The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6
Most Judeo-Christian believers know the story of the manna and the quail. While the Israelites were wandering in the desert for 40 years, nourishment was scarce. Conditions made it impossible for them to cultivate anything for themselves. God, in order to prove to them that he sees and sustains, fed them every morning with a miraculous wafer-like substance they called “manna.” The whole thing exhibited His limitless power over nature, all while repetitively nourishing them.
And in just a few paragraphs, they are over it. This wasn’t a quiet objection, either. It was a complete uproar: “Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents.” Wailing. “We never see anything but this manna!” Paraphrased, they thought: miracle or not, this food is so boring and monotonous that we would rather regress.
This story has always stumped me! They had come out of Egypt via spectacular, supernatural, showstopping miracles. On top of that, God performed a DAILY feeding miracle for them. And here they are objecting? His sustenance was delivered to them without a drop of individual or collective effort, and they are not impressed at all. This is preposterous!
What a picture of humanity. What a picture of me.
The physical story of the manna represents a spiritual reality. Manna each morning sounds familiar… sounds like our daily bread, from the bread of life, Christ, who taught that man does not live on bread alone but from every word that comes from the mouth of God. In a great mystery, He himself is the Word become flesh. Christ even calls himself the Manna.
HERE IS WHERE I AM THE ISRAELITE.
When I wake up in the morning, I look at my Bible and my prayer journal and think, “Meh. Blah. This again? I know all about it. The Word, your love, and the security of salvation? Bo-ring. Yawn. You know what would be interesting? Fixing the thing. Getting me out of this dang desert even if it means going backwards. I am totally fine with backwards in this case.
I have been in a dreadfully long season of pain and disappointment in a certain area.* Emotional desert. I have years of built-up head knowledge to rationalize every emotion that I experience in this wilderness…but all the knowledge and striving in the world doesn’t extinguish even one drop of the heartache.
I know everything I need to know to overcome all of this. I know God works everything for the good for those whom he has called. I know he uses the pain to shape us into His creation. I know He will be faithful to complete his good work in me. I know that in this world we will have trouble, and that these fiery trials come to prove our faith to be genuine.
I know all these things; I have the manna in my hand. But I crave other things…glory, prosperity, significance…elusive stuff I had in the past and stuff I see all the other people enjoying. I have to move through my day in these disappointing circumstances…and THAT’S IT. No change in events. New day, same feelings, same Lord.
This manna is boring! I want more. I want the thing.
The Israelites decided they were bored with the manna, but they could not have gone long without eating it. Even though it was boring, it physically sustained them so they ate it anyway. In my own desert, I can willingly go for ages without taking my daily bread portion, but at what cost to my spiritual health?
There is a sermon in that. Eat it anyway.
So, this is an impasse. What do we do with this? What do I do with this same ol manna?
Humble yourself. Who the heck do I think I am? Look at the words spoken to Job: Brace yourself. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Does the shorebreak of the ocean obey you? Can you trace the path of light all the way back to its source? You wouldn’t dream of approaching the nest of a simple cobra in the wild—but you sure seem to have enough courage to question its Maker. Do you think you are going to get out of the consequences of living in a sin-shattered world?
Bad things happen. Yes, even to you. Not exactly a devotional Sarah Young would include in Jesus Calling, yet helpful to maintain correct perspective on dreadful circumstances.
Acceptance. Acceptance isn’t natural. It’s equated with quitting/giving up, but it’s not. Americans in particular have a hard time with the concept of “there is nothing we can do about this.” Acceptance is hard, it’s a personal journey, and some arrive sooner than others. Still, try. Go through the motions of saying you accept it. Be willing to say, “I can’t fix this, but HE can. I am willing to step out of the way and let Him work.” Improved feelings will eventually arrive.
Ask this question: If Jesus comes back tomorrow, does any of this matter? We are so bad about living in the future, and getting so bummed out about that notional hypothetical possibility. (I am 100% stuck on this right now.) Let’s keep our head down and eyes on today. Is His bread of love and salvation enough for you if the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow? If He comes back tomorrow, His bread feels a lot more significant and valuable right now.
ID what is not boring, and thank Him for it, because all those things are from Him too. They are part of the daily bread. This goes back to mindful thankfulness, healthy distractions, exercising your creativity, and the myriad of other things that He puts in front of us day after day.
Then abide. Eat it anyway. Sometimes the Word is exhilarating and we come away supernaturally recharged. Other times we open and close it with no change in feelings…but it never goes down without taking root. Lysa TerKeurst said it best just this week: Scripture, like rain, brings us immediate nourishment and refreshment for our present circumstances (Psalm 19:7-10), but it also plants seeds to sustain us in the future (Isaiah 55:10).
It is okay to admit the manna is boring, we are human. But just because something is boring, doesn’t make it irrelevant. Just like bread, we can’t go long without it. Take and eat.