Judging from farmer's markets and the dedication of backyard gardeners, our part of the country harvested a very healthy crop of zucchinis this year. I've bought a few and been gifted some. I've fried some slices, roasted some sections, turned some into casseroles, and shredded others to bake into various breads. Some methods for preparing the vegetables were simple and intuitive, while others sent me scrambling to my cookbooks and good ol' Pinterest for ideas.
Something about the abundance of this particular crop caused me to ponder what it must have been like to consume 40 YEARS worth of manna. Imagine eating the exact same thing and the same amount of it for 14,600 straight days.
Exodus 16:1-36 records the story. About the middle of the 2nd month, after the Israelites fled from slavery in Egypt and had their miraculous crossing over the Red Sea, the provisions they had hastily brought with them were completely gone. The people, who numbered in the millions, were hungry. There was no time to plant and harvest. They were never in one place long enough for that. Their self-pitying cries began: "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.”
But, God had a plan. He told Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you." You remember what happened, I'm sure. Each day the people went out and gathered only enough for that day -- no more, no less -- and on the 6th day they gathered twice as much, so there would be no work on the 7th day. He sent enough manna so that every person received an omer (about 2.3 liters) every day.
In Exodus 16, it is described as a "fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground." While
Numbers 11:7-9 gives a fuller description of manna. "Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people would go out and gather it, grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it."
Again, think with me. This substance that fell from the sky had to be sturdy enough to sustain them through their arduous journey, not make them sick, and have enough vitamins and nutrients to supply their bodies adequately. But, as happened over and over again, the ungrateful, forgetful Israelites grumbled even though their need for food was being met.
"We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
Considering their nomadic lifestyle, I'm sure there were only a few ways manna could be prepared. But, I can also imagine the women comparing ideas among themselves for ways to get creative -- probably without success. Every day, they gathered the allotted amount for those in their family, beat it, boiled it, and made cakes with it. I wonder if it tasted a little like cornbread?
Zucchini and manna aren't really alike. Zucchini has to be cultivated, is seasonal, and is generally served along with meat and other vegetables. Manna came straight from heaven, ripe and ready to use. We can choose whether or not to eat zucchini. Manna was the only way that multitude in the wilderness could stay alive.
Here are just a few other thoughts/lessons/applications from the example of manna in the Bible that I have found as I've studied.
1) God used food to teach the Israelites and to prepare them for entering the Promised Land. They had been in bondage for a long time and needed to be carefully re-trained before they could have the kind of faith exhibited by their great-great-granddaddies -- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph.
2) God wanted to demonstrate His care for every single one of them. And this care didn't come in a huge amount followed by famine, but it was a constant, consistent, even-handed care.
3) God wanted to show His greatness. Who else but the One True God could provide for millions every day for 40 years by sending food from heaven?
4) The children of Israel learned that God's ways were best, His provision was given by His wisdom and with their own best interests in mind. When they grumbled so loudly about wanting meat, He sent them quail, but the meat made them sick and many died. Heavy, greasy food was not what their bodies needed or could tolerate.
5) Similar to the way it is with salvation, the Israelites didn't have to work for the manna. All they had to do was go out of their tents and gather it. We CAN'T work for our salvation. It is a free gift that is offered. We must accept it in order to experience it.
6) Under God's plan, there was no opportunity for greediness. Each person got the same amount every day. If you made the mistake of taking too much, the excess immediately ruined, smelled bad, and had worms in it.
7) There are important parallels to receiving spiritual food. (a) God will give us spiritual manna if we will go looking for Him and His truths every day, resisting the temptation to keep living on what we "gathered" a year ago. (b) Manna fell on the ground, so it was necessary to bend or kneel in order to retrieve it. God wants us in a posture of bending toward Him and kneeling. (c) Manna was to be consumed while it was fresh. I believe God wants us to share or put into practice the seeds of truth that we glean as soon as we possibly can, with no hoarding or saving for another day.
I'd love to read your thoughts about anything I've written today. Please share them with me.
P.S. I did a search on Pinterest for "manna." I was shocked to see some recipes pop up. Nobody living today knows exactly what the substance was, but there is apparently plenty of speculation and some curious recipes for manna cookies, manna cake, manna bread, manna muffins, etc. Check it out. They all sound extremely healthy. :)