making a way for me to be reconciled to You. Jesus, thank You for being my everything. Help me today and every day by the power and provision of Your Holy Spirit to live a life worthy of the gospel so that the world would see Your radiance shining through me and ponder, “What is it?” and that they may seek You through the work You are doing in me. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.