Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Exodus 32:1). Egypt now lay at a little distance. The supplies of the Israelites were failing them. God lets the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil run out (1 Kings 17:12), before interposing with his help. Thus he tries what manner of spirit we are of. Our extremity is his opportunity. Consider here -
I. THE PEOPLE'S MURMURINGS (ver. 2). These are brought into strong relief in the course of the narrative. "The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured" (ver. 2). "He heareth your murmurings against the Lord, and what are we that ye murmur against us?" (ver. 7). "The Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him, and what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord" (ver. 8). "He hath heard your murmurings" (ver. 9). "I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel" (ver. 12).
1. They murmured, and did not pray. They seem to have left that to Moses (cf. Exodus 14:15). Remembering what Jehovah had already done for them - the proofs he had already given them of his goodness and faithfulness - we might have thought that prayer would have been their first resource. But they do not avail themselves of it. They do not even raise the empty cries of Exodus 14:10. It is a wholly unsubmissive and distrustful spirit which wreaks its unreasonableness on Moses and Aaron in the words, "Ye have brought us forth into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (ver. 3). We who blame them, however, have only to observe our own hearts to see how often we are in the same condemnation. (See Hamilton's "Moses," Lect. 14. - "Murmurs.") It is ever easier, in times of difficulty, to murmur than to pray. Yet how much better for ourselves, as well as more dutiful to God, could we learn the lesson of coming with every trouble to the throne of grace.
"But with my God I leave my cause; 2. Their behaviour affords some interesting illustrations of what the murmuring spirit is. Distinguish this spirit from states of mind which bear a superficial resemblance to it. (1) From the cry of natural distress. When distress comes upon us, we cannot but acutely feel the pain of our situation, and with this is connected the tendency to lament and bewail it. The dictates of the highest piety, indeed, would lead us to imitate David in studying to be still before God. "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth because thou didst it" (Psalm 39:9). Yet listen to this same David's lamentations over Absalom (2 Samuel 18:19). There are few in whom the spirit of resignation is so perfectly formed - in whom religious motives so uniformly and entirely predominate - that a wail of grief never escapes their lips. It would, however, be cruel to describe these purely natural expressions of feeling as "murmurings," though it is to be admitted that an element of murmuring frequently mingles with them. (2) From the expostulations of good men with God, caused by the perplexity and mystery of his dealings with them. Such expostulations, e.g., as those of Moses in Exodus 5:22, 23; or of Job, in several of his speeches (Job 7:11-21; Job 10:1-22, etc.); or of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 20:7). As Augustine says of Moses, "These are not words of contumacy or indignation, but of inquiry and prayer." 3. Even from the desperate speeches of good men, temporarily carried beyond bounds by their sorrow. Job enters this plea for himself - "Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind" (Job 6:26); and we feel at once the justice of it. This was not murmuring. These wild speeches - though not blameless - were but a degree removed from raving. What elements, then, do enter into the murmuring spirit - how is it to be described? (1) At the basis of it there lies distrust and unsubmissiveness. There is distrust of God's goodness and power, and want of submission to his will in the situation in which he has placed us. The opposite spirit is exemplified in Christ, in his first temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). (2) Connected with this, there is forgetfulness of, and ingratitude for, benefits formerly received. This is very conspicuous in the case of these Israelites (ver. 3). (3) The characteristic feature of this spirit is the entertaining of injurious thoughts of God - the attempt to put God in the wrong by fastening on him the imputation of dealing harshly and injuriously with us. The murmuring spirit keeps the eye bent on self, and on self's fancied wrongs, and labours hard to make out a case of ill treatment. Its tone is complaining. It would arraign the Eternal at its puny bar, and convict him of injustice. It is narrow, self-pitying, egoistic. (4) It expresses itself in accusations and reproaches. The mental point of view already indicated prepares the way for these, and leads to them being passed off as righteous charges. God is charged foolishly (Job 1:22). (5) It is prone to exaggeration. The Israelites can hardly have been as well off in Egypt as they here pretend, though their words (ver. 3) show that their rations in bondage must have been fairly liberal. But the wish to make their present situation look as dark as possible, leads them to magnify the advantages of their former one. They did not think so much of it when they had it. (6) Murmuring against God may not venture to express itself directly, and yet may do so indirectly. The murmuring of the Israelites was of this veiled character. They masked their rebellion against God, and their impeaching of his goodness, by directing their accusations against his servants. It was God against whom they murmured (ver. 7, 8), but they slightly veiled the fact by not mentioning God, but by speaking only of Moses and Aaron. We should remember this, in our contendings with Providence. The persons on whom our murmuring spirit wreaks itself may be secondary agents - the voluntary or involuntary causes of our misfortunes - or even persons in no way directly concerned with our trouble - but be they who they may, if the spirit be bitter and rebellious, it is God, not they, whom we are contending against (cf. Genesis 50:19, 20; 2 Samuel 17:10). II. GOD'S SURPRISING TREATMENT OF THESE MURMURINGS (ver. 4). It is a most astonishing fact that on this occasion there is not, on God's part, a single severe word of reproof of the people's murmurings, far less any punishment of them for it. It could not at this time be said - "Some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (1 Corinthians 10:10). The appearance of the glory in the cloud warned and abashed, but did not injure them (ver. 10). The reason was not that God did not hear their murmuring, nor yet that he mistook its import, as directed ostensibly, not against him, but against Moses and Aaron. The Searcher of Hearts knows well when our murmurings are against Him (vers. 7, 8). But, 1. He pitied them. They were really in great need. He looked to their need, more than to their murmurings. In his great compassion, knowing their dire distress, he treated their murmurings almost as if they were prayers - gave them what they should have asked. The Father in this way anticipated the Son (Matthew 15:32). 2. He was forbearing with them in the beginning of their way. God was not weakly indulgent. At a later time, when the people had been longer under training, they were severely punished for similar offences (cf. Numbers 21:5); but in the preliminary stages of this wilderness education, God made large and merciful allowances for them. Neither here, nor at the Red Sea, nor later, at Rephidim, when they openly "tempted" him (ch. 17:1-8), do we read of God so much as chiding them for their wayward doings: he bore with them, like a father bearing with his children. He knew how ignorant they were; how much infirmity there was about them; how novel and trying were the situations in which he was placing them; and he mercifully gave them time to improve by his teaching. Surely a God who acts in this way is not to be called "an hard master." Instead of sternly punishing their murmurings, he took their need as a starting-point, and sought to educate them out of the murmuring disposition. 3. He purposed to prove them. He would fully supply their wants, and so give them an opportunity of showing whether their murmuring was a result of mere infirmity - or was connected with a deeply ingrained spirit of disobedience. When perversity began to show itself, he did not spare reproof (ver. 28). - J.O.
2. Their behaviour affords some interesting illustrations of what the murmuring spirit is. Distinguish this spirit from states of mind which bear a superficial resemblance to it.
(1) From the cry of natural distress. When distress comes upon us, we cannot but acutely feel the pain of our situation, and with this is connected the tendency to lament and bewail it. The dictates of the highest piety, indeed, would lead us to imitate David in studying to be still before God. "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth because thou didst it" (Psalm 39:9). Yet listen to this same David's lamentations over Absalom (2 Samuel 18:19). There are few in whom the spirit of resignation is so perfectly formed - in whom religious motives so uniformly and entirely predominate - that a wail of grief never escapes their lips. It would, however, be cruel to describe these purely natural expressions of feeling as "murmurings," though it is to be admitted that an element of murmuring frequently mingles with them.
(2) From the expostulations of good men with God, caused by the perplexity and mystery of his dealings with them. Such expostulations, e.g., as those of Moses in Exodus 5:22, 23; or of Job, in several of his speeches (Job 7:11-21; Job 10:1-22, etc.); or of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 4:10; Jeremiah 20:7). As Augustine says of Moses, "These are not words of contumacy or indignation, but of inquiry and prayer."
3. Even from the desperate speeches of good men, temporarily carried beyond bounds by their sorrow. Job enters this plea for himself - "Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind" (Job 6:26); and we feel at once the justice of it. This was not murmuring. These wild speeches - though not blameless - were but a degree removed from raving. What elements, then, do enter into the murmuring spirit - how is it to be described?
(1) At the basis of it there lies distrust and unsubmissiveness. There is distrust of God's goodness and power, and want of submission to his will in the situation in which he has placed us. The opposite spirit is exemplified in Christ, in his first temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3).
(2) Connected with this, there is forgetfulness of, and ingratitude for, benefits formerly received. This is very conspicuous in the case of these Israelites (ver. 3).
(3) The characteristic feature of this spirit is the entertaining of injurious thoughts of God - the attempt to put God in the wrong by fastening on him the imputation of dealing harshly and injuriously with us. The murmuring spirit keeps the eye bent on self, and on self's fancied wrongs, and labours hard to make out a case of ill treatment. Its tone is complaining. It would arraign the Eternal at its puny bar, and convict him of injustice. It is narrow, self-pitying, egoistic.
(4) It expresses itself in accusations and reproaches. The mental point of view already indicated prepares the way for these, and leads to them being passed off as righteous charges. God is charged foolishly (Job 1:22).
(5) It is prone to exaggeration. The Israelites can hardly have been as well off in Egypt as they here pretend, though their words (ver. 3) show that their rations in bondage must have been fairly liberal. But the wish to make their present situation look as dark as possible, leads them to magnify the advantages of their former one. They did not think so much of it when they had it.
(6) Murmuring against God may not venture to express itself directly, and yet may do so indirectly. The murmuring of the Israelites was of this veiled character. They masked their rebellion against God, and their impeaching of his goodness, by directing their accusations against his servants. It was God against whom they murmured (ver. 7, 8), but they slightly veiled the fact by not mentioning God, but by speaking only of Moses and Aaron. We should remember this, in our contendings with Providence. The persons on whom our murmuring spirit wreaks itself may be secondary agents - the voluntary or involuntary causes of our misfortunes - or even persons in no way directly concerned with our trouble - but be they who they may, if the spirit be bitter and rebellious, it is God, not they, whom we are contending against (cf. Genesis 50:19, 20; 2 Samuel 17:10).
II. GOD'S SURPRISING TREATMENT OF THESE MURMURINGS (ver. 4). It is a most astonishing fact that on this occasion there is not, on God's part, a single severe word of reproof of the people's murmurings, far less any punishment of them for it. It could not at this time be said - "Some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (1 Corinthians 10:10). The appearance of the glory in the cloud warned and abashed, but did not injure them (ver. 10). The reason was not that God did not hear their murmuring, nor yet that he mistook its import, as directed ostensibly, not against him, but against Moses and Aaron. The Searcher of Hearts knows well when our murmurings are against Him (vers. 7, 8). But,
1. He pitied them. They were really in great need. He looked to their need, more than to their murmurings. In his great compassion, knowing their dire distress, he treated their murmurings almost as if they were prayers - gave them what they should have asked. The Father in this way anticipated the Son (Matthew 15:32).
2. He was forbearing with them in the beginning of their way. God was not weakly indulgent. At a later time, when the people had been longer under training, they were severely punished for similar offences (cf. Numbers 21:5); but in the preliminary stages of this wilderness education, God made large and merciful allowances for them. Neither here, nor at the Red Sea, nor later, at Rephidim, when they openly "tempted" him (ch. 17:1-8), do we read of God so much as chiding them for their wayward doings: he bore with them, like a father bearing with his children. He knew how ignorant they were; how much infirmity there was about them; how novel and trying were the situations in which he was placing them; and he mercifully gave them time to improve by his teaching. Surely a God who acts in this way is not to be called "an hard master." Instead of sternly punishing their murmurings, he took their need as a starting-point, and sought to educate them out of the murmuring disposition.
3. He purposed to prove them. He would fully supply their wants, and so give them an opportunity of showing whether their murmuring was a result of mere infirmity - or was connected with a deeply ingrained spirit of disobedience. When perversity began to show itself, he did not spare reproof (ver. 28). - J.O.
Exodus 16Exodus 16:15). Introduction: - Trace the journey from Elim to the sea (Numbers 33:10); and thence to the wilderness of Sin; and give a thoroughly good exegetical exposition of the facts of the manna story. It would be well also to show the supernatural character of the manna; and, at the same time, that the manna supernatural was not unlike (and yet unlike also) the manna natural of the desert of to-day; that God, in a word, did not give the food of either Greenland or Australia in the Arabian wilderness. The spiritual lessons of the miracle move on two levels, one higher than the other. There is a body, and a soul: food for the one, and for the other. There are then in the manna story truths concerning Divine providence, and also touching Divine grace. Hence two homilies on the manna. This on the manna of providence.
I. BODILY NEED IS AN APPEAL TO GOD. Before Israel articulately prayed, its need cried: so now with twelve hundred millions of men. No man "gets his own living," but God gives it. Imagine one famine round the world, and every living thing would become dumb and dead. The world's need is one majestic monotone of prayer.
II. THE ANSWER IS FULL AND FREE. No stint in that desert - no stint now. A picture of the fulness with which God ever gives bread. There has never been such an event as universal famine. Psalm 104:21-28.
III. THERE IS MYSTERY IN THE ANSWER. Note the question of the text, and the wonder of the people, which was never relieved through all the forty years. So with bread to-day. A great mystery! A common thing to common minds; and perhaps to uncommon minds, that would like, as scientists, to bow all mystery out of the universe. But as there was mystery in the manna, so is there in every grain of corn. No scientist could produce one, were he to try for fifty years. Why? Because the secret of life is a secret of God; and the creation of organization lies in his own power alone.
IV. THE BLAME OF WANT IS NOT WITH GOD. The question arises: if God hears the moaning of the world's need, and gives answer, why is there so much want? Murmuring against Moses and Aaron, Israel murmured against the Lord; so we, grumbling against secondary causes, may be arraigning the First Cause. But the blame lies not there. Political economy might give answer to the question: - Why want? But behind its answers lie deeper causes - all summed up in the one word sin - not only the folly and sin (improvidence, drunkenness, etc. etc.) of the individual, but of all the ages, that is to say, self-centredness (the root principle of sin), forming and solidifying customs and institutions, which have for their effect the oppression and privation of millions. The instances are numberless.
V. But if all the heritage of sin were to disappear, MAN MUST WORK. Israel must gather manna. Here enforce, not only the dignity of work, but the Christian duty thereof. The idle, whether in high life or low, are the dangerous classes. If exempted from toil for bread, all the more obligation to labour for the good of man to the glory of God.
VI. YET - THERE MUST BE SABBATH.
VII. A HINT AGAINST MERE HOARDING. Distinguish between extravagance, a duo providence, and hoarding after a miserly fashion. The via media here, as elsewhere, the right ethical path.
VIII. The manna story gives us THE TRUE THEORY OF LIFE. See the view of Moses as to the purpose of the manna, in the light of experience, after the lapse of forty years, in Deuteronomy 8:3. (comp. Matthew 4:4). Man is to live, not for that which is lowest in him, but for that which is highest. Life is to be DEPENDENCE UPON GOD; 1. - For leading. 2: - For support. This was the object of the giving of the manna. - R.
Exodus 16John 6:51. Having given the manna story, discussed the miracle, and given the lessons bearing on our providential path, we now go up to the higher level, and listen to the truths taught in relation to the kingdom of God's grace. These gather round the central truth - that the Lord Jesus Christ is the nutriment of the soul. For that truth we have his own supreme authority. [See the full discourse from his own lips on the manna, in John 6.] Avoid small typologies - small every way - e.g., that the roundness of the manna stands for Christ's eternity; its whiteness for his purity; its sweetness for the preciousness of Christ. When men would estimate the majesty of a mountain they play not with the pebbles at its feet.
I. THE OBJECT OF GOD IN THE GIFT OF THE HEAVENLY MANNA. Why Christ? Long before Israel cried, the Father saw the coming distress; and resolved to give the manna to meet it. So with Christ. Christ was given for atonement, and to bring from under the cloud of condemnation; but also for other reasons beyond, to give life and strength to the moral and spiritual man. There is a rich provision in the world for the body and for the mind [describe]; but there is something higher in man - the spiritual - not only a ψυχή, but a πνεῦμα - for which provision must be made.
II. THE FAMINE OF THE SOUL WITHOUT CHRIST. Very difficult to imagine a world without bread; more to suppose a world without Christ. His name, his history, his death, his reign, his presence, power, and love are implied, and involved always, everywhere, in all the phenomena of life. But endeavour to imagine Christ annihilated - no name of Christ to entwine in the lullaby at the cradle, and so on through every stage and circumstance of life, till the dying moment - no Christ for the guilty, sinning, sorrowing, tempted, etc. etc. What a famine of the soul!
III. THE SUPPLY OF THE SOUL WITH CHRIST. Having seen what the world would be without Christ, see positively what Christ is to the world. The understanding cannot live without objective truth (mere opinion will not suffice); Christ is that truth: nor the heart without a supreme object of love; Christ that object: nor the conscience without authority behind its moral imperative; Christ is that authority: nor the will without a living inward abiding power; and Christ is that power. In very real and intelligible sense, Christ is the manna, bread, nutriment, sustenance, vitality, and power of the believing soul.
IV. THE FULNESS OF THE SUPPLY. All we need certainly in bread, probably in the manna, assuredly in Christ.
V. ITS FREENESS. Men may confuse themselves, and imagine they "get" their own bread. But manna was manifestly the free gift of heaven. So Christ. This the one truth, which it is so difficult for men to receive. See 1 John 5:11, 12; Romans 6:23.
VI. ITS MYSTERY. The name of the desert provision was "Man-Hu?" - "What is it?" Men did not solve the mystery ere they ate. Why should men wait to solve the mystery of Christ's person, office, etc. etc., ere they eat "the living bread"?
VII. ITS NEARNESS. Both the manna and Christ at every man's tent-door.
VIII. ITS APPROPRIATION. Vain that manna for the two millions, if no man went out to gather; so vain the all-sufficiency of Christ, if no man "comes," "believes," appropriates. John 6:35, 37, 40, 47, 57.
IX. ITS EVERY-DAYNESS. NO man can live upon a past experience of the sufficiency of Christ.
X. ITS ORDER. Full and free as the supply of manna was, its appropriation and use were under Divine direction, were according to a certain order. So are there now channels, means, ordinances of grace, which no man can safely neglect.
XI. THE AIM IN MAN'S APPROPRIATION. Not self-indulgence; not merely his own growth. No man an end unto himself. The final end of food is strength, work, good for others. The danger of middle-class evangelicalism is that of making personal salvation the ultimate aim of God's grace. We are saved, that we may save. The end of bread is labour.
XII. The subject carries our thoughts on to THE HIDDEN MANNA. Revelation 2:17. Ñ Christ will be the soul's nutriment in heaven. "Hidden," for there will be in heaven as yet undiscovered glories of Christ the Lord. For the final lesson see John 6:27. - R.
Isaiah 33:16). Before God takes the people to Sinai, he does everything to show that they may confidently depend on him for necessities, however vainly they look for superfluities. Consider -
I. THE STATE OF MIND AMONG THE ISRAELITES WHICH PRECEDED THIS GIFT. It is important to notice that such an ample, gracious and miraculous gift as Jehovah hero bestowed was bestowed on the unthankful and the evil. With many reasons for faith, they were unbelieving; instead of being patient and submissive, considerate towards their leader, and thankful for liberty, they broke out into selfish and unjust complaints. Things were going far otherwise than as they wanted them to go. They have now been a month or more out of Egypt and it is wilderness, wilderness, wilderness still! They have got water, but what is water without bread; and what is bread, unless it be the bread along with the flesh of Egypt? And, letting their minds dwell on these lost delicacies, their discontent breaks out in the most expressive way. Discontent is assuredly at a high pitch in a man's mind, when he begins to talk of death as a thing to be desired. It shows that he has got so reckless and peevish as not to care what he says, what others may think, or who may be hurt by his random talk. The low ideal of life on the part of Israel is here revealed. God has delivered a whole nation, and this is their idea of why he has delivered them. They think a life, from which the flesh pots and the fulness of bread are absent, is not worth living; and such is indeed a very excusable conception of life, if hunger and thirst after righteousness have not become vigorous desires within us. If one is to become a freeman simply to die, then it seems as if one might just as well live a little longer as a slave. Note further how the people try to throw the responsibility of their present position on Moses. It was a consequence of their carnal-mindedness that they could not think of the Jehovah who was behind and above the visible leader. They are where they are because Moses has brought them. Thus they utter an unconscious but weighty and significant testimony to the fact, that they had not come there of their own accord or wandered there in an aimless fashion. But for the mighty power that held them fast together, they might have straggled back to Egypt with its comforts and delights. Strange that with such a rebellious spirit, there should yet be such a measure of outward obedience. Evidently they had invisible constraints all around them, so that they could not help but follow the cloud.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH GOD TREATS THIS STATE OF MIND. As he dealt in supplying the water so he deals in supplying the bread. There was a real and pressing want, and though the people made it the occasion for foolish talk, it was also to be the occasion for immediate Divine supply. God does not let the existence of the unthankful and evil fail, for presently, at Sinai, they will have the chance of learning such things as may lead them into a thankful, trustful and noble spirit; and so he hastens to meet Moses with the cheering promise - cheering in the substance of it, and cheering none the less in the expression - "I will rain bread from heaven."
1. They shall have bread. He does not yet tell Moses what shape the bread will take; but the people shall have something to sustain them, and that something in sufficient quantity.
2. The bread shall be rained from heaven. We do not read that Moses repeated this expression to the Israelites; but it must have been very cheering to himself. The words "rain" and "heaven" were enough to put fresh courage into the man. Then we find too that when the promise came to be fulfilled, these words were not taken in a figurative way. The manna came with the dew, and when the dew disappeared there the manna lay, waiting to be gathered. Hence for the supply of bread the people were to look heavenward; and doubtless Moses himself did so look. In whatsoever part of the wilderness they might be, however sterile and unpromising the earth was below, the same heavens stretched out above them, distilling from their treasuries the daily manna. The contrast is thus very striking between the varying earth and the unchanging, exhaustless heaven; and as to the rain, we may be very sure that when God says, "I will rain," he means a copious and adequate shower. But even in this immediate promise of copious giving Jehovah combines demands with gifts. If there is great grace, there are great expectations. He gives and at the same time he asks. He points out to Moses the manner in which the food was to be gathered. Though given copiously, it was not therefore given carelessly; nor was it to be used carelessly. It was given on certain principles and with certain restrictions, so as to be not only the means of staying hunger but of disciplining Israel at the same time. In eating bread, they were to learn habitual faith and habitual and exact obedience. God is ever showing men how he can make one thing to serve more purposes than one.
III. THE EXPOSTULATIONS OF MOSES AND AARON WITH THE PEOPLE (vers. 6-10). Though it is not expressly said that he spoke thus by Jehovah's instructions, yet these remonstrances evidently accorded with his will. For the people to complain as they (lid was not only an unjust thing to Moses; it was also a perilous thing for themselves. They could not thus vent their spleen on the visible Moses without despising the invisible God. Their insult to their brother man on earth was as nothing compared with their insult to Jehovah on high. And, indeed, we cannot too much consider that all murmuring, when it is brought to its ultimate ground and effects, is a reproach against God. For it is either a complaint because we cannot get our own way, or it is an impeachment of God's way as not being a loving and a wise one. What a different scene life would become, how much more equable, serene and joyous, if we could only take the invisible as well as the visible into all our thoughts. The people felt the lack of bread, the loss of Egypt, the hardships of a life unfamiliar and unprepared for; and Moses could sympathise with all these feelings; although of course, after forty years of shepherd life in Midian, the hardships his brethren complained of were as nothing to him. But at the same time, Moses felt very keenly what many of his brethren did not feel at all, the mysterious presence of God. More and more distinctly would the words now be rising to his mind, "Ye shall serve God upon this mountain" (ch. 3:12); for the cloud was taking the multitude nearer and nearer to Sinai. It is very significant of the feeling in Moses' mind that he dwells on this charge of murmuring, returning to the word again and again. He wanted these people who so felt the pangs of hunger to be equally sensitive to the perils of impiety. Jehovah had heard their reckless speeches as well as Moses; and now, in recognition, he was about to make manifest his glorious presence. The connection of the cloud with himself was to be proved by the appearing of his glory in it. What the people found fault with was that they had been guided wrong: and now the nature of the guidance stands out, distinct, impressive, and full of warning. He who found fault with Moses really found fault with Jehovah. Remember the words of Jesus: "He that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me." (Luke 10:16.) If we presumptuously neglect the apostleship of any one, we have to do with the Being who made him an apostle. Wherefore we should show all diligence to keep murmuring off our lips; and the only effectual way is to keep it out of our hearts by filling them with a continual sense of the presence of God. Instead of murmuring, let there be honest shame because of the selfishness that runs riot in our hearts. God can do everything to make our lives joyous, and banish causes of complaint for ever, if only we will take right and sufficient views of his purposes toward us and his claims upon us.
IV. THE ACTUAL GIVING. Here again we notice the tender and gentle dealings of God. The necessary and permanent supply of bread is preceded by a special and occasional supply of quails. By this gift he, as it were, runs towards Israel to soothe their murmurings. The flesh of Egypt was the thing they missed the most, and it comes first, in the evening; whereas the manna did not come till the next morning. By this supply of the quails God showed an attentiveness to the feelings of the people which should have had the best effect on their minds. They murmured against Moses, forgot Jehovah, and yet Jehovah gave them in reply a delightful feast of quails. So to speak, he was heaping coals of fire on their heads: and we should take special note of this Divine conduct, just in this particular place. It is very natural that as we consider Israel in the wilderness, we should think of God's severity rather than any other feature of his character. The whole tenor of the New Testament - the contrast between the law and the gospel - makes this view inevitable. But as we read the whole of this chapter, and ponder it carefully, how shall we do other than confess "Verily, Jehovah is love"? It is love that leads to Sinai. And assuredly there is not less of love in the thunders, lightnings and terrors of Sinai than in the gift of the quails. The expression is different - that is all. The quails were but a slight, passing thing, bestowed upon Israel much as a toy is bestowed on a child. There is love in the gift of a toy; but there is love also in the discipline and chastisement which soon may follow from the same hand. So there was love in the quails; but there was equal love, stretching out to far deeper results, in the demonstrations of Sinai and the commandments which accompanied them. - Y.
Numbers 11:31-34); but it was the manna which was the principal gift, both as providing Israel with a continuous supply of food, and as having a permanent significance in the history of God's dealings with his Church (vers. 32-35).
I. THE MANNA PROMISED (vers. 4-9).
1. God would rain bread from heaven for them (ver. 4). He would spread a table for them, even in the wilderness, a thing they had deemed impossible (Psalm 78:19). He would give them to eat of "the corn of heaven" (Psalm 68:24). He would thus display himself as Jehovah, - the God of exhaustless resources, - able and willing to supply all their need (cf. Philippians 4:19). He would remove from himself the reproach wherewith they had reproached him, that he had brought them into the wilderness, "to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (ver. 3). He would testify of his loving care for them (cf. Deuteronomy 1:31).
2. The supply would be continuous - "Every day" (ver. 4). The regularity of the supply would be a daily proof of God's faithfulness - another of the Jehovah attributes. We have a similar proof of the Divine faithfulness in the constancy of the laws of nature on which our own supplies of food depend; in particular, in the regular succession of seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, which God has promised to maintain (Genesis 8:22; cf. Psalm 119:89-92).
3. The gift of quails and manna would be a manifestation of his glory as Jehovah (vers. 6, 7; also ver. 12 - "and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God"). His Jehovah character would be revealed in it. Note, in addition to what is said above, the following illustrations of this.
(1) The gift of manna was an act of free origination. Compare with Christ's multiplication of the loaves, brought in John 6. into close association with this miracle.
(2) So far as natural materials were utilised in the production of the manna (dew, etc.), it was shown how absolutely plastic nature was in the hands of its Creator.
(3) The gift of quails was a further testimony to God's supreme rule in nature.
(4) It was a special feature in this transaction that God was seen in it acting solely from himself - finding the law and reason of what he did in himself alone. He interposes with a simple "I will" (ver. 4). It was neither the people's merits nor the people's prayers, which moved him to give the manna. Merits they had none; prayers they did not offer. But God, who brought them out of Egypt, and had bound himself by covenant with their fathers, found a reason in himself for helping them, when he could find none in them (cf. Deuteronomy 9:4, 5). He showed them this kindness for his own name's sake (cf. Psalm 106:8); because he was Jehovah, who changed not (Malachi 3:6).
4. The gift of manna would prove a trial of obedience (ver. 4). God bound himself to send the manna day by day, and this would be a test of his faithfulness. But rules would be prescribed to the people for gathering the manna, and this would be a test of their obedience. God's design in giving the manna was thus not merely to supply the people's natural wants. He would also train them to dependence. He would test their characters. He would endeavour to form them to habits of obedience. A like educative and disciplinary purpose is to be recognised as bound up with all God's leading of us. Gifts are at the same time trusts. They impose duties upon us, and lay us under responsibilities. There are rules to be observed in the use of them which test our inner dispositions. There is a law of temperance in the use of food. There is a law of modesty in dress. There are the laws relating to the acquisition and expenditure of money - honesty in acquisition,, economy in use, liberality in giving (cf. Deuteronomy 15:7-12), devotion of the first fruits of income to God. There is the supreme law, which includes all others - "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). There is no action, no occupation, however seemingly trivial, which has not important relations to the formation of character. "The daily round, the common task," etc.
II. THE PREPARATORY THEOPHANY (vers. 9-13). Moses summoned the people to draw near before the Lord. Then, as they came together, and looked toward the wilderness, lo! "the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud." It is a suggestive circumstance that it is Aaron, who by command of Moses, collects the congregation (ver. 10). Moses, according to his wont, had probably withdrawn to pray (cf. Exodus 14:15). In this, as in other instances, Moses might be taken as an example of secrecy in prayer. His prayers are never paraded. They are even studiously kept in the background - a proof surely of the Mosaic authorship of the book. When they come to light, it is often incidentally (Exodus 14:15). On one notable occasion an intercessory prayer of his was not made known till near the end of his life (Deuteronomy 9:25). We know of his prayers mostly by their results. This appearance of the glory of God to Israel may be viewed: -
1. As a rebuke of the people's murmurings. Unlike the "look" from the pillar of fire with which the Lord discomfited the Egyptians (Exodus 14:24), it was a look with as much mercy as anger in it. Yet it conveyed reproof. It may be compared with the theophany which terminated the dispute between Job and his friends, and caused the patriarch to abhor himself, and to repent in dust and ashes (Job 38:1; Job 42:6); or to the look of sorrow and reproof which the Lord cast on Peter, which caused him to go out, and weep bitterly (Matthew 26:75). How abashed, humbled, and full of fear, those murmurers would now be, as with mouths stopped (Romans 3:19), they beheld that terrible glory forming itself in the cloud, and looking down full upon them!
2. As a fitting introduction to the miracle that was to follow. It gave impressiveness to the announcement - showed indubitably the source of the miraculous supply - roused the minds of the people to a high pitch of expectation - prepared them for something grand and exceptional in the Divine procedure. It thus checked their murmurings, convinced them of their sin in distrusting God, warned them of the danger of further rebellion, and brought them back to their obedience. God's words - "I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel" - at the same time reminded them that he was fully aware of all their "hard speeches" which they had spoken against him.
3. As an anticipation of the revelation of Sinai. These chapters are full of anticipations. In Exodus 15:25, 26, we have "statute and an ordinance," anticipatory of the later Sinaitic covenant; in this chapter, we have an anticipation of Sinai glory and also of the sabbath law (ver. 23); in Exodus 18:16, we have an anticipation of the civil code of Sinai; for Moses makes the people "know the statutes of God, and his laws."
III. THE MANNA GIVEN (vers. 13-16). Quails came in the evening, and next morning the manna fell with the dew. We observe concerning it -
1. That it came in a not unfamiliar form. The "angel's food" (Psalm 78:25), wore the dress, and had the taste of the ordinary manna of the desert. We miss in the miracles of the Bible the grotesque and bizarre features which mark the supernatural stories of other books. They testify to the existence, as well as respect the laws, of an established natural order. The plagues of Egypt, e.g., were thoroughly true to the natural phenomena of that country, and made the largest possible use of existing agencies. The crossing of the Red Sea was accomplished by the supernatural employment of natural conditions and agencies. There is in all these miracles the constant observance of the two laws:
(1) Of economy - utilising the natural so far as it will go; and
(2) of congruity - keeping as closely as possible to the type of the natural, even when originating supernatural phenomena.
2. That it was a direct production of the power of God. It was in the truest sense bread from heaven, and is thus a type of Christ, the Bread of Life (see below). Yet the power exerted in the creation of the manna - and it is important to remember this - is but the same power, only more visibly put forth, which operates still in nature, giving us our yearly supplies of the good things of the earth. The annual harvest is only not a miracle, because it comes regularly, season after season, and because numerous secondary agencies are employed in its production. You plough, that is, break up the ground to receive the seed; but whence came the seed? From last year's gift. You sow it in the fields, cover it up again and leave it - to whose care? To God's. It is he who now takes the matter into his own hands, and in what remains you can but wait upon his will. It rests with him to send his rains or to withhold them; to order the sunshine and heat; to bless or blast your harvest. What man does is but to put matters in train for God's working - God himself does the rest; in the swelling and germination of the seed, in all the stages of its growth, in the formation of the blade, in the modelling of the ear, in the filling of it with the rich ripe grain, his power is absolutely, and all throughout, the only power at work. And how great the gift is when it comes! It is literally God opening his hand and putting into ours the food necessary for our sustenance. But for that gift, year by year renewed, man and beast would utterly perish. It is calculated that a year's pro duce in Great Britain alone amounts in money value to over £160,000,000. The corn crop alone was valued in 1880 at £90,000,000. It is as if God had made a direct gift of that sum of money to our nation in the year named, only it was given in a better than money form - in food. How little we think of it! Men are proud and self-sufficient, and speak sometimes as if they would almost disdain to accept or acknowledge a favour even from the Almighty. While yet, in truth, they are, like others, the veriest pensioners on his bounty, sustained by his power, seeing by his light, warmed by his sun, and fed year by year by the crumbs that fall from his table. Were God for a single year to break the staff of bread over the whole earth, where would either it or they be?
3. That it was given day by day, and with regularity. Thus the manna taught a daily lesson of dependence on God, and so played an important part in the spiritual education of Israel. Yet familiarity must have done much then, as it does still, to deaden the impression of God's hand in the daily gift. Because the manna came to them, not by fits and starts, but regularly; because there was a "law" in its coming - they would get to look on it as quite a common occurrence, no more to be wondered at than the rising and setting of the sun, or any other sequence in nature. "Laws of nature" tend, in precisely the same way, to blind us to the agency of God working behind and in them, as well as to hide from us his agency in the origination of the sequences that now flow so uniformly. We have spoken of God's agency in the production of the harvest. But there is good ground for speaking of our cereal crops as in yet another sense - "bread from heaven." These cereal plants, it is affirmed, are never found in a wild state; cannot by any known process be developed from plants in a wild state; and if once allowed to degenerate, can never again be reclaimed for human food. Not inaptly, therefore, have they been represented as even now a kind of standing miracle - a proof of direct creative interposition for the good of man. (See "The Cerealia: a Standing Miracle," by Professor Harvey, in "Good Words," vol. 2.) Yet how entirely is this retied from us by the fact that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:4).
4. That it was a food entirely suitable to the circumstances of the Israelites. It was light, nutritious, palatable; comprised variety by admitting of being prepared in different ways (baked, seethed, ver. 23; cf. Numbers 11:8); was abundant in quantity, readily distinguishable by the eye, and being of a granulated nature, and strewn thickly throughout all the camp, could be collected with a very moderate expenditure of labour. It was thus, like so much in our own surroundings, and in the provision which God makes for our wants, a constant witness to the care, goodness, wisdom, and forethought of the great Giver. - J.O.
Numbers 11:31-33). Much alike to outward seeming, but not so in the sight of God. (illustration - the ruddy hue of health; the hot flush of passion; the hectic of consumption. All much alike in appearance, yet how different to those who know what they betoken!) Comparing the history of one murmuring with that of another, we can see by God's treatment of each how different must have been the states from which they resulted. Here it is the impatience of ill-instructed children; later on, it has become hostility and rebellion. Consider in this case: -
I. THE SYMPTOMS. Cf. vers. 3. The monotony of the wilderness had had time to tell upon the people; so different from the varied routine of Egypt. Slavery, too, had become, from long use, almost a second nature with many; they had chafed under it, yet, in some sort, they had relied upon its restraint as a support. After the first novelty has passed, unaccustomed freedom is felt to be a weariness. (Illustration: The cripple rejoices to be quit of his supporting irons and crutches, but without them, at first, he soon tires.) Present privation, contrasted with past sufficiency, intensified the misgivings which were sure to come when the new life was fairly entered upon. Freedom wedded to starvation seemed to be but a poor exchange for tyranny. "The people murmured." It was the murmuring of the half-weaned child, the yet weak though enfranchised cripple; it expressed itself in strong language; but the language was stronger than the offence. Under the circumstances murmming was so natural that it did not call for severe censure; it was rather a symptom of imperfect health, suggesting the need of strengthening medicine.
II. THE TREATMENT. God knew what was the matter; His action shows His knowledge. No rebuke, only a promise, which is to be, and is, fulfilled immediately. (Illustration: The doctor does not take offence at the irritability of the convalescent; says, "I will send some strengthening medicine," sends it, and relies on the effect.) A table spread in the wilderness; the love of freedom revived and strengthened, nurtured by the longed-for food. What should be the effect of such treatment? It stays murmuring, of course; but, further, it should strengthen against further murmuring. On the other hand, whilst it may, as it ought to do, lead to reliance upon the provider, it may also lead to reliance upon the food provided. (Illustration: One patient, strengthened by medicine, will have more confidence in the doctor. Another, strengthened in like manner, will be always grumbling, whatever the circumstances, if he do not experience like treatment.) Practical lessons. -
1. God treats us all according to our real character and position "How unjust," says one, "that that man should have so much easier a time than I. That my comparatively slight offence should be punished so much more heavily than his, which is far more heinous!" Nay! By What standard do you measure the relative enormity of the offences? God's standard is character and experience; the child's open defiance is less heinous than the man's half-veiled impatience.
2. God's treatment should inspire confidence in Himself. All God's gifts are index fingers saying, "Look off from us to God." Our tendency is to rest upon them and credit them as the causes of the satisfaction they occasion. The same medicine may not be appropriate next time, but the same doctor may be trusted. If we forget the doctor and think only of the medicine, we shall be as irritable and dissatisfied as ever; only by confidence in the Physician himself can we hope to go on "from strength to strength." - G.
I. THE LORD'S FAITHFULNESS.
1. Their varied need was met. Flesh as well as bread was given. God gives us richly all things to enjoy.
2. They came in the order and at the time God said they would come. The evening brought the quails - the morning the manna. Nothing failed of all that he had promised.
3. They were given in abundance. The quails "covered the camp;" of the manna they "had no lack." There is princely bounty with God for all who trust in him. He gives richly, even where he has made no covenant: he fills "men's hearts with food and gladness." How much more then will he bless those whom he has pledged himself to sustain!
II. THE SPIRIT OF THOSE WHO ARE THUS FED FROM GOD'S TABLE.
1. They wait on him. The supply he sends is only for the day, and he is trusted for the days that are to follow. They do not refuse to pass on further upon the wilderness path, because they do not see at the beginning all the needed provision for the way.
2. They obey God's call to toil.
(1) They "gathered" of it every man according to his eating."
(2) They did not miss the opportunity God gave them. "When the sun waxed hot it melted;" and they therefore gathered it "in the morning." Be "not slothful in business."
III. ISRAEL'S FAITHLESSNESS.
1. In attempting to save themselves from the toil which God commanded, they kept the manna for next day's use in defiance of the command to preserve none of it till the morning (Ver. 27).
2. In refusing to rest on the Sabbath. The contradiction and wilfulness of unbelief: it hoards to be able to abstain from toil, and refuses to obey God's command to rest.
3. Public indifference to the existence of sin. These things were done by a few only; but they called forth no public condemnation or holy fear of God's anger. The Christian community which does not mourn the sin abounding in its midst has itself no living trust in God. - U.
John 6:31-34). The connection in John 6. is with the Jews' demand for a sign. The interrogators reminded Christ of how their fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it was written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat! (Psalm 105:40). The design of Jesus in his reply was, first, to wean their hearts away from merely carnal expectations in connection with his appearing, and, secondly, to lead them to see in the gift of manna, as well as in the miracle he had just performed - the feeding of the multitudes - some-thing more than the mere supplying of bodily necessities; - to see in them "signs" (John 6:26 - "Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs," etc. Rev. Ver.) i.e. types, allegories, suggestive earthly symbols, of spiritual realities - of what he was in himself, of the work he came to do, of the relations in which he stood to perishing men. The manna is thus figured as "spiritual meat" (1 Corinthians 10:3), a type of Christ as the living bread for the souls of men. Consider in illustration of this analogy -
I. THE NEED WHICH EXISTED FOR THIS PROVISION. The Israelites were in the desert, where nature, if left to itself, would inevitably perish. Their supplies of food were exhausted. The whole multitude would have died of hunger, had not Divine mercy interposed for their relief. The manna which God gave them literally stood between them and death. In this circumstance we see one feature imaged in which Christ clearly appears as the bread of life. When he uses: this language of himself he means to tell us, that just as these Israelites under Moses absolutely hung for any hope of life they had on that food which was miraculously supplied to them; so does the world hang - hang absolutely - for its life, its salvation, its eternal well-being on him. It needs eternal life. Its heart craves for it. It is perishing for want of it. But if it is ever to get it, Christ says, it must get it through him, through receiving him, through appropriating what he is, and what he has done for it as Saviour.
II. THE SUPERNATURAL CHARACTER OF THE PROVISION. There could be no question as to the supernatural character of the supply in the case of the manna. The Israelites needed to be saved, and God saved them by a miracle. There was, as it were, a distinct opening of heaven for their benefit. The hand that fed them came from the unseen. In like manner, Christ lays emphasis on the fact that he - the bread of life for men - is "bread from heaven." The salvation that embodies itself in him is no salvation of man's devising, nor one which, even had the thought of it entered his mind, man could ever from his own resources have achieved. If the world is to be saved at all, if it is to be delivered from its woes, if it is to have eternal life, Saviour and salvation must come from heaven. Our hope, as of old, is in God, and in God only. It is not for us to provide, but only thankfully to receive, and earnestly to appropriate the salvation. God gives us the bread from heaven; gives it freely; gives it as bread which no efforts of our own, however laborious, could have enabled us to procure; gives it, that is, as a Divine, supernatural bread, the boon of sovereign grace.
III. THE AMPLE ABUNDANCE OF THE PROVISION. The manna was given in abundance. There was neither lack nor stint. The table that was spread in the wilderness was one of royal bounty; as in the later miracle of the loaves, "they did all eat, and were filled" (Matthew 14:20). There was, as in the father's house in the parable, "Enough and to spare" (Luke 15:17), overflowing provision. How significant a fact when the heart is putting to itself the question, Will Christ's death avail for me? He calls himself "the true bread which cometh down from heaven;" and it cannot be but that this feature in the type will be reflected in the antitype. There is provision in Christ for all. He gives his flesh for the life of the world (ver. 51). He is come that men "might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). No stint, no lack, no scarcity in the salvation of Christ.
IV. THE PROVISION NOW, AS THEN, NEEDS TO BE APPROPRIATED. It was nothing to the Israelites that the manna, sparkling like pearls in the morning sunshine, lay all around them; they must gather, they must eat, they must make the "bread from heaven" food for their own life. So with Christ and his salvation. He calls himself "bread," to bring out strongly, not only what he is in himself in relation to human wants, but what men must do with him, if they would partake in the life he comes to give. He must be received, "eaten," inwardly appropriated, fed upon, made part, so to speak, of our very selves; only thus will the new life be begotten in us. This "eating" of Christ is parallel with the "believing" of other verses (vers. 29, 40, 47). Some, remembering this, may be disposed to say, it is only believing. But the use of such a metaphor should rather teach us how real, and inward, and appropriating a principle, this believing on Jesus is. It is clearly no slight, transitory act of mind or heart which is denoted by it, but a most spiritual, most inward, most vital and personal energy of appropriation; a process of reception, digestion, and transformation into spiritual substance, and new powers of spiritual life, of what we have in the Saviour. How great Christ must be, who thus declares himself to be the bread of life for the whole world - the support and food (consciously or unconsciously) of all the spiritual life there is in it! No wonder that the work of works which God requires of us is that we believe on him whom he has sent (John 6:29).
V. WHAT THERE IS IN CHRIST WHICH CONSTITUTES HIM THE WORLD'S BREAD OF LIFE. We set aside as unsupported the analogies which some have sought between the roundness, sweetness, whiteness, etc., of the manna, and qualities in the person and work of the Redeemer. It is, however, clear that if Christ is the antitype of the manna, and the true bread which cometh down from heaven, it must be in virtue of certain qualities in him which admit of being specified. And what these are, it is not difficult to show. He is the bread of life to men -
1. As incarnate God. In the humanity of Jesus Christ, the Divine is brought near to us, and made apprehensible, and provision is also made for the communication of the Divine life in its fullest, richest form to our souls. In him dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). He is the medium of the communication of that Divine fulness to us (1 John 1:16). In him, the Divine life is embodied in a holy, perfect humanity; and in that form - a form which brings it within our reach, which makes apprehension and assimilation possible - it is presented to us to be partaken of.
2. As an atoning Saviour. Did Christ not bear this character of Atoner, he would not be truly bread of life to the guilty. Our guilt, our sin, our whole moral condition, stands between us and God, an insuperable barrier to the peace and fellowship for which we crave. But Christ has taken away that barrier. He has made a sacrifice of himself for sin (John 6:51). To appropriate what I have in Christ, is, accordingly, to appropriate to myself the certainty of forgiveness through his death, the assurance of peace with God, the knowledge of reconciliation. And to have done this is already to have begun to live. It is to feel the awakening within me of new-born powers of love, and trust, and service; to feel the dread and despair that before possessed me vanishing like a dark nightmare from my spirit, to be replaced by the joy of pardon, and the sense of the Divine favour. It is to realise the accomplishment of that spiritual change which the Scriptures describe as a "passing from death unto life" (John 5:24). "Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
3. As a life-giving Spirit. Jesus is what he is to man, in virtue of his possession of the holy, life-giving Spirit - the personal Holy Ghost - by whom he dwells in the hearts of his people, and through whom he communicates to them all the fulness of his own life. This operation of the Spirit is already implied in what we have said of the results of faith in him. He is the effectual agent in converting, quickening, enlightening, sanctifying, comforting, strengthening, beautifying, and spiritually edifying the souls of such as attain to salvation. The influences of this Spirit in the soul are but another name for eternal life. And Christ is the giver of this Spirit. It is from him the Spirit comes. His work on earth has opened the way for the free communication of the Spirit's influences. He dwells by this Spirit in each of his members, nourishing, strengthening, and purifying them, To nourish ourselves upon Christ is to take more of this Spirit into our hearts and lives. Thus is Christ the bread of life. - J.O.
I. THE LAW AS TO QUANTITY (vers. 10-18). "According to his eating," in this passage, means, according to the quantity allowed to each person for consumption. This was fixed at an omer a head (ver. 16). The simplest way of explaining what follows is to suppose that each individual, when he went out to gather, aimed, as nearly as possible, at bringing in his exact omer; but, necessarily, on measuring what had been gathered, it would be found that some had brought in a little more, some a little less, than the exact quantity; excess was then to go to balance defect, and the result would be that, on the whole, each person would receive his omer. It may be supposed, also, that owing to differences of age, strength, agility, etc., there would be great room left for one helping another, some gathering more, to eke out the deficiencies of the less active. If the work were conscientiously done, the result, even on natural principles, would be pretty much what is here indicated. The law of averages would lead, over a large number of eases, to a mean result, midway between excess and defect, i.e., to the net omer. But a special superintendence of providence - such, e.g., as that which secures in births, amidst all the inequalities of families, a right proportion of the sexes in society as a whole - is evidently pointed to as securing the result. We cannot suppose, however, that an intentionally indolent or unconscientious person was permitted to participate in this equal dividend, or to reap, in the way indicated, the benefit of the labours of others. The law here must have been, as with St. Paul," if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). There is nothing said as to the share to be allotted to juveniles: these may be supposed to have received some recognised proportion of an omer. The lessons of all this and its importance as a part of the spiritual education of Israel, are very obvious. It taught -
1. That what is of Divine gift is meant for common benefit. The individual is entitled to his share in it; but he is not entitled selfishly to enrich himself, while others are in need. He gets that he may give. There was to be a heavenly communism practised in respect of the manna, in the same way as a common property is recognised in light and air, and the other free gifts of nature. This applies to intellectual and spiritual wealth. We are not to rest till all have shared in it according to their God-given capacity.
2. That in the Church of Christ it is the duty of the stronger to help the weaker, and of the richer to help the poorer. This is the lesson drawn from the passage by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:12-16. It is presumed in his teaching, first, that there is the "willing mind," in which case a gift "is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not" (ver. 12). Each gatherer of the manna was honestly to do his part, and put what he could into the common stock. The end is not, secondly, that other men be eased, and the Corinthians burdened (ver. 13). But, each doing what he can, the design is, thirdly, that the abundance of one may be a supply, for the deficiency of another, that so there may he equality (ver. 14). This is a principle of wide application in Church finance, and also in the aiding of the poor. Strong congregations should not be slow to aid weak ones, that the work of the latter may go on more smoothly, and their ministers may at least be able to subsist comfortably. The Scottish Free Church has given a praiseworthy illustration of this principle in her noble "Sustentation Fund."
3. That where a helpful spirit is shown by each towards all, there will be found no lack of what is needful for any. God will see that all are provided for. The tendency of the rule is to encourage a friendly, helpful, unselfish spirit generally, and in all relations. The gatherer of manna was forbidden to act selfishly. A Nemesis would attend an attempt on the part of any to appropriate more than his proper share.
II. THE LAW AS TO TIME.
1. The manna was to be gathered in early morning. The people had to be up betimes, and had to bestir themselves diligently, that their manna might be collected before "the sun waxed hot" (ver. 21). If not collected then, the substance melted away, and could not be had at all. A lesson, surely, in the first instance, of diligence in business; and secondly, of the advantage of improving morning hours. The most successful gatherer of manna, whether in the material, intellectual, or spiritual fields, is he who is up and at his work early. Albert Barnes tells us that all his commentaries were due to this habit of rising early in the morning, the whole of them having been written before nine o'clock in the day, and without encroaching on his proper ministerial duties.
2. On six days of the week only (Per. 5). God teaches here the lesson of putting forward our work on week days, that we may be able to enjoy a Sabbath free from distraction. He puts honour on the ordinance of the Sabbath itself, by requiring that no work be done upon it.
III. THE LAW AS TO USE (ver. 19). None of the manna was to be left till the morning. We have here again a double lesson.
1. A lesson against hoarding. God gave to each person his quantity of manna; and the individual had no right to more. What excess he had in his gathering ought to have gone to supplement some other person's deficiency. But greed led slime of the Israelites to disobey. It would save them trouble to lay by what they did not need, and use it again next day. They might make profit out of it by barter. All such attempts God defeated by ordaining that the manna thus hoarded should breed worms, and grow corrupt. A significant emblem of the suicidal effects of hoarding generally. Hoarded treasure is never an ultimate benefit to its possessor. It corrupts alike in his heart and his bands. It breeds worms of care to him, and speedily becomes a nuisance (cf. Matthew 6:19, 20).
2. A lesson against distrust. Another motive for laying up the manna would be to provide for the morrow in case of any failure in the supply. But this was in direct contradiction to God's end in giving the people their manna day by day, viz., to foster trust, and keep alive their sense of dependence on him. Christ warns us against the spirit of distrust, and of anxiety for the morrow, and teaches us to pray for "daily bread" (Matthew 6:11, 31). We should not even desire to be independent of God.
IV. THE FAILURE OF THE PEOPLE TO OBSERVE THESE LAWS, They failed at each point. They tried to hoard (ver. 20). They went out to gather on the Sabbath (Ver. 27). This showed both disobedience and unbelief, for it had been distinctly said of the seventh day, "in it there shall be none" (ver. 26). What a lesson! -
1. Of the sottish insensibility of human nature to God's great acts of goodness. God had miraculously supplied their wants, yet so little sensible were they of his goodness - so little did it influence them - that they declined to obey even the few simple rules he had laid down for the reception and use of his benefits.
I. THE EFFECTIVE DISTRIBUTION OF IT IS PROVIDED FOR. The responsibilities and opportunities of the family relation, which had been touched upon in the institution of the Passover, are here touched upon again. Each head of a household had to see that the daily supply was gathered for his family. Thus God shows that he is not only attentive for that great nation which now, as a whole, is so clearly dependent on his providing, so visibly cut off from secondary grounds of confidence, but also has his eye on the under-providers. What he is to all the children of men, he expects earthly parents to be in their measure and opportunity. Earthly parents, even though evil, are yet able to give some good gifts; and God will hold them responsible thus to give what they can. The peculiar anti transcendent gifts of grace they are not able to bestow; but seeing God has constituted them the channels of certain blessings, woe be to them if they block up the channels, or in any way diminish the flow of blessings through them.
II. A SUFFICIENT SUPPLY IS PROVIDED FOR. Some gathered more and some less; but the gathering amounted to the same thing in the end. There was neither defect nor superfluity. We may take it that those who gathered more did it in a spirit of unbelief and worldly wisdom, a spirit of anxious questioning with regard to the morrow. They wanted to make sure, lest the morrow's manna did not come. God disappointed their plans, and doubtless soon altered their conduct, by reducing the quantity gathered to the stipulated omer. Thus unbelief's labour was lost. And those who gathered less did so through straitened opportunity. It may be they had less time; it may be they were feeble or aged. But we are sure that, whatever the cause of their deficiency, they must have been those who did their best; and God honoured their honest endeavours by making up the deficiency. If they had been careless, it is pretty certain they would have had to go starving. God has ever taken care of the principle that, if a man will not work, neither shall he eat. All that is required is, that we should do our best according to our opportunities; but so much, at least, assuredly is required. Remember the teaching of the parable (Matthew 20:1-16). The lord of the vineyard gave the same amount to those coming in at the eleventh hour as to those who began early in the morning. He considered pressing need to be as important a thing as actual exertion. But at the same time he had his eye on what had really been done. Those who entered at the eleventh hour had to do their best even though it was but for a short time. Thus the lord of the vineyard respected need on the one hand and disposition and embraced opportunities on the other. And so with the manna in the wilderness: every Israelite had to do his best, with a believing mind and an industrious hand. Then God took care that he should have enough; and "enough is as good as a feast."
III. GOD MADE PLAIN THAT IT WAS TO BE A DAILY SUPPLY. He did this, first of all, by diminishing the quantity gathered to the stipulated omer. Then, when the omer was secured, he made the daily character of the supply still more evident by commanding that none should be left till morning. This was but carrying the former provision - that of gathering an omer full - out to its logical conclusion. Nor must we take this to mean, of necessity, that all the manna was to be eaten up. "Leave it not till the morning" can only mean "leave it not as food." There could hardly have been an obligation on the Israelites to eat more than nature demanded or appetite desired. Let no fond, economising parent quote this regulation to a child by way of enforcing the request to eat up its food. How much harm is done by forcing children to empty the plate, lest anything be wasted! Surely it is more waste to cram a recalcitrant stomach than to throw undemanded food away, if that be the only alternative. Evidently what God meant here is, that Israel should not keep its manna for to-morrow's supply. There is more likelihood of imperilling the spirit of faith than the habit of economy. Note, too, that the efficacy of this regulation was soon exemplified when the people broke it. Indeed, it is curious to notice how, all through the passage, the regulations and the exemplification of them are mixed up. They were regulations which came into operation at once; for there was a present need, and the people learnt to meet it by paying at first the penalties of disobedience or imperfect obedience. They could put away the manna; but they could not therefore preserve it. Putting it away was only turning it into one of the treasures which moth and rust corrupt. Even if we could imagine that it had been possible to seal the manna hermetically, and keep it from the germs of corruption in the air, the result would have been the same. Whatever the precautions adopted, it would have bred worms and stunk by morning. God. is ever turning our boasted prudence into ridiculous folly; faith and obedience are the only real prudence.
IV. Not only was it a daily supply, but A MORNING SUPPLY. An early morning supply, for when the sun waxed hot the manna was melted. They were to go out and gather the manna the first thing, and then, whatever else might be lacking that day, the great temporal necessity of food was provided for. God demanded of his people that they should be trustful and satisfied In the reception of a daily supply; but that supply was brought at the very beginning of the day. It was not at their option to gather it at any time of the day they chose. The supply was at the beginning of the day, because day is the time for eating as night is for sleeping. Then, with minds free from anxiety and bodies duly supported, they could each one set about his appointed business.
V. IN HIS METHOD OF SUPPLY GOD MADE SPECIAL PROVISION FOR THE SABBATH. On the sixth day of the week, a double portion was provided, and was to be gathered in correspondence with the provision. Certainly it must be admitted that the regulation here gives no means of judging how far the Sabbath was a recognised institution in Israel, if indeed it was an institution at all. This is a matter on which we are not able to affirm; nor are we able to deny. To whatever extent there may have been a weekly Sabbath among the patriarchs, it could not have been kept up through the hardships of Egypt! Anyway, this remarkable increase of an extra omer on the sixth day - when the reason of it was explained - was the very thing to prepare the people for the exact commandment which so soon followed. Jehovah had thus more ways than one of impressing upon them the sanctity and peculiarity of the Sabbath. In Egypt they had doubtless been required to toil every day, knowing little rest, save the inevitable rest of sleep, and it would be hard to break them away from this expectation of daily drudgery. Early association and training are wanted to make one day different from others; and we may conclude that it was only the generation growing up in the wilderness and becoming habituated to the Sabbath rest that really took to it in a natural and easy way. But this regulation of the manna must have been a great help even to the elder generation. As each sixth day came round they were reminded that God himself was remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy, and therefore they should do the same. And as we think of this special provision for the weekly interval of rest, continued through forty years, we may well ask ourselves what feelings God entertains as he looks down on the world and sees the incessant, driving, suicidal toil in which many men engage, on the plea that it is necessary. They say they have no choice. Toil all day, and when evening comes utter exhaustion! and thus life is wasted in the struggle to maintain it. When we consider such struggling in the light of this sixth day's double provision, a strong suspicion rises in our minds that this plea of necessity is a delusion. Is it not probable that if men would only throw off, boldly and trustfully, many of what are reckoned social necessities, they would have a healthier piety and a happier life? At present, with only too many, when they are asked for a little more attention to the things of God and a little more interest in them, the plea comes in reply, easily urged and not easily met, that there is no time. See then what God did for his own people. He made time for them, and jealously hedged it about; a time for needed rest, holy rest and holy service. When they went out food-seeking on the morning of his day, he manifestly cursed their disobedience and unbelief. May we not be perfectly sure that if in a spirit of faith, we give all the time and effort that are necessary to cultivate personal religion and diffuse gospel truth, God will see to it that we get the manna? and if we have the manna, we need nothing more. Whatever else be left unsought and unenjoyed, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Seek these, for they bring in their train everything a Christian can lawfully enjoy. - Y.
I. THERE MUST BE INDIVIDUAL EFFORT FOR INDIVIDUAL NEED.
1. The manna lay around their tents, but it had to be gathered. To feed on Christ each must lay hold of him for his own soul by meditation and prayer and trust.
2. If we do not "taste and see that the Lord is gracious," his nearness to us will only deepen our condemnation. How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?
II. CHRIST MUST BE LAID HOLD OF DAILY DURING THE WEEK'S TOIL,
1. The sabbath has its provision without labour. This law is sometimes inverted - sabbath day's toil, six days' negligence - but in this way Christ will be fed upon neither in labour nor in rest. They who come from daily walking with Christ, find the sabbath feast spread for them.
2. The life of labour in striving to lay hold of and feed upon him, is followed by the rest that remaineth and the feast which his own hand will spread.
III. GRACE WILL NOT CONSORT WITH DISOBEDIENCE. The manna stored up to save from toiling, when God commands to toil, was unfit for use. We cannot live on the memories of past experiences of Christ's graciousness. He must be daily sought for.
IV. CHRIST THE SOUL'S FOOD DURING THE ENTIRE EARTHLY PILGRIMAGE (ver. 35). During the whole forty years Israel fed upon the manna. We must feed daily upon Christ till we reach the inheritance. They who will be sustained in their journey must determine to know nothing save Christ and him crucified. - U.
I. THE FACT OF MANNA BEING GIVEN ON SIX DAYS, AND NOT ON THE SEVENTH IS A PROOF OF THE EXISTENCE OF THE SABBATH, It would certainly seem from this passage that the Israelites had not up to this time been very good Sabbath keepers; that if they knew of any special distinction attaching to the seventh day, they had no very strict ideas as to its observance; that its sanctity was but little recognised by them. It could scarcely have been otherwise with a people just escaped from a long and degrading bondage. It does not follow, however. that this was the first institution of the Sabbath. There is every reason for believing the contrary. That God had the Sabbath in view in the arrangements made, and the laws laid down, about the manna, every one admits. The only question which arises is, whether these arrangements were modelled on the basis of a division of time already existing, or whether this was absolutely the first indication to mankind of a weekly day of rest.
1. Presumptively - this latter alternative seems improbable. It is incredible that so important an institution as the Sabbath should be introduced in this casual, unannounced way - should be taken for granted in certain outward arrangements relating to a different matter, and then, when curiosity has been excited by these arrangements, should be first made known by the side-door of an explanation of the novel injunctions. Such a case of the existence of an important institution being assumed before the law which gives it existence has been either promulgated or heard of, is without precedent or parallel in history. It seems plain that whether Israel knew of the existing Sabbath or not, God did, and framed his arrangements in view of it. The inference is that the religious observance of the seventh day had been sanctioned by old tradition, but had fallen largely into desuetude.
2. On Biblical grounds - it seems certain that the Sabbath is of older date than the sojourn in the wilderness. We need not review all the evidence which points in the direction of a primeval institution of the Sabbath. It is sufficient to instance the primary text upon the subject (Genesis 2:1-4), which speaks with a voice as plain as could well be wished to those who are willing to hear.
3. Historically - it has been recently proved that the Sabbath was known in ancient Assyria and Babylonia, long before the days of Moses. into Orientalist will any longer question, in face of the evidence furnished by the recently deciphered cuneiform tablets, that a Sabbath was observed in Assyria in the days of Sardanapalus, and for ages previously. But the ancient Arcadian records, which go as far back as , and many of which have been deciphered by the aid of competent Assyrian translators, show that a Sabbath was observed in the very earliest time. The very name "Sabattu," with the meaning "a day of rest for the heart," has been found in the old Arcadian tongue (see "Records of the Past," vol. 3. p. 143; "Assyrian Discoveries," by George Smith; the Academy, Nov. 1875). Special points in these researches will need confirmation, but on the whole, the early and wide-spread observance of the Sabbath must be held as established. In the light of Oriental discovery, it will soon be regarded as an anachronism to speak of prolepsis in connection with Genesis 2:1-4; or to urge the view that the Sabbath is a purely Judaic institution, and originated with Moses.
II. THE RULE FOR GATHERING A DOUBLE SUPPLY OF MANNA ON THE SIXTH DAY, AND LAYING BY FOR THE SEVENTH, TAUGHT THE LESSON OF A PROPER RESPECT FOR THE SABBATH. It taught -
1. That the Sabbath was to be kept free from unnecessary work.
2. That in order to leave the Sabbath clear, as a day of rest, work was to be forwarded on week days.
3. That God has a respect for his own ordinance.
III. BY GRANTING THIS DOUBLE SUPPLY ON THE SIXTH DAY, AND SECURING ITS PRESERVATION ON THE SEVENTH, GOD TAUGHT THAT HIS BLESSING RESTS UPON THE SABBATH, AND THAT HIS PEOPLE WILL BE NO LOSERS BY KEEPING IT.
IV. GOD'S CARE THUS EARLY TO RE-ESTABLISH THE ORDINANCE OF THE SABBATH IN ISRAEL, SHOWS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INSTITUTION AS BEARING ON HEALTH, MORALS, AND RELIGION. It must be reckoned a noteworthy circumstance that, in arranging the affairs of Israel, with a view to the recovery of his people from the low and demoralised condition, physically, morally, and spiritually, into which they had fallen, and with a view to their elevation to a state of prosperous national existence, God's first step, even before the law was given from Sinai, was to put on a proper foundation, the observance of the Sabbath.
V. GOD'S DISPLEASURE AT THE BREACH OF THIS LAW BY THE PEOPLE WHO WENT OUT TO GATHER ON THE SABBATH, SHOWS HIS ZEAL FOR THE HONOUR OF THE COMMANDMENT (vers. 27-29). The thing chiefly condemned, no doubt, was the spirit of disobedience, which showed itself in more ways than one (cf. ver. 20). But is it not plainly reckoned a special aggravation of the offence of these would-be gatherers, that they so defiantly set at nought God's ordinance of a day of rest? Does God show a like zeal for the observance of any purely ceremonial precept? - J.O.
Hebrews 9:4). It may be questioned how so corruptible a substance admitted of preservation. But it is not so plain that the manna had in itself any tendency to corrupt, so that the miracle is perhaps to be looked for, not in the keeping fresh of the portion laid up in the ark, but in the smiting with corruption of any portions sinfully hoarded by the Israelites (ver. 20). We are taught -
I. THAT THE GREATER MERCIES OF GOD OUGHT SPECIALLY TO BE REMEMBERED BY US. It is fitting, even in the Church, to appoint memorials of them.
II. THAT THE PECULIAR LESSONS OF THE MANNA OUGHT SPECIALLY TO BE KEPT IN REMEMBRANCE. Among these note the following: -
2. The lesson of dependence on God for supply of daily wants (Matthew 6:2).
3. Typical lessons. The manna reminds us of Christ, our Bread of Life, in heaven. "Your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). The "hidden manna" in Revelation 2:17, would seem to indicate the spiritual nourishment in communion with God and Christ which will maintain soul and body for ever in the possession of an incorruptible life - life undecaying, self-renewing, everlasting.
III. THE INDISSOLUBLE UNION OF LAW AND GRACE IN GOD'S DEALINGS WITH HIS CHURCH. The pot of manna was laid up (after the ark was made) "before the testimony, to be kept" (ver. 34). The law is the stern background, but near it is the golden pot, filled with the manna which told of God's goodness and grace to a people whom mere law would have condemned. God can be thus gracious to his Church, not because his law has been set aside, but because it has been magnified and made honourable by Christ, whose blood pleads at the mercy-seat for the transgressor. - J.O.