Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
--- Matthew 6: 9 - 11
On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had been released from Egypt, the whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, between Elim and Sinai. Here, they began to grumble against Moses and Aaron. 'If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt,' they cried. 'Even in slavery we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted. But you have brought us out into this desert to starve.'
With compassion and forbearance, the Lord came to Moses and promised the Israelites this: 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to gather only enough for that one day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instruction. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on other days.'
And so Moses and Aaron called to all the Israelites: 'In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see his glory, for he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should moan against him? Surely, you will know that it is the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all that bread you desire in the morning. Who are we? You do not grumble against us, but against the Lord. Come before the Lord, for he has heard your complaint.'
While they were yet speaking, behold, from the desert was the glory of God in the form of a cloud. That evening, quail came and covered the ground around the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew. When the dew disapparated, thin flakes like frost appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw this, they said to each other, 'What is it?' For they did not know what it was.
Moses, having never beheld the gift before either, told them: 'This is the bread the Lord has given you. Gather as much as you need. Take an omer (around three pounds) for each person in your tent.'
The Israelites did as they were instructed. Some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the ones who gathered much did not have too much, and the ones who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.
Then Moses called to them again. 'No one is to save any of it for the morning.'
But some paid no attention to Moses. They covered the bread with cloth and placed it in woven baskets. But, upon the morning dew, the bread began to smell. Maggots climbed in and out of the softness of its chew.
And this is how the Israelites survived in the wilderness. Every morning everyone gathered as much bread as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, watched it melt away. On the sixth day, households gathered twice as much----two omers for each person---to carry them over the Sabbath and into the following week. For this was what the Lord commanded: a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. To save what was left and keep it until morning. And on the holy sabbath, the bread from heaven was neither polluted with smell nor maggot. Nevertheless, some Israelites went out on the seventh, holy day and found nothing. 'How long will you refuse to keep God's commands and instructions? He has promised you to good things,' cried Moses.
The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seeds and tasted like wafers made with honey.
After much time had passed, Moses stood among the Israelite community and said: 'This is what the Lord has commanded: 'Take an omer of manna and keep it for generations to come. So that they may see the bread he gave you to eat when you were frightened and hungry in the wilderness. Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Place it before the Lord to kept for the generations to come.'
As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron laid an omer of manna beside the covenant law so that it might be preserved for the remembrance of all who were to come after them.
Over a millennium came and went while the people of God wandered in desert lands. Although God had brought them into the garden of promise, the Israelites continue to wander. Their hearts heaved with uneasiness and misbelief. And so, God-----the God who had always been with them---humbled his form and dwelt among them as Emmanuel----God with us.
Wherever Jesus went, crowds followed him. Listened to his words, comfort and provoked. No one who spent time in his company left unchanged by the presence of Elohim.
In Parables, the Spirit of God showed them many things. One such parable centred on a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his Father. 'Give me my inheritance now.'
The Good Father divided his property between both, but while the older son remained on the Father's farm to preserve and protect the bequest, the younger son fled to a distant country and there, squandered his wealth through wild living. After he had lost everything his Father had built for him, a severe famine wreaked the whole country. The boy began to weep. He went and hired himself out to a citizen of that long and far-away land. He was sent to his field to feed pigs, a servant who longed to fill his stomach with the soils given to swine. But nothing was given to him. He was left to starve. Desperate, the son remembered the Father's servants. How there was always food to spare. He set out with the weariness of one who has nothing. Only bones to bring before the Masters' feast. I will say this: 'Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants. (For even the dogs eat crumbs that fall from their Masters' table: Mark 7: 28).'
But while he was still a long way off, his Father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 'Quickly, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and let us kill it. For we must feast and celebrate. My son was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found.'
Out in the Exodus wilderness, as God was leading his people toward the promised land, an altar was made------one to remind them of all the times God had heard their cries, forgiven their disobedience and healed their bodies with bread and meal.
Out in the desert lands, in the synagogues, among the crowds, as God became flesh and dwelt among the descendants of Israel, was there a parable told-----one to remind the people of all the times God had heard their cries, forgiven their sins and healed their bodies with bread and meal.
The parable served to remind them of his nature as the Good Father. The God who provided and protected them from the beginning of creation was and always would continue to reveal himself. 'My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with in parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old (Psalm 78:1-2):
When Hosea (11:1) testified:
When Israel was a child, then I loved him and called my son out of Egypt.
When Jeremiah (31:9) wrote:
They will come with weeping. With prayers of mercy, they will ask I bring them back. And I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel's Father and Ephraim is my firstborn son.
Where Israel (63:16) found strength:
You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, nor Israel acknowledge our place. You, Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.
This parable reminded the Israelites that the Word of God was covenant from the beginning of creation. A Good Father would humble himself in spirit and come in bodily form for the sanctification of the soul. Before the cross his body would be lashed and lowered to the grave like a bridge, welcoming all who were dead in their trespasses into the kingdom of his Father.
For while the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6:23).
Just as the prophets wrote, God came in the form of a son----son of God, son of man. He was the way, truth, life and revelation of his father (John 14:6). The Good Father by whom prodigal sons and daughters are welcomed into promised lands. In heaven and on earth.
For as Jesus prayed, 'O righteous Father, although the world does not know you, I know you, and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so that your love for me will also be in them' (John 17:25).
Out in the wilderness, the Israelites feared for their survival. Armies and nations of great force and influence were in constant strategy of how to overpower and condemn the kingdom of God. They viewed Israel as slaves-----men and women who were beneath them. Who were no greater than the a God they could not see.
But greater is He who dwells within you, greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
Over and over the invisible God revealed himself to the Israelites and their enemies, rescuing them from enslavement and bringing them into Holy Ground moments even in the midst of destruction, starvation and death.
The manna and quail provision is a Holy Ground moment-------here, God gave the Israelites physical sustenance. He sourced their Daily Bread. More miraculous even than this was his compassion.
Even while the Israelites rejected, betrayed and scourned his unblemished love, the Good Father opened his arms wide and drew them into peace of his presence and covenant. 'Quickly, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and let us kill it. For we must feast and celebrate. My son was dead and has returned to life.'
The manna and quail was a life symbol.
When Moses told Aaron to preserve an omer of manna with the covenant tablets, he was ensuring that God's people would have an artifact by which to remember the Holy Ground moment when they were frightened and hungry in the wilderness. This symbol was to serve as a compass for their future.
What are the symbols from your present and past? My life symbol is the small, butterfly scar above my left eyelid. My life symbol is an asthma inhaler and thin ECG scan that shows perfect, regular heartbeats after a visit from paramedics.
My life symbol is in the six short stories I wrote over six months after being diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. My life symbol is the beautiful photograph of my grandparents, mother, father and sisters. My life symbol is the well-worn, well-read, well-marked Bible that my beloved great grandmother gave to me on my eleventh birthday. How we sat, side by side, before the great, open window of her apartment and labelled each book with gold-rimmed tabs.
My life symbol is my violin.
The thing about manna and quail is that is not a one-time gift. Yes, God's salvation------his body as the Bread of Life----covers us once and always. But the smaller, still significant Holy Ground moments are altared with daily bread that is warm and fresh. The Israelites did not have to savour one roll for all seasons, but believe and receive the new manna given to them through their wilderness years.
What life symbols are you clinging to, expecting them to last? Do you not trust that God is bringing
you something equally nourishing in the new? Be that it may or may not look the same as the Holy Ground moment before, it is good.
Treasure the memories of Holy Ground with God and let each one serve as a reminder that the one who sourced bread is the Daily Bread revealing himself to you.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
--- 1 John 4:4