Morning Sermon: Exodus 16, Manna From Heaven

New Testament Reading: John 6:22-41

“On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’’ Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’ So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’” (John 6:22–41, ESV)

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 16

“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.’ Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’ And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’’ In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’’ And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, ‘Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.’ But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, he said to them, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’’ So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. Moses said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.’ On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.’ So the people rested on the seventh day. Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. Moses said, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’’ And Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the LORD to be kept throughout your generations.’ As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony to be kept. The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan. (An omer is the tenth part of an ephah.)” (Exodus 16, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.


Stories are powerful, aren’t they? In the scriptures, we find many different genres of literature. There are books of history, books of wisdom and poetry, and books that contain straightforward teaching. We are to learn from all of these literary styles as they present truth to us, each in their own way. Here in the Exodus, we find wonderful narratives or stories. 

I’ve tried to convince you in previous sermons that these stories are not ordinary stories. They are not mere history, nor are they myths or legends. No, these stories are divinely inspired stories. They contain true history. And the historical events they recount are a part of redemptive history. These stories tell of the mighty deeds of God that he worked in the accomplishment of our redemption. These stories are powerful. Not only do they tell us about what happened in the past, they also reveal the truth about God, his plans, and his purposes. These stories even teach us about living a life of faith, for these things that happened to Old Covenant Israel happened to them for our instruction. That is what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:11. We would be wise to pay careful attention to these stories, therefore, so that we might learn to sojourn well.


Christian Sojourners Must Have Following The Lord, Living For His Glory, And The Advancement Of His Kingdom As Their Highest Aim

The first principle that I wish to draw from our text for today is that Christian sojourners must have following the LORD, living for his glory, and for the advancement of his kingdom as their highest aim.

You will notice that Israel enjoyed the refreshment of the 12 springs of water and the 70 palm trees of Elim for a time, but soon the LORD led them off into the wilderness again. That is what verse 1 tells us. Israel “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” (Exodus 16:1, ESV). So, they were refreshed for a time at the oasis of Elim, but they were not to remain there, for Elim was not their destination. The LORD’s will was to sanctify them further in the wilderness, to enter into a covenant with them, and to lead them on to the promised land. 

I would imagine that some (perhaps many) within Israel were hesitant to leave Elim. They knew that they were surrounded by a wilderness that was vast, desolate, and harsh. Elim was a comfort to them. At Elim there was safety. But notice this: Israel was redeemed from Egyptian bondage, not to pursue a life of comfort and safety, but to follow the LORD wherever he led. 

The same is true for you and me, brothers and sisters. Our highest aim must be to live for God, the glory of his name, and the furtherance of his kingdom. We cannot allow our natural desire for comfort and for safety to be the driving force of our lives. No, we must live for higher purposes. We must be willing to leave the comfort of the springs and shade of Elim if it is the will of the LORD to lead us into the wilderness again. Following him, living for his glory, and the advancement of his kingdom must be the thing that drives us. 

Perhaps you have noticed that the Christian life has a rhythm to it. God, in his mercy and grace, does bless his people with times of refreshment and ease. But he does also lead us through times of testing. I’ve experienced this rhythm personally. I’ve experienced it in the family. And I’ve experienced it in the church. The Christian life ebbs and flows. There will be times of travail, and there will be times of refreshment. And it seems to me that the LORD knows just what we need at any given moment. We are tested by the trials and tribulations of life. And it is during those times of testing that God’s people grow. But the LORD knows our limitations. In his mercy, at just the right time, he leads us to the springs of Elim to be refreshed there by the water and the shade. And then, in his mercy, he leads us into the wilderness again to move us onward towards the promised land. 

Are you ready for that journey, brothers and sisters? Are you prepared to follow the LORD wherever he leads? Are you ready to experience the rhythm of refreshment and testing through trial as we sojourn towards the promised land? 

You know, one of the most important things for us to have on this journey is proper expectations and desires. If our expectations and desires are set on comfort and safety, then we will not sojourn well. It will be difficult for us to leave Elim to journey in the wilderness again. And while in the wilderness, we will likely grumble and complain. But if we are following the LORD, living for his glory, and the advancement of his kingdom is our highest aim, and if we properly expect to experience times of difficulty and times of refreshment in the LORD, then we will likely sojourn well, for our eyes and hearts will not be fixed on the transient things of this earth, but on things of lasting worth.  


Christian Sojourners Must Pursue Contentment As They Trust The LORD For Their Daily Bread

The second principle that I wish to draw from our passage today is this: Christian sojourners must pursue contentment as they trust the LORD for their daily bread. As we will soon see, Old Covenant Israel was called to do this in a very literal way, but the principle certainly applies to us too. Christian sojourners must pursue contentment as they trust the LORD for their daily bread.

In verse 2 we read, “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness…” (Exodus 16:2, ESV). Grumbling or complaining was a major problem in Israel. You would think they would have been filled with gratitude given what the LORD did for them to rescue them from oppression in Egypt. But no, they grumbled and complained continuously. As I said last Sunday, the theme of grumbling ties the three stories of Exodus 15:22-17:7 together. Israel grumbled time and time and time again. One almost gets the impression that the LORD wishes to warn his people about this great sin! And no, it is not an overstatement to say that the sin of grumbling is a great sin. When a person grumbles and complains they reveal that their hearts are filled with ingratitude and discontentment to the point of overflowing. 

And no, I am not saying that we are never allowed to talk about our troubles, heartaches, and disappointments with others. That is not grumbling, at least not necessarily. But it is a fine line, isn’t it? To grumble is to complain. Grumbling emanates from a discontent and ungrateful heart. And so I ask you friend, are you a grumbler? Are you a complainer? You may need to pause and reflect upon this question later today. Are you a grumbler before God? Is your heart filled with discontentment and ingratitude before God? 

Notice that Israel did not grumble directly to God, but to Moses and Aaron. This is unusually how it goes. We grumble and complain to others. Or perhaps we grumble and complain against our leaders. But really our complaint is against God. Moses sets this straight with Israel in verse 8 where he says, “the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD” (Exodus 16:8, ESV). When we grumble about our circumstances to ourselves or to others, the LORD hears it and he knows that the complaint is against him.

It is a great sin to live in God’s world, to enjoy the blessings that he graciously provides, and to complain against him. This is true for all men, and it is even worse for the redeemed of God to grumble and complain, for we ought to see that in Christ we have our every need met.

So why did Israel grumble? Look at verse 3. They complained that they had no food, saying, “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” (Exodus 16:3, ESV). 

Notice two things:

One, Israel exaggerated the goodness of the past. As they reminisced about life as slaves in Egypt they said, do you remember how wonderful things used to be when Pharoah would roll out the all-you-can-eat buffet for us? Give me a break! Pharaoh was nowhere near this generous to them. And whatever he did feed them, he fed them so that he might work them to the point of exhaustion. But this is what ingrates do. They look to the past, or they look to others living afar off, and they say, do you remember when? Or, if only… And they fail to count their blessings in the moment. 

Two, notice that Israel exaggerated the direness of their current situation. Oh, “that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt”, they said. Really, Israel? Things are so bad that it would have been better that you had died in Egypt? That seems a little dramatic to me. 

You know, it’s interesting that in the next episode Israel grumbles against the LORD again because they have no water. Listen carefully now to 17:3: “But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3, ESV). Did you catch that? The Hebrews still have livestock. So they were not out of food, were they? They had flocks. They could drink the milk and eat the cheese and meat of their livestock. But here they claim to be near death from hunger. 

Ingrates will exaggerate the goodness of the past or the goodness of others afar off and they simultaneously exaggerate the badness of their current situation. This is what Israel did. 

Psalm 78 also helps us to see that this was what happened. Psalm 78 comments on the Exodus event and the wilderness wanderings and it says, among other things, that Israel “tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved” (Psalm 78:18, ESV). Did you hear that? They demanded, not the food that they needed, but the food they craved. And the same thing is said in verse 29: “And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved” (Psalm 78:29, ESV). In other words, Psalm 78 portrays Israel’s grumbling as being about their wants, not their needs. And perhaps you have noticed that most of our grumbling is about wants, not needs. 

What are we to do concerning our needs, brothers and sisters? We are not to grumble and complain against the LORD, but in faith, we are to pray to the Lord saying, give us this day our daily bread.

And what are we to do concerning our wants? Well, we are to pursue contentment in life as we wait upon the Lord to give and to take away as he sees fit. 

We are to pursue contentment, brothers and sisters. As the Apostle Paul says, “godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:6–8, ESV). 

Don’t confuse contentment with complacency, brothers and sisters. It is right for the people of God to work hard and to seek to advance or to improve their situation in life. This applies to work, to money, to housing, and to things political and cultural. Pursuing contentment does not mean that we must be complacent and inactive. No, contentment resides within the heart. To be content is to be grateful. To be content is to be satisfied. And it is the one who is content in the heart who is in the best position to speak and to act for the betterment of his position in life, or the betterment of society. 

The one who is content in the heart before God will be filled with life and love, joy, hope, and peace. The one who is discontent in the heart will be filled with dourness, darkness, and depression. Compare and contrast the two, brothers and sisters. And tell me which soul is better positioned to improve their station in life or to impact society in a positive way? It should be clear to you that contentment does not mean complacency. To the contrary, those who maintain contentment in the heart are in a position of strength to speak and to act for their own good and the good of others. Not to mention the fact that a content heart – a heart filled with life and love, joy, hope, and peace –does glorify God, for true contentment is rooted in him and in our trust in him.        

What I have just said can be applied to many things, but I think can sense what I am alluding to, brothers and sisters. The culture is rapidly changing. The politics can be maddening. This plague of authoritarianism that seems to be sweeping the world is concerning. But those in Christ must trust the LORD. We must pursue contentment even in these things. We must not grumble and complain, but sojourn on in trustful dependence upon God for our daily bread. It is so very crucial, brothers and sisters, for you have to have joy. And joy – true joy – cannot be manufactured. It will emanate from the heart that is full of faith and content in God. 

Philippians 4:12 came to mind. There Paul says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12–13, ESV). Isn’t that beautiful? What is the “secret” to thriving in every season of life, in low times and in times of abounding, in plenty and in hunger, in abundance and need? The secret is having your roots sunk down deep into God and into the Christ that he sent. He is to be our source of satisfaction and of strength. That is what the words, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” mean. 

So why did the LORD provide Israel with these game birds and this manna to eat? They were not truly starving (at least not yet). It was their cravings, not their needs, that drove them to grumble against LORD. Why did he bless them with this food? The birds were driven to them by a strong wind only once, but the manna was provided for them continuously, day by day, for 40 years! Why did the LORD give it? 

Well, because he is merciful and kind. And also, to teach Israel (and us!) to live in trustful dependence upon the LORD for their daily needs. Whenever Israel would go out to gather the manna they would be reminded of the LORD’s daily provision. In fact, a jar of this manna was to be kept by the priests as a kind of memorial to God’s faithfulness for future generations. 

Isn’t it interesting that this provision of manna was designed by God to function as daily bread? What was it? We don’t know for sure. The text says that “it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31, ESV). Sounds good, doesn’t it? It may have been a natural substance, but it functioned in a supernatural way. The LORD provided it in great abundance. It was to be gathered daily. If too much was taken it would rot and stink. And it appeared daily, not for a week or two, but for 40 years. But here I am drawing your attention to the way in which the LORD designed the manna to function as daily bread. The LORD could have made the manna to last a week or a month. But he willed that it last a day. And so I am saying that the purpose of the manna was not only to feed Israel but to teach them about the faithfulness of the LORD and for them to live in daily dependence upon him.   

What can we learn from Israel’s experience? One thing is this: Christian sojourners must pursue contentment as they trust the LORD for their daily bread. 


Christian Sojourners Must Rest In The LORD As They Honor The Sabbath Day And Keep It Holy

The third principle that I wish to draw from our passage today is that Christian sojourners must rest in the LORD as they honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

I said that the manna was daily dead bread. That is true, with the exception of the weekly Sabbath day. The Old Covenant people of God were to honor the Sabbath day on the seventh day of the week, which we call Saturday. According to this text, Israel was to gather double the manna on Friday  so that they would have enough for Saturday, for on Saturday no manna would be provided. The people of Israel were to rest on the seventh day and they were to worship. If the people of Israel attempted to gather more than they needed for the day on the other days of the week, it would rot and stink, but not the bread for the Sabbath day. A double portion was to be gathered on Friday and it would last through Saturday. 

So then, the LORD used the manna to feed Israel, to teach Israel to trust the LORD for daily provision, and to teach them to honor the Sabbath day to keep it holy. The manna was provided for them on days one through six. On day six, the Israelites were to gather a double portion, for on day seven no manna would be provided. That is quite a training program for Sabbath keeping, wouldn’t you say? Through the provision of manna on six days and the withholding of it on the seventh, God taught Israel to honor the Sabbath day. 

It is interesting to note that Israel was expected to keep the Sabbath day before the law was given on Sinai and before the Mosaic Covenant was ratified. I mention this to counter those who would claim that weekly Sabbath keeping was unique to the Old Mosaic covenant. It was not. The Sabbath command was first given, not to Israel through Moses, but to Adam in the garden. Israel was to honor the Sabbath day before the law was given on Sinai, before the Old Mosaic covenant was ratified, and before Israel took possession of the land. Yes, the weekly seventh day Sabbath would play a very special role under the Old Mosaic economy. Many other holy days would be added to the weekly Sabbath through Moses. But it wrong to assume that the weekly Sabbath day was unique to Old Covenant Israel, and therefore not for us. In fact, Christ taught his disciple how to keep the Sabbath. He taught it’s true meaning. He changed the day when he rose from the grave. And the New Testament does explicitly say that “there remains a Sabbath rest [Sabbath-keeping] for the people of God…” (Hebrews 4:9, ESV).

This is why I have said that Christian sojourners must rest in the LORD as they honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Old Covenant Israel was to honor the Sabbath day as they sojourned in the wilderness. They were to cease from their labor, they were to rest and to worship. And New Covenant Israel is to do the same as we sojourn. Yes, the day has changed, for Christ, in whom we rest now and for all eternity, has lived, died, and risen from the grave. The day has changed for good reason, but the pattern of six and one remains. Christian sojourners must honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. This they must do, not as a mindless ritual, but as a means of thoughtfully and faithfully resting in Christ.

The Sabbath day for Israel and for us is a day for physical rest, and it is also a day for spiritual rest. It is a day for drawing near to God. It is a day for listening to his Word. It is a day for reorienting our lives around him, for gathering with the faithful, for being reminded of the LORD precious and very great promises, and of the work that Christ has accomplished for us. The Sabbath day is a holy day uniquely suited for setting the mind and and the heart on God, on Christ, and on our eternal inheritance in him. The Sabbath day is essential for Christian sojourners. 

Don’t neglect it, brothers and sisters. Set aside your work on this day. Set it aside for the whole day. And set aside your recreations too. Honor this day as holy. Set your mind on God and the things of God. Be refreshed by the assembly of God’s redeemed. Stop neglecting the fellowship, brothers and sisters. Prepare for the Lord’s Day Sabbath. Long for the Lord’s Day Sabbath. And then keep the Lord’s Day Sabbath holy.

You know, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is when Christians neglect the basic things that God has provided for them and then wonder why it is that they struggle in their sojourning. I see Christians struggling with sin, with anxiety, with anger, with discontentment, etc. but I notice that they often neglect the fellowship of the believers on the Lord’s Day, or are quick to leave after the benediction is read. Where are you off to, brothers and sisters? What’s the rush? What is keeping you from worship in the morning and in the afternoon? Have you not prepared for the Lord’s Day? Is there not six days of the week for work and for recreation, for chores, birthday parties, for watching football, and all the rest? Why not honor this day as holy as the Lord has commanded? Why not come to worship in the morning and in the afternoon? I trust that you will be refreshed if you do. More importantly, I trust that the Lord will be well pleased.     

Stated a little differently, Christian sojourners must rest in the LORD, and one of the primary ways that we do this is through the observance of the Lord’s Day Sabbath. It is a day of rest for the soul.



You know, one thing that has been implied throughout this semon but not yet stated explicitly is that Christian sojourners need Christ. We must be found in him by faith, living for the glory of God and the furtherance of God’s eternal kingdom through him. We must see that he is the true bread of life and the true drink for which every soul longs. We must know that he is our eternal Sabbath rest. 

Christian sojourners need Christ. We must be found in him by faith, we must abide in him and cling to him. I have told you that Christ is pictured everywhere in the events of the Exodus, and it is true. As Israel gathered and ate the physical manna, Christ the bread of life was portrayed to them. As they honored the Sabbath on the seventh they were to look forward to the coming of Christ and the rest that would be earned by him. As Israel partake of these earthly blessings they were simultaneously compelled to partake of the Christ that was portrayed to and promised to them by faith. And you and I are to do the same. As we sojourn in this world and experience the rhythms of the trials and refreshments of life, we are to cling to Christ by faith as we honor the Sabbath day to keep it holy and partake of the manna and the drink which God has set before us, in which the broken body and shed blood of Christ is signified. May we be found content in him, brothers and sisters.

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