The ‘What Is It?’ Diet: Food and Rest

What do you need to stay healthy? A good diet and rest. Exodus 16 is not about weight loss or building muscular strength, but rather about your relationship with your God.

Feed on the bread from heaven. God does give you your daily bread. The waters of the sea had barely closed over their enemies when God’s people started complaining. One essential in short supply was water, but here in Exodus 16 they complain about lack of food, even wishing they could have stayed in Egypt to die. The grumbling was heard, not just by Moses and Aaron, but by the Lord, whose glory was revealed in the cloud. That night the Lord sent quail, satisfying the craving for meat. In the morning he gave a strange flaky substance on the ground, causing the people to ask, “What is it?” (or manna).There have been a variety of attempts to explain a source for the food, but remember that the nation numbered approximately two million people. This food continued to be provided, day after day, for 40 years, until the people had entered the promised land. God is making clear that he graciously (in the face of grumbling) is concerned for and is meeting the needs of his people. God is concerned about all of our needs, physical as well as spiritual. Some 1,500 years later Jesus would teach us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” You don’t go outside each morning and gather up some “what is it” food, but no less than Israel God is providing for you. Like Israel, he is testing you as to whether you will depend upon him for everything you need.

Feed on the living bread. There is more going on than just filling your belly. After Jesus fed the 5,000, some, wanting another meal, referred to the giving of manna in the wilderness. Jesus calls them on motivation, and then identifies himself as the true bread from heaven. You live in dependence on God, not just for your meals, but for life eternal. “However wonderful the descent of manna from heaven was, however much it was a fruit of God’s creative word (cf. Dt. 8:3; Mt. 4:4), as ‘food that perishes’ (v. 27) it had only temporary life-giving power. By contrast, the bread that Jesus is and gives to eat has an effect not bounded by death but continuing into eternal life.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John, p. 235).

Look forward to the rest God is preparing for you. Obey God’s command to keep the Sabbath rest. The pattern of gathering only enough for each day (leftovers until the next day spoiled) may seem strange. Then, on the sixth day they were to gather twice as much—and this time it did not spoil—and there was no manna for those who had refused to gather extra the day before. What was God teaching his people and us today? Not only did God provide them with food, he blessed them with rest as well. Although the Ten Commandments, including the Fourth, had not yet been pronounced at Sinai, the idea of a Sabbath rest was a relevant concept for God’s people. It looked back, as does Exodus 20:11, to the pattern God set at creation. God himself rested, and he blessed that day of Sabbath rest in a special way. Not only did God rest, but he gave that day to mankind, made in his image, as a day of rest. We are not made to work seven days a week.

Live with your eye on God’s rest. The Sabbath looks back, but it also looks ahead. Why did God rest on the seventh day? Not because he was tired and needed a break. Rather, he entered his rest with the purpose of mankind joining in his rest. There was to be greater glory and more wonderful fellowship after the time of testing in the Garden. But as Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3 and 4 tell you, sin and unbelief prevented both Adam and Israel from entering God’s rest. What we cannot do because of the first Adam, we are now in the process of doing because of the gracious work of the second Adam. The Sabbath keeping or Sabbath rest of Hebrews 4:9 continues, precisely because we are still a pilgrim people on our way. We need the same reminder that Israel did: not to let hardhearted unbelief keep us from entering God’s rest. The jar of manna collected and stored, eventually in a gold jar in the Tabernacle (Exodus 16:33-34 and Hebrews 9:4), was not only a reminder of what God had done for 40 years, but also a foretaste of a greater meal and better fellowship.

Only as you feed on the One who is the true bread from heaven can you enter God’s heavenly rest and partake of the great banquet, the marriage feast of the Lamb.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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