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035 Food for the Israelites in the Desert

Then the Lord said to Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain amount every day…’ Exodus 16:4

Key Verse:

“I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst”

(John 6:35)

 (Exodus 16,17)

In our last lesson, we saw how God saved the people of Israel from the hand of Pharaoh and his troops. When the Israelites arrived at the shore of the Red Sea, they had no possible means of escaping from Pharaoh’s army. However, we saw how God pushed the waters aside for them so that they could walk through the middle of the sea,

on dry ground.

But when the troops of Egypt tried to cross, they were drowned. Thus, on that day the LORD God saved Israel from the hand of the people of Egypt. And when they saw the great power of the LORD,

they feared Him and sang to Him,

“I will sing to the LORD, because He is my Salvation. The LORD is great!”

We are presently studying the book of Exodus, where the Israelites are in the wilderness

between Egypt and Canaan.

Canaan is the country which God had promised to give to their forefather Abraham and his descendants, so that they could own it. In this lesson we are going to see how God fed the Israelites in the desert. The Scriptures show us how God Himself “walked” before them, in a great cloud during the day and in a flame of fire during the night. One thing is sure, if God did not guide them and care for them,

they would perish in the wilderness.

Let us try to imagine for a moment the circumstances in which the Israelites found themselves. They were a huge crowd–a multitude bigger than the whole population of Botswana (Probably more than two million people)! They were passing through a bone-dry desert—a desert without water or food. Think about it! A great multitude walking through a barren wilderness of sand and thorny trees! How would the tribes of Israel survive? Who could save them from the threat of hunger and thirst? How could that multitude and their many herds find enough water and food to stay alive in the wilderness? Could they feed themselves? No! Who could feed them then? There is only one answer.

God alone could feed them and preserve them!

Did the Israelites trust God? Or did they worry about what they would eat and what they would drink? Surely the people of Israel should have trusted the LORD God. God had done so many great things for them. He freed them from their bondage of slavery by means of the ten plagues. He delivered their firstborn from death, by means of

the blood of the lamb.

He opened a dry path through the middle of the sea. And now He was going before them in a cloud to lead them back to the land of Canaan, as He had promised to their forefather, Abraham, so long ago. What do you think? Did the people of Israel have confidence in their God?

Did they believe that God could do what He had promised?

Let’s turn back to the Scriptures now and discover the answer.

We are reading in Exodus 16:1-3. “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said unto them, would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger”. Did the tribes of Israel have confidence in God?

No, they did not!

They were grumbling against Him and His prophet Moses. Listen to how God answered them.

(Exodus 16:11-15,31) “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, at evening ye shall eat meat, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God.

And it came to pass that at evening the quails came up, and covered the camp; and in the morning dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they knew not what it was.

And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat … And the house of Israel called the name thereof

Manna:

and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey”.

That is how God fed the tribes of Israel in the wilderness, until the day they arrived at the land of Canaan.

Did you hear where the food came from?

It came from heaven. It came from God. Did the Israelites deserve the food that God sent down for them?

No!

They didn’t deserve anything except God’s punishment for all their unbelief and ungratefulness. It was only

because of God’s mercy

that they didn’t die of hunger in the desert.

Now let’s continue reading to see what happened another time, when

the Israelites ran out of water.

The Scripture says: (Exodus 17:1-6) “And all the congre-gation of the children of Israel journeyed … according to the command-ment of the Lord, and encamped in Rephidim: and

there was no water

for the people to drink. Where-fore the people did strive with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why strive ye with me? Wherefore do ye put the Lord to test? And

the people thirsted there for water;

and the people murmured against Moses, and said, why hast thou brought us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, what shall I do unto this people? They are almost ready to stone me. And the Lord said unto Moses,

Go on before the people,

and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take it in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb;

and thou shalt smite the rock,

and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.” Thus, a great flow of water came gushing from the rock, flowing in the desert, and

all the people drank, they and their herds.

Let us stop here and think a little about the story we are reading. After all that God had done for the Israelites, did they have faith in Him? Were their hearts full of praise and thankfulness because of all that He had done for them?

No!

They did not trust God. Instead they complained and spoke against the God who had already saved them from so many, many dangers.

What did God do? The LORD God, in His patience and His goodness, gave them food and water in the desert. Did the people of Israel deserve God’s goodness? No! They only deserved God’s judgement.

Why did God show them His goodness?

Because God is faithful and merciful. He is God, the Faithful One, the Merciful One. Because of His mercy He provided food and water for the Israelites, even though

they were ungrateful sinners!

If salvation from hunger and thirst depended on the goodness and merit of the people themselves, God surely would have let them die in the desert.

Also, we should realise that God did not protect them simply because of His mercy, but also

to keep His Word.

God is faithful to keep all His promises—and He had made an important promise concerning the nation of Israel. As we have already learned, God had promised to bless all the nations of the world through the nation of Israel, because it was to be through them that the prophets, the Holy Scriptures and the Savior of the world would come.

Yes, God is faithful and full of mercy!

He is the God of truth and the God of love. Surely the tribes of Israel did not deserve God’s love. Yet even when they disobeyed God and spoke against Him,

God proved His faithfulness and His love

by giving them food from heaven.

Perhaps someone asks, “Of what value are the stories of the Israelites to us today?” The Word of God says: 

“Now all these things happened unto them for examples, and they are written for our warning, upon whom the ends of the ages are come” (1 Cor. 10:11)

As God delivered the children of Israel from the power of the desert, in a similar way, God wants to deliver every child of Adam from

the power of sin.

We ask you: What did the Israelites have to do so they would not perish in the desert? They simply had to gather and eat the food that God sent down from the sky. From where did their deliverance come? Did it come from their own efforts? No,

their deliverance came from God.

They had no power to save themselves from hunger and death. They couldn’t do anything but gather and eat

the food that God had sent down for them.

The Holy Scripture shows us that we are all sinners like the people of Israel and have no means of saving ourselves—neither from the power of sin nor from the righteous judgement of God. Perhaps we are not walking through a dry desert as were the Israelites, but

the shadow of death still hangs over us as it hung over them.

The Word of the LORD is clear: Anyone who refuses to receive the means of salvation that God has provided will die in his sin and fall into the eternal fire of hell. These are not pleasant thoughts. Die in sin! Come into judgement! Fall into hell! These are terrible tragedies! The good news, however, is that

no one needs to die in his sin.

Just as God gave the Israelites food so that they could live and not die of hunger in the wilderness, in a similar way God has given us “Food” so that we can be blessed in this life and forever in the life to come!

What is the “Food” which gives eternal life?

Can we buy a food in the market that can give us the power to live forever in God’s presence?

No, no such food is available in the market!

Well then, where and what is this “Food” which gives eternal life?

Friends, you must know that about one thousand five hundred years after the Israelites ate manna (bread) in the wilderness,

God sent down the Redeemer, the Savior of the world.

He is the “Food” which God has provided to save the people of the world from the power of sin, death, judgement and hell. Let us think carefully about what the Redeemer Himself said when He was upon the earth. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.

This is the bread that cometh down from heaven

… he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:47-51,35).

Dear friends, this is where we must stop. In our next lesson, God willing, we will begin to see how God gave Israel

the Ten Commandments…

God bless you as you think what the Redeemer declared, saying, 

“I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35)

We would invite you to answer the questions attached and send them together with any other questions that you might have