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Bread from Heaven throughout the Bible -- Redeeming the Wilderness

 Exodus gives us the pattern of redemption, showing movement from sin and sorrow to freedom and life.  Here we learn the story of how God rescued His people from slavery in Eygpt.  They were beaten and treated badly.  In chapter 1, we’re told that the Egyptians “set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens...they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service” (v. 11, 13-14).  At the end of chapter 2 we read that the people of Israel “groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help.  Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.  And God heard their groaning...God saw the people of Israel -- and God knew” (v.23-24). 

God knew.  He knew their suffering.  And He came to their rescue!  Through plagues and miracles, God “led [His] people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” through the Red Sea and out into the wilderness (Psalm 77:19-20)!

Crossing the Red sea marks a transition for God’s people.  God gets his people out of Egypt, and then He uses the wilderness to begin getting Egypt out of his people. In Exodus 16, we are told the story of “Bread from Heaven;” when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God provided Manna for them to eat.  As God led them away from slavery and through the desert, they became hungry and started groaning and complaining for food.  In fact, they even said, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger,” (v.3).  They were so deluded by their hunger that they actually looked back to Egypt with longing!  But God decided to miraculously provide for them by making it “rain bread from heaven” (v. 4)!  He instructed them through the mouth of Moses to gather enough for each day, no more, or else it would rot. The provision was precisely enough, without lack or extra. On the sixth day of the week, they could gather twice as much so that no one had to work gathering manna on the Sabbath.  Here we see God’s care for the physical and spiritual needs for His people.  God gave His people enough and met their needs - not all their wants, but their needs.  Physically, they needed sustenance.  Spiritually, they needed to learn how to trust Him.  

In other parts of the Old Testament, we see this same pattern emerge--God caring for and feeding His people.  In 1 Samuel 21, David and his men eat the bread of the presence, the “holy bread” (v.4).  In 1 Kings 17, God sends ravens with bread and meat to Elijah to feed him and then provides ongoing bread and oil for the Widow of Zarephath to feed Elijah and herself.

Furthermore, in the New Testament, Jesus redeems the wilderness!  In Matthew Chapter 4, we see Jesus “led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry” (v.1-2).  He was not running from anyone or anything (like the Israelites were running from Egypt) but instead voluntarily came face to face with “the tempter” (v.3).  And when Satan tempted our famished and faint Savior to turn the stones into bread, He redeemed the wilderness by not obeying him!  In John Chapter 6, we see Jesus feed 5,000 people with only 2 small loaves of bread during Passover (the celebration of the Exodus).  He feeds them and they come back asking for more.  And He tells them “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger” (v.35).  And in the Lord’s supper, we’re told “This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24).  

This wilderness struggle and provision is not just a long-ago story; it is our story with Christ now.  Life is a wilderness, both internally and externally, a place of desperate want, distorted memory, and divine help.  How many times do we act like the Israelites in the wilderness and “look back” to our own metaphorical Egypts when the going gets tough?  How many times have we complained that before we knew Christ and were in rebellion against Him, we had things we wanted?  Maybe we think we used to have more friends or more fun?  Or maybe we used to feel more freedom to make our own choices and not have to submit to someone else’s rules for our lives?  We are tempted to believe the lie that Satan whispered to Adam and Eve in the Garden so long ago, “God doesn’t love you, He doesn’t want what’s best for you!”  We look back with longing thinking that Christ isn’t actually all we need.  But here’s the good news, friends -- God is so gracious that He even cares for those who grumble and complain, people like you and me!  And He provides that which we truly need: Jesus, the Bread of Life!  He is the Manna!  He is the provision God sends to us!  We are tempted to believe we have other spiritual needs like feeling happy or feeling satisfied. And if these are stronger desires to us than the redemption or sanctification that He calls us to, then something is very wrong.  Jesus isn’t here to make us “happy” but instead has something way better; He Himself redeems us to make us a holy people, set apart for Himself.  He redeems our wilderness with and through Himself!  He reminds us that our lives don’t ultimately depend on our own work and we don’t always have to be “looking out for #1”.  He humbles and rejuvenates as we rely on Him and not ourselves.  He is our daily bread. 

How do we take in Jesus as our daily bread?  In Matthew 6, Jesus gives us instructions on fighting worry by pointing to God's care for birds and beautification of flowers -- God’s “enough” strengthens our hearts with the knowledge that we are in the Father’s world.  The Lord’s Prayer instructs us to ask for our daily bread, not a continual feast, and this helps us recognize what God provides and how much we are dependent on him.  Also, communing with God through the Lord’s Supper is a spiritual event of meeting with Jesus, providing His presence through the bread and wine and connecting us to His living bread.  These practices train our hearts to distance ourselves from our Egypts and develop a taste for the food which truly satisfies.

Brothers and sisters, God is working in our lives!  Jesus, our daily bread, has already rescued us from slavery to sin, from Egypt - He is on the move now to take Egypt out of us.  And He is using the wilderness, and redeeming the wilderness to do it!  What is your wilderness story?  What is making it hard for you to rely on God for your daily bread?  Do not despair!  He has redeemed you and will continue to redeem you!  He is that which we most desperately long for!  He is enough!

                                                By Lexy George, Children's Ministry Director 

  • Note:  The ideas represented here are not my own….they belong to my brilliant and wonderful husband, Nate George.  I simply put them in essay form.


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