Angel food! 

That’s how Psalm 78 describes the manna that the Israelites ate in the wilderness.

“He rained down manna upon them to eat, and gave them food from heaven.  Man did eat the bread of angels…” (Psalm 78:24-25).  The text is not intended to suggest that angels (spirit beings) are dependent upon physical food for their survival, but merely serves as an additional reminder that Israel’s daily sustenance was graciously granted by the God of Heaven.

For reasons that I can’t remember now, I found myself reading the Biblical texts about manna last week (primarily Exodus 16 & Numbers 11), and I was re-impressed with several concepts and truths.  When Jesus spoke of “daily bread” while teaching His disciples how to pray, he used a phrase that was rich with meaning and one that would have immediately reminded His Jewish audience of the manna which the Lord provided for 40 years in the wilderness.  40 years!  From 1971 to 2011.  From the time I was 8 years old to my current age of 48.  That’s a lot of bread from heaven!

Fine and flake-like, the manna fell with the dew six mornings a week, Sunday through Friday.  “Gather a day’s portion every day.”  The precise amount gathered per person was to be an omer, a measurement equivalent to about two quarts.  The temptation to hoard the bread in excessive supplies or gather a week’s worth at a time was thwarted by the fact that it would spoil overnight, becoming foul and full of worms; “maggoty and malodorous” to use K.A. Kitchen’s vivid vocabulary.  The manna was a lesson in daily dependence upon God.  The way the Lord provided it also encouraged personal responsibility and industriousness.  If you slept in, you were out of luck.  The manna on the ground melted as the sun grew hot each day.    

The only exception to the “morning by morning” provision was on the Sabbath.  On Friday morning, the “harvest” was to be two omers per person to provide enough for that day and the next.  No manna would fall on the Sabbath.  Even God didn’t make bread on the Sabbath!  The manna gathered on Friday would stay “fresh” through Saturday.       

You could pound it or grind it into meal, bake it, or boil it.  Manna tasted like wafers with honey or cakes baked with oil.  God provided it for 40 years, until the day after the Israelites first ate some of the produce of the land of Canaan (Exodus 16:35; Joshua 5:11-12); a reminder that God will not do for us what we can easily do for ourselves.  The Lord allowed a jar a manna to be preserved and unspoiled as a perpetual reminder of His faithful love and care for His people (Exodus 16:32-34; Hebrews 9:4).   

As good as the manna was, it only fed the body and not the soul, and those who ate the manna eventually died. 

Jesus, however, came down from heaven as the Living Bread to give spiritual life to the world (John 6:32-58).  

“I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:48-51).