There are some days when I feel my energy is fully spent by 8 am, days when the tasks presented to me feel far too great for the strength I have in reserve. On days like this, I’m slowly learning to repeat to myself this little phrase: ‘there’s enough manna for today’.
Ed Welch is one of many who’ve drawn a wonderful parallel between God’s gift of manna to the people of Israel and his provision of daily grace for us as believers in Christ. Grace for each new day is the New Testament equivalent of manna for God’s people.
The more I think through this picture, the more I find it’s enriching my appreciation of how God’s daily provision of grace for us works. Consider for a moment the position of God’s people when they first received manna.
In Exodus 16 having just been set free from slavery in Egypt, the people of Israel find themselves in the wilderness. They’ve seen God do astounding things to achieve their freedom. They’ve watched as their pursuing enemies were swallowed by the Red Sea and now they stand as a liberated nation, able at last to experience freedom after 400 years of tyranny. But on the brink of the journey to their promised home, their immediate attention becomes consumed by the needs of the day ahead.
They’re exhausted. They’ve just fled for their lives taking with them only what they can carry. So now with aching backs and bloodshot eyes they survey their new surroundings. They’re in a wilderness, it’s barren. How on earth will they survive here?
With rumbling bellies they grumble to Moses about their circumstances.
“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.” (Exodus 16:3)
Forgetting all that God had recently accomplished for them, their attention is focused entirely on the needs of the day before them. ‘We’ve got nothing to eat’, they say, ‘where’s God’s goodness now?’
In undeserved grace God responds to his peoples moaning with these words to Moses;
You may be familiar with the story. For each new day that dawns in the wilderness, with the exception only of the Sabbath – every day – for 40 long years, God gives his people manna in the morning.
This is God enacting a prelude to AmazonFresh. Fresh bread, on the doorstep, every single morning. Imagine what it must have been like to slowly get used to this daily provision. The absence of any other source of food would certainly have made me anxious. The cupboards are empty and a whole nation needs feeding. As each new day dawns the people wake, and the same anxious questions rise in their hearts: ‘what if God forgets us this morning? Will there be enough for everyone? We’ve moved on since yesterday, what if God isn’t tracking us?’
How many mornings of opening the tent flap with an anxious heart do you think it would have taken you and me before we trusted in God’s faithfulness to give us the manna we needed?
This story paints vivid pictures for us of the way God fosters his children’s faith.
As we consider the parallel between God’s gift of manna and New Testament grace, there are three hallmarks of manna that have really fed my appreciation of God’s provision for us as believers in Christ.
1) God gives us manna exactly where we are
The Israelites weren’t stationary, they wandered the wilderness for 40 years, and yet every day, God knew the exact location of his people and gave them manna right there. He gave them precisely enough to meet the needs for the day ahead. This is a tailored provision. God knows where you are today, he knows the season you’re in, the circumstances you’re facing. He knows what you need, and he gives grace generously to those who ask.
2) God gives us manna exactly when we need it
Did you notice how the Israelites aren’t given an enormous pile of manna upfront to see them through the hardships of their 40 years of wandering? God doesn’t give it in advance because he knows that if he did, we’d forget our need of him. Instead, he provides for us in a way which gradually grows our faith. Knowing our fickle hearts, God chooses to give his people exactly what they need for that day. It’s an exercise in daily dependence, a provision which builds our trust and helps us walk in his ways. He gives us what we need for what we’re currently facing and, on the basis of his good character and past faithfulness, asks us to trust him for all we need for tomorrow.
3) God gives us manna until we reach the promised land
Every single day of their journey God provided the Israelites with all the manna they needed for the tasks they faced. Only when they reached the promised land, only then did the manna stop, and this temporary means of grace was replaced by full-fledged feasting as God’s people rested in God’s place. We don’t know the span of our lives, we’re not meant to. God has designed us to live as dependent creatures, creatures who live their lives with their eyes fixed on their journey’s end. One day our faith will be turned to sight and famished hearts will know the fullness of living with him face to face.
So, what about today? How exactly do we get this manna for the day ahead? Jesus tells us explicitly in John 6.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
It’s Christ who is our manna now, he’s the source of grace and life we need for today.
So as the demands of the day press in, hear Christ say to you: ‘it’s me you need’.
Come to him, speak to him, ask for his help and strength. He won’t prove insufficient, he’s given us his very self and he lacks nothing. So whatever the day brings, if Christ lives within us we can confidently say, ‘there’s enough manna for today’.