Additive-Free Manna

Why didn’t God add a natural preservative to manna so that the people of Israel didn’t need to collect it every day? After all, on the Sabbath, it remained edible.

Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, then he said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.”

It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions? See, the Lord has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day. (Ex. 16:22-30)

There is more to the story of God’s provision of food for His people than simply saving them from starvation. Wrapped up in God’s abundant supply in answer to His people’s prayer are lessons about faith and obedience. Israel first had to get used to trusting God for each day’s dewy breakfast. They were just getting used to the faithful pattern when He changed it! Imagine Friday night’s dinner table dialogue during the early days of the journey.

“Mum, what’s for dinner tomorrow?”

“I’m not sure, honey. I have a new recipe for boiled manna that I want to try, but I doubt whether it will keep that long. After all, the extra pitcher full that we collected on Tuesday grew worms. And it doesn’t do well during these hot desert afternoons. It goes all gooey.”

Why would God allow manna to mold on Mondays but keep Friday’s fresh for Saturday’s stew?

Questions like that will never go away because God is always stretching the faith of His people. When we have learned to trust Him in one way, He changes the pattern so that we develop faith in a new way. The end goal is faith in His faithfulness, not in a particular style of miracle.

But there is a lesson about obedience too. Most of the time God wanted Israel to trust Him for their daily bread-substitute. However, Sabbath observation was a higher priority, so God changed the delivery schedule. The people could obey the Sabbath law because they did not have to work. The obedience challenge brought a new faith challenge: could the God who did everything additive-free manage a different miracle—maggot-resistant manna?

Faith and obedience go hand-in-hand. God never expects us to exercise faith in ways that would contradict His will; following God’s will requires faith. We can’t go far on the faith journey without encountering the heart of God.

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