A Forty Year Object Lesson

If you have ever had the joy of teaching a toddler’s Bible class, you know that simply reading the Scriptures is not a profitable study for them.  Children with young minds need interaction.  So, often the class time is filled with biblical-themed singing, coloring, and crafting.  Object lessons are also a memorable way for youths to understand Bible lessons.  You may have seen children returning from Bible class with popsicle stick houses that demonstrated to them the importance of building on solid foundations rather than sand (Matt. 7:24-27).  Or what about those jars filled with rocks, pebbles, and sand that demonstrated how we should put God in first (the rocks) and then fill our lives around him (pebbles and sand) rather than the reverse.  The Bible records that Jesus Christ himself taught using object lessons.  He used water with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-30) to teach about “living water.”  He described himself as the “bread of life” after feeding the five thousand bread and fish (John 6:1-14, 26-40).  While using simple and everyday objects, Jesus was able to teach spiritual truths to those around Him.  

The Israelites, in Exodus 16, are introduced to a forty-year object lesson: Manna!  After complaining about a lack of food in the wilderness, God provided sustenance for them every day for forty years. What is manna?  The precise meaning is unknown, but the Bible describes it as …like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey (Ex. 16:31). …its appearance like that of bdellium (Num. 11:7).  They were to prepare it by …grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it (Num. 11:8).   God tested the Israelites with this “bread from heaven” to find out if they would walk in His instructions (Exodus 16:4).  Consider these four points on how God used Manna to teach the spiritually immature Israelites to depend on “the glory of the Lord” (Ex. 16:7) and how it may apply to us today.

THEY WERE TO GATHER (Exodus 16:16-17)

Every man was commanded to go out and gather his portion. They were limited to an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of them had in his tent (Ex. 16:16b).  Some gathered much and some little (Ex. 16:17). Christians today do not need to gather physical manna but rather spiritual manna that can only be provided by our Heavenly Father (Matt. 4:4, 5:6; Heb. 11:6).  In order for us to be fed spiritually, we must gather (seek) His word. Some will gather much!  Unfortunately, many will gather little.

THEY WERE TO GAUGE (Exodus 16:18) 

They were to gauge (measure) their portions (Ex. 16:18a).  He who had gathered much had no excess.  He who gathered little had no lack.  Everyone gathered as much as he should eat (Ex. 16:18b).  Spiritually, God provides what we need today also.  We should confidently say “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1).  Jesus wants us to have “abundant life” (John 10:10b).  We should be gauging our intake of God’s blessings.

THEY WERE NOT TO BE GREEDY (Exodus 16:19-30) 

One exception to the rule was the gathering on the sixth day.  On this day they were to gather twice as much (Ex. 16:22-30).  The seventh day was a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Some attempted to gather on the seventh day which led God to respond, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?” (Ex. 16:28).  Christians should not be greedy with Jesus but share!  Some may have experience volunteering at a soup kitchen.  It makes us feel good to help “feed” those who are hungry.  But some refuse to follow the commandments and instructions of God to feed the spiritually hungry (Matt. 28:19-20).  Don’t be greedy sharing the soul-saving gospel.

THEY WERE TO REMIND FUTURE GENERATIONS (Exodus 16:32-34)

God commanded that a jar of manna be kept throughout their generation (Ex. 16:32a).  It was to be a reminder to them that God fed them in the wilderness when He took them out of Egypt (Deut. 8:3, 16).  Aaron placed it before the Testimony (Ex. 16:34; Heb. 9:4).  Christians must also teach the next generation to depend on God.  We don’t have the golden jar to remind us today.  Lest we say in our heart “my power and the strength of my hand…” (Deut. 8:16-17).

The manna object lesson lasted 40 years.  They all ate the same spiritual food (1 Cor. 10:3).  They ate it until they came to the border of the land of Canaan (Ex. 16:35). The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land (Joshua 5:12).  They depended on God for sustenance while wandering in the wilderness.  We depend on God by gathering and gauging His word, not being greedy with that Word and teaching future generations about the Word.  Consider the 40-year manna object lesson!

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