Bishop Dr Peter (UK)
Bread from Heaven 
Updated: Mar 18, 2021
Exodus 16:1-8 (ESV)
They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”
So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?”
And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him — what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”
Notes on the Scripture
At this point, we actually have a better idea of where the Israelites were than in the previous chapters. In Numbers 33:10-11, Moses recounts that they camped by the Red Sea after they left Elim. They were following a coastal road, used by the Egyptians to bring mined minerals from the southern Sinai to Egypt (see map). Plus, we know that exactly one month has passed, as they have begun keeping the Jewish calendar.
While there is much to say about the passage, the most important feature is the preliminary imposition of the fourth commandment. Any sensible person recognizes that, ultimately, God provides our food. We may pride ourselves on our agriculture and industry, but as Christ said: “Consider the birds of the air. . . .” Here, God removes the work of man altogether, for the Hebrews cannot farm and the livestock is emaciated. They are in a terrible desert where they cannot even gather; God feeds them directly. They cannot make the mistake of pride in an illusory self-sufficiency, as atheists do, or think that it is an accident that food falls from the sky, in the middle of a desert.
God is ready, in His training of the Hebrews, to move them to a new level of trust: He commands them not to gather food for more than one day, except on the sixth day; and on the seventh day, not to gather at all. This is utterly artificial, a law of God that runs contrary to nature. It is something a person would do only if he trusted God absolutely. God is training them to follow His Word, rather than their experience in the world. Like any training experience, He starts with a direct reward system.
It is odd for us to live in a time when we can see this training in reverse. God wants us to work six days and rest on the seventh, keeping it as a day of holy celebration. If you have seen the great movie Chariots of Fire, you will remember the Scotsman, Eric Liddell, who won the 400-meter run in the 1924 Olympics, but refused to compete in his best event, the 100-meter dash, because it was held on Sunday. (And he certainly sacrificed a gold medal: His British record in the 100-yard dash was not broken for 35 years.)
The point being: Can we even imagine this happening today? Tim Tebow, the great Christian figurehead of professional sports, played football on Sunday. This is not to judge Mr. Tebow in any way, but it is hard not to think that our overall trust in God is unraveling, as being ’open for business” on Sunday has become nearly universal; the only exception among national chains is Chick-fil-A.
We do not live under the strict letter of Mosaic Law; Christ Himself abridged the Sabbath laws by healing. Surely there is room for interpretation in the fourth commandment. But we must ask ourselves: Are our Sunday activities good-faith attempts to keep the spirit of the Sabbath, or a rationalization for compromising God’s will to feed our own appetites?