Part 7: Manna In the Wilderness

Right behind my obsession with carbs (specifically bread), is an obsession for honey. What? Don't react that way. It's a thing, it's normal, honey is biblical. Friends used to buy me 5-pound jars of honey from Sam's as birthday gifts if that is any indication of how seriously I consume my honey. 

So I can still remember the first time I heard about manna in high school. I couldn't wrap my mind around people grumbling about food from heaven that was likened to wafers with honey. What on earth is the problem with this heavenly bread?!?! And who in their right mind would complain about such bread?

This section of our I.love.carbs bible study should have been the easiest for me to digest after months of study and contemplation, and yet it was the hardest. Turns out God highlighted so many savory truths about himself through my study on manna. I've been joking that I could have written all 16 lessons of this study on manna alone because its presence in the scriptures is so critically important to our spiritual diets.

The Apostle Paul repurposes the concept of Old Testament manna in the New Testament giving the physical bread a spiritual application to our lives in 1 Corinthians 10:3-4. So today we are going to talk about why you and I might end up in a spiritual wilderness and a very common reaction to our hunger in a spiritual wilderness.

Most of my readers are folks who feel the way I did 14 months ago, they are spiritually hungry. You want more of God, and you feel the hunger pains of your faith. And many of us get to a spiritual wilderness to ask, "Why?? Why am I here? How did I get here? How do I escape? Oh forget it, I'll just stay."

I can't answer those questions for you. But I can offer you the story of God's people--the Israelites--and their 40-year journey through the wilderness and what the Bible has to say about the purpose behind that part of their story. It will reveal to us that sometimes God is the one leading you to a spiritual wilderness because he will lead you through it with his presence. And according to Deuteronomy 8, when God led the Israelites into a wilderness, it was to humble them. 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 "Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." 

Sometimes God needs to test our faith, to humble us, to see if we are going to keep his commands. Ick. Anybody else unsettled by this? Apparently faith-testing is hungry business. It's interesting that Moses tells us why God gave his wanderers manna to eat, especially since it was a food they had never heard of or tasted. Moses is clear about the purpose of manna in the wilderness: so that they would learn people don't live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

This becomes a pretty juicy piece of history in the God-story because you fast forward to Matthew's eyewitness account of Jesus' ministry, and he makes sure to include a description of Jesus being led to the wilderness for 40 days. Jesus references Deuteronomy 8 when he claims to be God, the one who is the Word of the Lord. But we will get to that in another post. If you are facing your own spiritual wilderness and you are hungry for more of God, take heart in the history of God's people wandering according to Moses...

Deuteronomy 8:4-10 "Your clothing did not wear out, and your feet did not swell these 40 years. Keep in mind that the Lord your God has been disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. So keep the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams of water, springs, and deep water sources, flowing in both valleys and hills; a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without shortage, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you will mine copper. When you eat and are full, you will praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you."

It's so easy to forget that God is bringing us into good things when we are hangry with him. Nonetheless, the one true living God will bring you into His goodness, and it will be full of good things like honey (or whatever your equivalent is in your life). You will lack nothing. And praise to God will come easy because you will be full on his presence. 

We are so human. As soon as we taste of God's goodness in our spiritual life after a season in the wilderness, it's so easy to forget it was God who led us there, brought us through, and fed us well with His presence. 

Deuteronomy 8:11-14 "Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God by failing to keep His command—the ordinances and statutes—I am giving you today. When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery."

Deuteronomy 8:16-18 "He fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end He might cause you to prosper. You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant He swore to your fathers,as it is today."

Before you get all excited about the power to gain wealth, remember this is not literally universally applicable to all of us. For the Israelites, the power to gain wealth would speak to the surrounding nations that the God of the Bible is the one true God. Later God uses Jesus, a poor refugee, to reverse our understanding of "power" in God's kingdom. The weak will become God's M.O. to build His reputation.

My least favorite part of Moses' instructions to God's people is that part when He warns them not to become prideful in their self-sufficiency. That could be the point of our spiritual hunger, our spiritual wilderness. I know it was for me. God can work a miracle on our behalf, provide richly for all our spiritual needs with His presence, and somehow in my humanness, I begin to think my own ability brought it about. What is wrong with me?? Oh yeah, I'm human.

What we can take with us today is that part about God wanting us to prosper. God wants us to flourish. But sometimes before we can flourish, He must test our faith. Is your spiritual hunger connected to a faith test from God? Is your life sustained by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord?

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 "Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." 


I.LOVE.CARBS.

In a season of great spiritual hunger, I started to follow the breadcrumb trail through the sacred scriptures to find the most satisfying bread for our soul: Jesus. 

This led to an obsession with the 300+ times “bread” is mentioned in the holy scriptures, and you’re reading the results, a 16 part bible study: I.Love.Carbs. 

Let's break bread together. You could start from the beginning here & be sure to sign up to get the latest blog post delivered right to your inbox >>>>>

I Love CarbsKat Armstrong