Beshalach — “When he let go”

Portion for the week leading up to February 11, 2017

The True Manna

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After their great deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites begin to make their way through the wilderness. Before long, the people naturally begin to hunger, and so God provides a miraculous bounty of bread from heaven. Yeshua (Jesus) speaks of this event as recorded in the gospel of John, telling the people that He is the true manna from heaven and that they must eat of His flesh. But what exactly does this mean?

When we see the great miracles which God wrought on behalf of the children of Israel to free them from the hands of Pharaoh, we may be quick to assume that there was nothing that would ever cause them to doubt God's power and willingness to disturb the normal functions of nature to care for His people in extraordinary ways. On the contrary, we see that the carnal desires of hunger and thirst obstruct the Israelites' view of God's ability to provide: "The sons of Israel said to them, 'Would that we had died by the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger'" (Exodus 16:3). The people had misattributed their plight to Moses and Aaron instead of recognizing that it was God who was behind all of the miracles.

Regardless of their unbelief, God gives them what they want: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Behold, I will 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 or not they will walk in My instruction'" (verse 4). God judged that He would give them the food that they required, but would use it as a test to see if the people would be careful to follow His instruction in regard to gathering the manna: they were not to keep any leftover until morning, except on Friday when they were to gather enough for the Sabbath as well.

In the gospel of John, Yeshua is recorded as making reference to this event. The day after He multiplied the loaves and fish to feed the crowd of five-thousand, the people are looking for Him. Apparently they only wanted to see if Yeshua had any more free food to hand out, for Yeshua tells them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal" (John 6:26-27). Just like the people of Israel in the wilderness, the crowds were focused not on God, but only on having their daily needs satisfied. God's desire is that we do not engage in a frantic pursuit after the satisfaction of our daily needs, but that we trust Him to take care of us as we seek first the Kingdom (Matthew 6:25-33).

The crowds request a sign that He is the One sent from God, the Messiah. They mention that under Moses, their fathers ate manna in the wilderness. Perhaps they wanted to see Yeshua perform a similar miracle as He had done to feed the crowds the day before. Instead, Yeshua responds, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven... I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger... unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves." (John 6:32, 35, 53). What does it mean that Yeshua is the true bread of Heaven, the true manna from the Father? And how are we to eat His flesh and drink His blood?

First of all, that He is the manna from heaven signifies the fact that Yeshua descended from the Father rather than being born in the natural way of a man and woman. Eating from Yeshua is very closely connected to both believing in Him and by extension learning from His teachings and applying them to our lives. As we saw in Exodus 16:4, the manna was given to see whether the people would follow God's instructions. The passage in John 6 also speaks of being taught by God (verse 45) and listening to the teachings of Yeshua (verse 68).

When the people hear these words, they show their disbelief, saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, 'I have come down out of heaven'?" (John 6:42). Just as the Israelites in the wilderness attributed their position to Moses and Aaron, so too the crowds speaking to Yeshua are unable to see beyond flesh and blood. Because they knew who Yeshua was growing up, they could not accept that He had descended from the Father. Therefore they said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" (verse 60). Yeshua responds, saying that if they didn't believe that He came down from Heaven, how could they believe if they saw Him ascending into heaven (verses 61-62). And if they did not believe this, then they would not be able to subject themselves to His teachings.

As those who profess to be disciples of Yeshua, are we eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood? Are we ingesting His words and allowing them to sustain us and become part of who we are? Are we too focused on our physical wants to realize our greater spiritual needs? If not, then let us begin to do so daily, eating and drinking from the only true source of life.

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