“When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. (Exodus 16:15 – 16)
God gave His people bread in the wilderness, and they responded, ‘what is this?’ That’s literally what Manna means. I am writing this on a Saturday morning, a supposed break from the work week and fully feeling the weight of demands that begin early…and do not stop.
There are innumerable demands as a Dad, as a husband, as a homeowner, as one responsible for home maintenance, oil changes, bill paying, etc. I’m usually already tired before it’s even noon. Yet, I know the answer to my exhaustion is the righteous life of Christ…the One who was never overwhelmed or exhausted – He’s my record before God.
Now we might hear that the answer to such-and-such life situation or the right way to ‘do’ parenting or marriage or handle a personal conflict is basically something alien and objective: Jesus’ life lived in the flesh…for you. We hear that, and it’s confusing and confounding because what we ultimately want to hear is some form of application. We want to hear a message telling us how to functionally, practically get things done because the word ‘Christ is your righteousness’ doesn’t help us on the ground where we live. We can’t connect something abstract like that to our daily circumstances. But what other hope do we really have? What law has ever worked for anybody at any time?
This is like the people in the wilderness. God literally gave them Christ as their provision. But they were frustrated and felt something akin to…’could you stop giving us grace? Could you give us some work to do? Some law to implement?’ Fast forward to John 6…where Jesus identifies Himself as the true Manna God gave to His people as they sojourned and complained in the desert.
Here, the people ask Jesus to define the work that pleases God – they want something to ‘do’…some way to earn their keep, to achieve and maintain right standing with God…to justify their existence. Their complaint is the same as their forefathers: “You’re not giving us application, here Jesus. You’re not giving us some ‘thing’ to do.”
Grace is always confusing.
Is our righteousness established on the fact that God has given us bread from heaven? That God has from Heaven to earthward given us a one-way love gesture by offering His Son? Is that the thing that establishes us? Through the communion table, by faith God creates daily, we receive this food, we receive grace…but that’s the not the full story. That’s not the full righteousness. Our reception of grace isn’t the thing that makes us righteous or gives us our standing or identity.
There’s something polluted and perverted even in our receiving because every time we receive grace from God, we retranslate it into some form of legalism – we find innumerable ways to make the gospel into a ‘new law’. God told the children of Israel, “Only save up what you need for the day and if you try to store up too much, it will rot, stink, and fester”. And that’s exactly what happened. The people tried to store up more than what they needed for a day, and they squandered the grace God gave them.
That’s how it is with us. God gives us grace, and we are supposed to receive that grace and steward it properly one to another, but we never do. The grace God shows me I rarely if ever show to my neighbor…even the ones closest to me (cf. Matthew 18:23 – 35).
The gospel is not just, “God has given true bread to His people, God has given us grace. Therefore that’s our redemption.” There’s better news than that…there’s more to it.
Not only is Jesus the manna from heaven given to God’s people, but Jesus is the people of God who received the bread of obedience to God and perfectly stewarded it for the glory of God.
We have Jesus, the true Israel in the wilderness telling Satan, ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God…’
We see Jesus informing the disciples, “I have food to eat you know nothing about. My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and finish it…”
Christ is the bread from heaven who ate the bread of obedience and thereby established us and set us free. This alone is why we’re righteous before God. This alone is our identity…though we continue to grumble and wonder, ‘what is this?’