Exodus 16:2-15 CEB
The whole Israelite community complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. The Israelites said to them, “Oh, how we wish that the Lord had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction. On the sixth day, when they measure out what they have collected, it will be twice as much as they collected on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. And in the morning you will see the Lord’s glorious presence, because your complaints against the Lord have been heard. Who are we? Why blame us?” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning because the Lord heard the complaints you made against him. Who are we? Your complaints aren’t against us but against the Lord.”
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole Israelite community, ‘Come near to the Lord, because he’s heard your complaints.’” As Aaron spoke to the whole Israelite community, they turned to look toward the desert, and just then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared in the cloud.
The Lord spoke to Moses, “I’ve heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat. And in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”
In the evening a flock of quail flew down and covered the camp. And in the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the desert surface were thin flakes, as thin as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” They didn’t know what it was.
Moses said to them, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.
We have a tendency to romanticize our history. The Crusades. Johnny Appleseed. Even our own history. Speaking of which, my sister, right now, is working on our family tree. It's amazing how the stories are similar to family tales, but not the same. The larger than life moments are removed, and the humanity is returned. There were aspects of the family story I didn't even know. Like, there was this story of one of my great great.... great aunts. She was a pastor's wife. She was just married when her pastor husband, who was crippled, drowned in a river trying to cross it. She drowned too trying to save him. Her dress weighed her down, and she couldn't stay above water. What a tragic story full of love and loss!
You know, hearing my sister tell our history reminds me of a 2003 movie, Big Fish.
In the movie, the son had to first look beyond the romanticism of his father's life, and second, embrace the romantic aspect of the stories. The fish tales his father were telling, were both true and bigger than life.
In the same way, we have romanticized the manna from heaven. I've seen images where the manna is a big, and delicious loaf of bread. Did you know there are historians who believed the manna could have been bug poop? Not really an artisan loaf, is it? The bible describes it as thin flakes, as thin as frost on the ground. No matter what it was, it most definitely was not a big steaming loaf of bread.
In truth, manna was 'just enough.' I discussed abundance and just enough during advent. God gives spiritual need abundantly. God gives physical need in just enough. Manna was one of those items that spoiled if they took more than what they needed. It could only sustain them for a day. (Two days if it was the day before the Sabbath.) It couldn't be hoarded. It couldn't be locked away for later. It also wasn't gilded or beautiful. Can you hear the Israelites confusion as they ask Moses, "What is it?" Maybe there was a sense of disappointment. I can almost hear the whispers to one another, "Moses wants us to eat that?!"
Manna has two key features:
Whether it's us or the the Israelites accepting manna in the wilderness, it is a humbling experience. In the middle of it, getting just enough of what we need can drop us to our knees. Manna is a perspective changing substance. There is something about having just enough of something to remind us of God's power. There is something about discovering our needs over and beyond our wants that make us realize how fortunate we really are. It changes our "What is it?," to "Thank God it was there."