Let’s pray together.
Our Father, we are looking to You for Your mercy and Your grace. We pray that You would draw near to us, to all of us. We know that You know our need and we pray that by Your Spirit You would comfort and heal and help. As we turn now to Your Word and as we look to You, we ask that You would open our hearts and open our eyes. Help us to see and hear from You and meet us in Your grace, for we ask it in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.
Now if you would, take a copy of God’s Word in your hands and turn to Exodus chapter 16; page 58 in the church Bibles. We’ve been working through the book of Exodus. The opening twenty-one verses or so we dealt with last time and the focus of the passage was on God’s response to Israel as they begin to make their journey, having left slavery in Egypt through the wilderness, and they have begun to grumble and complain that there was not enough for them to eat; there was a certain austerity to their experience. And yet instead of dealing with them in rebuke and judgment, we notice the extraordinary patience of God who responded in grace and provided for their needs. And we are continuing in that story as we notice how God provides for them, particularly with reference to the Sabbath Day.
The Word of God, from Exodus 16; reading from verse 21:
“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.)”
Amen, and thanks be to God that He has spoken in His holy and inerrant Word.
Divine Treatment For Discontented Hearts
There is – I wonder if you will agree with this – there is an epidemic of dissatisfaction in our culture today. Perhaps the pace of life, the economic burdens that we carry, the 24/7 digital bombardment of our senses with images of what we do not have, the depictions of unattainable romance, and the occasional story of an ordinary Joe who hits the big time, along with the deeply rooted cultural narrative of the American dream, all of that so often combines to generate dissatisfaction in our hearts.
As we come back to Exodus 16 we’re coming back to a chapter that offers a divine treatment plan for discontented hearts. Last time we noticed the grumbling, entitled spirits of the Israelites on full display and yet we also saw that God who is rich in mercy gave them manna from heaven in the mornings and quails to eat in the evenings so that everyone had enough whether they gathered a lot or a little. And we looked at the first twenty-one verses under three headings – the problem of dissatisfaction, verses 1 to 3, the patience of grace, 4 to 12, and the provision of plenty in 13 to 21. That was last week. This week we come to a practical treatment program for our dissatisfied hearts in verses 21 to the end. Three more points – 21 to 31, the practice of rest, 31 to 36, the purpose of memory, and then we’ll look at the whole passage and see the picture of Christ. And you do have to give me credit, I think, for three more “P”s. That’s six altogether. You’ve got to be impressed with that, surely! The practice of rest, the purpose of memory, the picture of Christ.
I. The Practice of Rest
Let’s think about the first of those. The practice of rest in 21 to 30. You will remember God has responded to the grumbling, complaining Israelites with patience. He’s given them an abundance of food to eat – manna, quail – and in 16 to 19 He gave them instructions through Moses on how to gather the manna each day. They were to gather only what was needed for that day’s necessity. They weren’t to keep extra for the next day. When they tried, verse 20, the manna went off; it turned bad. It bred worms and stank. They were supposed to depend day by day on each day’s provision from God. It was an object lesson in trusting God to meet their needs.
The Sabbath: God’s Pattern for Life
As the Lord Jesus taught us we are to pray each day for our daily bread. The one exception to that pattern of course was the Sabbath Day, verse 22. On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each, and Moses explained why. There will be no manna left on the ground. There will be no manna on Saturday, on the Sabbath Day. They were to gather twice as much – God would provide twice as much – and it would keep on this day. It would not go off or turn bad. It would be available to them on the Sabbath Day if they gather twice as much on Friday. Again, driving home the point God will provide. “Just keep My Word, obey My Law, observe the pattern of life that I am ordering for you, and see that I will meet your need.” That’s the principle, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you also.” That’s the principle. No one ever lost out because they kept the Sabbath holy.
I wonder if you believe that. The Sabbath, you may remember, was instituted by God in Genesis chapter 2, verses 2 and 3, on the last day of the creation week where God rested from all His work and consecrated the Sabbath Day. Moses here is not, therefore, instituting a new or novel practice. He’s reaffirming an old one. In Egypt, the Hebrews were the slaves of Egyptian taskmasters who drove them and gave them no rest. There was no Sabbath. But God here gives His people in their difficult and hard pilgrimage rest, and now He tells them to honor and love that principle. “There is going to be enough so that tomorrow you can rest and worship. Trust Me. Obey My Law. I will provide.”
And that pattern of Sabbath rest, keeping one whole day in seven as sacred to God, instituted by Him not at Mount Sinai nor here in the wilderness but back in Genesis 2, that is a pattern that is for us all – a pattern of rest and worship; a permanent part of the design of God for all people. So that when God gave definitive summary to His moral will, His Law in the Ten Commandments, right there among not killing and not lying, not taking His name in vain, is the Sabbath principle, the command to keep the Sabbath holy. It is not a ceremonial and therefore obsolete and out-moded commandment; it is a binding moral obligation for the people of God in every age. The day itself has now changed, of course, from the last day of the week to the first, because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the second Adam. He’s made a new beginning, founded a new humanity by His cross. And His resurrection on the first day of the week, the day when the light was created in the creation week, Jesus the Light of the world, rose in victory over the grave bringing life and immortality to light. And so now God’s people keep the first day of the week, not the last, Resurrection Day, the Lord’s Day, as the Christian Sabbath.
But we are to keep the Sabbath still until the final rest when we rest from the trouble of sin that continues to beset us and we rest from the trials of living in a broken world, when that rest finally comes and all things are made knew at the last day. Until that day comes we are to keep the Sabbath holy. It is a basic pattern and component part of Christian devotion and discipleship and obedience and it’s designed by the Lord and built into our own wearisome wilderness journey to provide for us rest. It’s designed also to require us and to teach us to trust Him to provide for us enough for our needs so that we can rest. That’s part of the big lesson of the chapter or the portion of the chapter we read together. It’s there to underscore the importance of obeying God in faith and keeping His Law, particularly keeping the Sabbath, and not excusing our disobedience on merely pragmatic grounds. The rest that God gave to Israel in our passage was not simply a rest from labor but a rest on God, trusting His promise to provide for them in His grace.
But do look down at verses 27 to 28 for a moment. Apparently some of the Israelites decided this Sabbath business was far too restrictive and too narrow and they took matters into their own hands and went out to gather on the Sabbath, just as they’d done on other days, and this time they find nothing. It’s entirely possible, perhaps even likely, these are the same folks from verse 20 who tried to hoard their manna when they were told not to and the whole thing begins to rot and ends up breeding maggots. This time they’re expressly told to store up extra and yet again, though they ought not to have broken God’s Law, they thought they knew better. And lurking behind their disobedience, do you see, is a lack of trust that God will provide. They’re dissatisfied. They simply do not think that God’s way is the best way.
And if we’re honest, isn’t that what we continue to think whenever we tell ourselves that God’s Law is unnecessary or unhelpful or out of date? We want more and we want it on our terms. “One whole day in seven set apart not for sports and shopping and tailgating but for rest and worship – that’s a little over the top, isn’t it?” We’re dissatisfied with God’s pattern. We want more. But the point of our text is to show us that Sabbath keeping, far from restricting our freedom or limiting our joy, is intended and actually helps us find the true secret of Christian contentment. Some of us are going to the office or bringing work home on Sundays not because we have to by some absolute necessity, but because we do not believe God will provide for us if we only work six days instead of seven. Some of us make Sundays days for “me” time. “Sure we may well go to church at least once on Sunday to get it over with, but the rest of the day is for me to do with whatever I most enjoy – a round of golf, a trip to the movie theatre, a few hours at the mall.” Behind it all is the conviction that “In order to be happy and satisfied and whole, I must be entertained.” That’s what free time is for – entertainment, distraction.
But God is saying to us here and everywhere in Scripture, “I’m the one you need. Me! And I’ve ring-fenced one day in seven, that built into the rhythm of your life would be time for fellowship with Me and communion with Me where I might meet you and you might find the satisfaction your heart craves.” The practice of rest, I rather suspect, is missing from the rhythm of many of our lives. We go, go, go pursuing more – more money, more fun, more time – and the irony is, the faster we run the less margin we seem to have. Isn’t that true? And our joy begins to crumble. We’re pursuing satisfaction and it eludes us. And our text is saying, “You know all of that is so unnecessary.” God has set apart Sunday as the Lord’s Day and He’s asking you to trust Him for the rest and keep His Day holy. He will provide. God is no man’s debtor. No one ever failed an exam because they studied extra hard the rest of the week so they might rest on the Lord’s Day. No one ever went into debt because they honored God on the Sabbath and worked harder Monday to Saturday so that they might do so. No one ever lost out by obeying God. No one! Gather double on other days. Order your life so that you are free to keep the Lord’s Day. Honor God with your time. That is what it means when you say, “Jesus is my Lord.” It means He orders your days. Your times are in His hand. And you’ll discover when you begin to trust Him and obey that He really will provide. That no one has ever given to God that God should repay Him. You do not put Him in your debt. You can’t out-give God. He will shower more grace upon you than you need. And those who keep His Word and trust Him discover that again and again and again and the rare jewel of Christian contentment is something we begin to discover and prize and savor and love. The practice of rest.
II. The Preservation of Memory
Then more briefly the preservation of memory. Verse 35 – we discover the people eat manna in the wilderness all the way through their journey until they reach the Promised Land where it all stops because God has brought them home at last. God’s provision for them will not run out. His mercy and His grace will be new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. And in 31 to 34, Moses is told, “Take steps to be sure that Israel never forgets it.” Look at it, 31 to 34 – Moses was to reserve an omer of the manna, about two quarts, in a jar that would be preserved throughout Israel’s generations in the presence of God. It would become a kind of national memorial of God’s saving provision and the abundance of His grace reminding them that you can trust Him. He will provide. Order your life according to His Word and see how He meets your need. It never went bad. This manna was kept and preserved down through the generations. Aaron, we’re told, eventually would place it before the testimony, that is, before the Ark of the Covenant that would come to reside within the tabernacle that the Lord would have them build.
The point is not complicated or hard to see, is it? God wants His people never to forget that His grace is sufficient for us, that His strength is made perfect in weakness. That if you seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added to you also. Your Father in heaven knows what you need. God will sustain all whom He saves. He will feed those whom He frees. God has given us reminders likewise of His unfailing love and His commitment not only to delivering us from sin’s bondage and slavery but His commitment to sustaining us and keeping us and nourishing and feeding us. Think about the sacraments, for example – baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They serve that function, don’t they? Not afterthoughts, not appendices that may safely be ignored unnecessary. No, they are means of grace designed to bring the Word of God to us that’s come audibly in the reading and preaching of Scripture to our eyes and hands and mouths to graphically, physically bring the Gospel home with new power. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are there to underscore and highlight and placard the good news that God saves, that His grace is enough, that He will never leave us nor forsake us, that He is sufficient for us. And as we trust Him and cling to His promises He feeds and nourishes us. And you handle the bread and the cup and when you sit at the Table of the Lord, you have a more powerful reminder than Israel did in that jar full of manna because the emblems that you handle and taste speak so clearly to us, don’t they, of the true bread of heaven. The greatest provision God has ever given for His people’s need from which every other blessing of His grace flows to us, the cross of Jesus Christ, His body broken, His blood shed.
III. The Picture of Christ
Which brings us to the last thing that I want us to see – the practice of rest, the preservation of memory, finally the picture of Christ. In John’s gospel chapter 6, there’s a huge crowd that has attended Jesus’ ministry as He’s preached and taught them and He has fed them miraculously, multiplying the loaves and the fishes and they begin to dog His steps. And He says to then, “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.” And 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.’” Then Jesus 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 trust 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 never hunger and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.”
The heart and center of satisfaction is found here. You have been busy running in every direction, seeking to answer the need of your heart. And the harder you’ve run the more the need has grown. Your heart is made to find satisfaction here in Jesus Christ. He is the Bread of Heaven given for sinners that by faith in Him they may never hunger again. It’s Jesus your heart needs. Come and cling to Him. Trust in Christ. He will feed your soul. He will nourish your heart. He will sate your thirst. He will fill you and His grace will never run out.
The practice of rest – keep the Lord’s Day. Christ comes to His people in His Word and in the means of grace to give Himself to you and me. The preservation of memory – use the means He has provided to see again what God has done for you in Jesus. And the picture of Christ – it is Christ you need who is the Bread of Heaven, that whoever comes to Him should never hunger again. Let’s pray together.
O our Father, we come confessing to You that we are so prone to glut our spiritual appetites with the junk food of a broken world. But instead of satisfying, we are left more hungry than ever. Help us now, please, to come to the true manna, the Bread of Heaven, and as we feast, as we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, keep Your promise, dispel our hunger, satisfy our thirst, fill us, nourish us, be the fountain from which everlasting satisfaction springs in every heart here. For Jesus’ sake we pray, amen.
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