Benefiting From “the Grain of Heaven”
SHORTLY after their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites displayed a serious lack of faith in their Deliverer, Jehovah. As a result, Jehovah had them wander about in the wilderness of Sinai for 40 years. During all that time, the Israelites and the “vast mixed company” of aliens who joined them ate and drank “to satisfaction.” (Exodus 12:37, 38) Psalm 78:23-25 tells us how this was possible: “He [Jehovah] proceeded to command the cloudy skies above, and he opened the very doors of heaven. And he kept raining upon them manna to eat, and the grain of heaven he gave to them. Men ate the very bread of powerful ones; provisions he sent them to satisfaction.”
As a partaker of the manna, Moses described this unique food. He wrote that in the morning, after “the layer of dew evaporated . . . , upon the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flaky thing, fine like hoarfrost upon the earth. When the sons of Israel got to see it, they began to say to one another: ‘What is it?’” or literally in Hebrew, “man huʼ?” This expression was probably the origin of the word “manna,” the name that the Israelites gave the food. Moses said: “It was white like coriander seed, and its taste was like that of flat cakes with honey.”—Exodus 16:13-15, 31, footnote.
The manna was not a naturally occurring food, as some argue. A supernatural force was involved in its provision. For example, its availability was not limited to location or season. If kept overnight, it bred worms and began to stink; yet, the double portion that each family gathered on the day before the weekly Sabbath did not spoil overnight, so it could be eaten on the Sabbath—the day on which no manna appeared. Certainly, the manna was a miraculous provision.—Exodus 16:19-30.
The mention of “powerful ones,” or “angels,” in Psalm 78 suggests that Jehovah may have used angels to provide the manna. (Psalm 78:25, footnote) Whatever the case, the people had every reason to thank God for his kindness. However, most showed an ungrateful attitude toward the very One who delivered them from slavery in Egypt. We too may take Jehovah’s provisions for granted or even become ungrateful if we fail to meditate on his loving-kindness. So we can be thankful that Jehovah included the record of Israel’s deliverance and subsequent events for “our instruction.”—Romans 15:4.
A Lesson for Israel Benefits Christians
When Jehovah provided the manna, he had more in mind than simply satisfying the physical needs of some three million Israelites. He wanted ‘to humble them and put them to the test’ so as to refine and discipline them for their own benefit. (Deuteronomy 8:16; Isaiah 48:17) If they responded to that refining and discipline, Jehovah would delight in ‘doing them good in their afterdays’ by granting them peace, prosperity, and happiness in the Promised Land.
One vital thing that they needed to learn was that “not by bread alone does man live but by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth does man live.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) Had God not commanded the manna, the people would have starved—a fact they readily admitted. (Exodus 16:3, 4) Appreciative Israelites were daily reminded of their total dependence on Jehovah and were therefore humbled. Once in the Promised Land with its material abundance, they would be less likely to forget Jehovah and their dependence on him.
Like the Israelites, Christians must remain conscious of their dependence on God for life’s necessities—physical and spiritual. (Matthew 5:3; 6:31-33) In answer to one of the Devil’s temptations, Jesus Christ quoted the words of Moses as found at Deuteronomy 8:3, saying: “It is written, ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.’” (Matthew 4:4) Yes, true worshipers of God are nourished by reading Jehovah’s expressions found in his Word. Additionally, their faith is strengthened when they experience the beneficial effects of these expressions in their lives as they walk with God and put his Kingdom interests in first place.
Imperfect humans can lose their appreciation for things that become a routine part of life—even if these things are a reflection of Jehovah’s loving concern. For example, the supernatural provision of manna both astonished and gratified the Israelites at the start, but in time many of them complained. “Our soul has come to abhor the contemptible bread,” they moaned disrespectfully—an indication that they were beginning to ‘draw away from the living God.’ (Numbers 11:6; 21:5; Hebrews 3:12) Their example, therefore, serves as “a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Corinthians 10:11.
How can we take to heart this warning example? One way is by never allowing Bible teachings or the provisions we receive through the faithful and discreet slave class to become ordinary, or commonplace. (Matthew 24:45) Once we start to take Jehovah’s gifts for granted or become bored with them, our relationship with him begins to cool off.
For good reason, Jehovah does not flood us with a constant downpour of exciting new things. Rather, he sheds increased light on his Word gradually, progressively. (Proverbs 4:18) This allows his people to assimilate and put into practice the things they learn. Jesus followed his Father’s example when teaching his early disciples. He explained God’s Word to them “as far as they were able to listen,” or “understand,” as some translations put it.—Mark 4:33; compare John 16:12.
Fortify Your Appreciation for God’s Provisions
Jesus also employed repetition. The mind, of course, may readily comprehend a certain point—a Bible principle, for example—but taking it to heart and making it a part of the Christian “new personality” may take a little longer, especially if old worldly ways and attitudes are deeply entrenched. (Ephesians 4:22-24) That certainly was the case with Jesus’ disciples when it came to overcoming pride and developing humility. Jesus had to teach them about humility on a number of occasions, each time presenting the same basic point from a different angle so that it would sink in, which it eventually did.—Matthew 18:1-4; 23:11, 12; Luke 14:7-11; John 13:5, 12-17.
In modern times, Christian meetings and Watch Tower publications follow Jesus’ example in the well-thought-out use of repetition. So let us appreciate this as an expression of God’s loving concern for us and never become weary of what we receive, as the Israelites wearied of the manna. Indeed, as we patiently apply ourselves to absorbing Jehovah’s regular reminders, we will see fine fruitage in our lives. (2 Peter 3:1) Such an appreciative attitude truly shows that we are “getting the sense” of God’s Word in our hearts as well as in our minds. (Matthew 13:15, 19, 23) To that end, we have a fine example in the psalmist David, who, although not having the variety of spiritual food that we receive today, described Jehovah’s laws as “sweeter than honey and the flowing honey of the combs”!—Psalm 19:10.
“Manna” That Gives Everlasting Life
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus said to the Jews. “Your forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness and yet died. . . . I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever . . . The bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51) Literal bread or manna did not and cannot give everlasting life. But those who exercise faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice will eventually enjoy the blessing of everlasting life.—Matthew 20:28.
The majority of those who benefit from Jesus’ ransom will enjoy everlasting life on a paradise earth. “A great crowd” of these—prefigured by the “vast mixed company” of aliens who joined the Israelites in their Exodus from Egypt—will survive the coming “great tribulation” that will rid the earth of all wickedness. (Revelation 7:9, 10, 14; Exodus 12:38) An even greater reward is enjoyed by those whom the Israelites themselves foreshadowed. The apostle Paul described these ones, numbering 144,000, as constituting the spiritual Israel of God. Their reward at death is a resurrection to life in heaven. (Galatians 6:16; Hebrews 3:1; Revelation 14:1) There Jesus will give them a special kind of manna.
The Meaning of “the Hidden Manna”
“To him that conquers I will give some of the hidden manna,” said the resurrected Jesus to spiritual Israel. (Revelation 2:17) This symbolic hidden manna calls to mind the manna that God commanded Moses to keep in a golden jar inside the sacred ark of the covenant. The Ark was kept in the Most Holy compartment of the tabernacle. There it remained out of sight, hidden as it were. Kept as a memorial, this sample of manna did not perish while it remained in the Ark, so it would be an apt symbol of an imperishable food supply. (Exodus 16:32; Hebrews 9:3, 4, 23, 24) In giving the 144,000 the hidden manna, Jesus guarantees their receiving immortality and incorruptibility as spirit sons of God.—John 6:51; 1 Corinthians 15:54.
“With you [Jehovah] is the source of life,” said the psalmist. (Psalm 36:9) How well the provision of manna—both literal and symbolic—reaffirms that fundamental truth! The manna God gave to ancient Israel, the figurative manna he provided in the form of Jesus’ flesh given in our behalf, and the symbolic hidden manna he gives through Jesus to the 144,000 remind all of us of our total dependence on God for life. (Psalm 39:5, 7) Let us humbly, modestly, and regularly acknowledge this dependence. In turn, Jehovah will ‘do us good in our afterdays.’—Deuteronomy 8:16.
[Pictures on page 26]
To gain everlasting life, all humans are dependent on “the living bread that came down from heaven”
[Picture on page 28]
Attendance at all Christian meetings reflects our appreciation for Jehovah’s reminders