Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in issue no. 2 (weeks 5-8; February 2-23, 2020) of The Lookout magazine, and is also available online at www.lookoutmag.com.
Lesson Aim: Trust the Lord to provide for your needs.
By Mark Scott
Bread is a staple of life. Sometimes it is a metonymy for “food” in general. It is part of the fourth petition of the model prayer (Matthew 6:11). It was the content of the first temptation of Jesus by the devil in the desert (4:3). A typical Jewish prayer would often begin, “Blessed art thou, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” Even the place where Jesus was born was called “house of bread” (Bethlehem). Humankind needs more than bread to live (4:4), but bread still matters. In the wilderness of Sin, God gave Israel miraculous provisions of bread.
Miraculous Provisions Come in Just the Right Amounts | Exodus 16:11-20
God does not waste miracles. If he decides to miraculously provide bread for us he is inclined to meet our needs—not our greed. Miracles are the gracious intrusions intended as signs of the mercy of God. They cannot be conjured up. They are sovereignly given.
The new nation celebrated the victory over the Egyptians through song (Exodus 15). But they had not traveled far before their redemption became a faint memory. They grumbled about the water (v. 24), and they grumbled against Moses and Aaron (16:2). Moses recorded that God heard them grumbling at least four times before our text even begins. The word for grumbling means “to murmur,” and it is the very thing that believers are not supposed to do (Philippians 2:14).
Even though Israel grumbled against God, he miraculously provided for his people with meat and bread. Quail were small pheasant-like birds that migrated through this wilderness at certain times of the year. This would not be Israel’s only time with having this “quail-fil-a” (Numbers 11:31, 32; Psalm 78:27, 28; 105:40). God also miraculously provided bread. Much detail was given as to the consistency, description, and amounts of this bread. When the morning dew melted away thin flakes (scales or peels) were left on the shrubs of the desert floor. The Israelites did not know what it was (which is the meaning of the word “manna,” i.e. “what is it?”). Later it was described as coriander seed and tasted like olive oil in sweetness. It was bread from Heaven.
The Lord prescribed the amounts. An omer is about two liters. That amount might seem like lots of bread to us, but without all the other things we eat it is not an overly large amount for an individual for a day. “Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed” (2 Corinthians 8:15). But some had to push the envelope. Israel was commanded to eat what was provided for them for each day (thus, daily bread). Those who kept part of it until morning, found it full of maggots (something similar to grubworms). This misuse of God’s miraculous provision angered (displeased, made wrathful, or fell into a rage) Moses.
Miraculous Provisions Do No Negate the Need for Obedience | Exodus 16:21-32
The Sabbath was a big deal in the Bible. It was rooted in the creation (Genesis 2:2, 3), and it was commanded in the famous 10 words of Moses (Exodus 20:8-11, part of next week’s text). It comes to us as a gift in the person of Christ (Matthew 11:28-30) and is one of the terms for Heaven (Hebrews 4:1).
How the Israelites gathered their daily bread was also part of their worship of God on the Sabbath Day. On Sunday through Thursday they gathered their manna flakes after the dew had melted away. But on Friday they gathered two days’ worth of manna. Normally this would have been too much, and it would have begun to stink. But miraculously Friday’s manna lasted through the Sabbath. Whether they baked it or boiled it, it would last twice as long as normal. The purpose for this was clear. God wanted the people to rest and worship him. God was teaching Israel the 24/6 principle (i.e., observe rest one day per week).
But verse 27 is parallel to verse 20. Certain people were not satisfied to trust the goodness of God. Some of the people tried to gather some manna on the Sabbath. But there was none to be found. Miracles are no substitute for obedience (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22). Commands (mitvah) and instructions (torah) are to be kept. As a reminder of God’s provision and a testimony of Israel’s disobedience, a jar of manna was to be kept in view of Israel through the years as a witness of God’s care. Perhaps this command was carried out (Hebrews 9:4), but at the end of the day the real bread from Heaven was Jesus (John 6:35).
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
Image: The events of Exodus 16 as depicted by a Dutch artist in 1712. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.