Manna from Heaven & Water from a Rock: The Word and the Spirit

‘In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from a rock’ ~ Nehemiah 9:15

When the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before reaching the Promised Land, they needed food and water to keep alive. So God tells Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day’ (Exodus 16:4). ‘The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey’ (v31). When they arrived in the Desert called Sin and demanded for water to quench their thirst, God instructs Moses, ‘I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink’ (17:v6). Moses then ‘called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the Lord saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ (v7). Throughout their journey, the Israelites ‘ate till they had more than enough, for he (God) had given them what they craved’ (Psalm 78:29). In fact, ‘For forty years you (God) sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen’ (Nehemiah 9:21).

Fast forward centuries later after emerging from the desert and into the Promised Land, and out of the Promised Land into captivity, and out of captivity into Roman rule, descendants of the Israelites are assembled around a Man named Jesus Christ. This Man says, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread of heaven, but is my Father who 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’ (John 6:33). The crowd then ask Jesus to given them this bread, thinking that some kind of manna will be rained down, as in the times of their forefathers. But Jesus makes a startling declaration, ‘I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’ (v48-51).

When Jesus declared that is He the Bread from heaven, better than manna, and urged people to ‘feed on me’ (v57), many took it literally and thought He alluded to cannibalism. They did not decipher that Jesus was speaking figuratively, and so grumbled saying, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ (v60). And ‘From this time many of his disciples (not the Twelve) turned back and no longer followed him’ (v65). They failed to remember the song Moses was taught by God that passed along generations which said, ‘Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants’ (Deuteronomy 32:2). Sure enough, Jesus, the Word of God, descended from heaven. For ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1).

So in essence, feeding on Jesus means feasting on His Word, on Him, heeding to what He says because ‘They are not just idle words for you – they are your life’ (Deuteronomy 32:47). Just like man cannot do without food, we cannot do without the Bread of Life because, ‘man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’ (8:v3). In fact, Jesus says, ‘The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life’ (John 6:63), because He Himself is spirit and is life. He is the Bread of Life and the Word of God that all who partake of live and enter into the Promised Land, into eternity. However, the Israelites just like their forefathers did not understand what Jesus meant. For their forefathers in the desert did not quite understand the bread which they ate and so named it ‘Manna’ (Exodus 16:31) which means What is it?  And for Jesus, they similarly asked, Who is this?

As if this revelation was not shocking enough, Jesus declares that ‘he who believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:35). He proceeds with His appalling illustration and says, ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink’ (v54-55). Again, Jesus says, ‘If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive’ (7:v37-39).  When Jesus had turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana, many were only amazed at the miracle but did not consider its significance. Besides used for drinking, water was significant to the Jews for purification purposes. By turning water into wine, Jesus not only declares that His Spirit purifies, but also refreshes. So when His mother had told Him that wine had ran out at the wedding, Jesus said to her, ‘Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come’ (2:v4). Jesus was alluding to the fact that He was yet to be glorified and so the Holy Spirit was yet to be given. But seeing that no one realized this, He proceeded to change the water into wine – the first miracle He performed.

Presently, some misunderstand this miracle and use it to justify alcohol consumption. Yet, the Bible states, ‘Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). Paul uses wine and the Holy Spirit to draw sharp contrasts between them by their end goal. The effect of the Holy Spirit can make one refreshed and upbeat, like alcohol (even more), but unlike the Holy Spirit which draws us to God, wine leads to debauchery. God says, ‘Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks’ (Isaiah 5:22). The Bible also lists ‘drunkards’ (1 Corinthians 6:10) among those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  This is because, one who believes in Jesus becomes ‘a kingdom and priests to serve his God’ (Revelation 1:6), and since we are a ‘royal priesthood’ (1 Peter 2:9), it is ‘not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights’ (Proverbs 31:4-5). When one is filled by God’s Spirit, they will find no need for alcohol which only multiplies sorrows. ‘Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine’ (23:v29-30).

Since the Bible at no point contradicts itself, Jesus would not have changed water into an alcoholic drink, then later deny drunkards entrance into His Kingdom. For when He changed water into wine, those who drank it symbolized the drinking of His blood. His blood which had to be shed so that we can have eternal life through His Holy Spirit, which purifies and refreshes. Jesus says, ‘But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’ (John 16:7). In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is symbolized as water, oil, and as wine, a ‘wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread (the Word) that sustains his heart’ (Psalm 104:15). Paul summarizes to say of the Israelites in the desert, ‘They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ’ (1 Corinthians 10:3-4).

‘They feast in abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is a fountain of life; in your light we see light’ ~ Psalm 36:8-9

‘Taste and see that the Lord is good: Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him’ ~ Psalm 34:8

‘Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy?’ ~ Isaiah 55:1-2

4 thoughts on “Manna from Heaven & Water from a Rock: The Word and the Spirit

  1. Pingback: Manna from Heaven & Water from a Rock: The Word and the Spirit – Carolyne Mulyale Mutisya – Reasoned Cases for Christ

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