I have never once wondered where my next meal was coming from. I don’t know what it’s like to go to bed at night, not knowing if I’m going to eat the next day. If you’re reading this blog, you probably share my experience. Sadly, for many people today – both here in the US and around the world – food and water are scarce resources.
I can’t even imagine the anxiety that comes with that kind of uncertainty…but people in Jesus’ day would’ve felt it! They had to grow and harvest their own food. They were dependent on rain, fruitful harvests, and daily scavenging to eat. It is no wonder then that when Jesus was teaching His disciples how to pray, food came up. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus tells us to ask God to “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). For us to fully understand what Jesus is talking about, we have to look to the story that He is referencing. Let’s go all the way back to the Exodus.
It may have been some time since you’ve read Exodus (Or watched The Prince of Egypt). In the book of Exodus, the nation of Israel has been stuck as slaves in the land of Egypt for 400 years. The Hebrews cry out to God to rescue them from their persecution, and God answers. God hears the cries of His people and rescues them from their slavery. After sending ten plagues against Egypt and bringing Israel through the Red Sea, God brings them out into the wilderness of Sinai – one of the driest places in the Middle East.
Once the people get into the wilderness, they begin to complain. The people say to Moses, “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” (Exodus 16:3). WHAT!?! They are saying that they would rather be enslaved (or dead!) than in the wilderness without food.
God answers their cries by giving them manna. Manna was bread that would rain from heaven during the night. When the Hebrews woke up in the morning, there would be bread on the ground to collect. They were instructed by God to pick up only what they needed for that day. Any extra food that they collected would rot overnight (Exodus 16:20). Deuteronomy tells us that God fed them with manna for 40 years, while they were wandering in the wilderness. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).
What is going on? What is the point? Why didn’t God just give them refrigerators with food ready to go?
I think God is teaching the people something really important about how He wants to be treated. God desires for us to come to Him for our daily needs. God does not want to be treated like a distant relative that you only see at family gatherings (like Easter and Christmas). God wants to be sought after every day.
In the wilderness God was showing Israel what it looked like to trust Him every day. Those who didn’t go out to seek the bread would not eat, and those who stored up too much would not be satisfied. God provided what they needed in the wilderness day by day. He was their daily bread.
Jesus says that when we pray to God we should ask Him for that which will sustain us today. Man, that challenges my heart. I am a planner by nature. I like to have things figured out. I feel really comfortable having more money in my bank account, and a lot of food in my pantry. Yet, God doesn’t want us to treat Him like a fridge. He wants us to experience Him like manna.
Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). We can misunderstand what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is not saying that He is bread, which you eat once and never need or hunger after again. Rather, He is the source of the bread. You will never have to look elsewhere for food again. Jesus is the new manna. The new food from heaven that truly satisfies.
God provided real food for His people in the wilderness; He wants us to seek Him with our real, basic, daily needs. God also wants us to be spiritually satisfied in Him. We are just as desperately in need of God and His grace today, as we were on the first day that He saved us from our sins.
No matter where you are in life – in the dry wilderness or the Promised Land – Jesus wants to provide for you. The question is: Are we going to be people who daily seek sustenance from Jesus or from ourselves? This I know, the bread that Jesus provides is better than any temporary fulfillment I can conjure up on my own.