For the last three months we have been engaged in a new apologetic focus: Surprised by Jesus: Encountering Christ in the Old Testament. I have been preaching this as a sermon series at Cross Community Church, and it is available for you to hear at sermonaudio.com/thecrosscc
Because this is the month of Thanksgiving, I thought we should pause to give thanks for the True Bread from Heaven. We will continue with our three-part formula for finding Jesus in the Old Testament by using these three headings: The Problem, The Promise, and The Person. Next month we will have a special Christmas message.
Grumbling is part of our sin nature. We grumble about long lines, high prices and short summer vacations. The people of Israel had been set free from more than 400 years of slavery in Egypt by God’s use of the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, a most dramatic demonstration of God’s unchallenged and unequaled power. But now the people, who had been rejoicing and singing praises to God just days earlier (Exodus 15), were now murmuring about the menu in the desert. As the provisions they had brought with them from Egypt ran low, the people began complaining about the shortage of food and the water. The same people who had been crying out to God because of their bitter bondage in Egypt now longed to return there, longing for the “pots of meat” they suddenly recalled as being delicious.
The people of God had praised the Lord for His miraculous and merciful deliverance when the Red Sea swallowed up Pharaoh’s army and chariots, but now they were whining, grumbling and complaining about everything! Do you believe this story is nothing more than ancient history? Or do you see you and me in this story as well? Do we have a tendency to grumble when God’s providences are not to our liking? To be sure, you and I are sinners — not just by nature, but by habit as well, and we have a great deal in common with those unhappy people who were camped in the appropriately named Desert of Sin.
And yet, in the midst of their sin, God made a wonderful promise . . .
God responded to the people’s grumbling by saying to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you” (Exodus 16:4). Every morning the people of God were to go out and gather enough manna for that day; on the sixth day they were instructed to gather double so that no work would be done on the Sabbath. But, sadly, the people were not satisfied with the manna from heaven, which is described in sacred Scripture as “the bread of angels” (Psalm 78:25). They resumed their ungrateful grumbling, now because they had no meat to eat (Numbers 11:4-6).
After miraculously feeding 5,000 men (plus women and children, which could have brought the total number to around 15,000 people) with five small barley loaves and two small fish, Jesus said something remarkable:
“I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it 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.”
“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:32-35)
To be sure, the bread from heaven that God gave to the Israelites sustained their physical life as they wondered through the desert. But as Jesus said, the bread received under the leadership of Moses was not the true bread from heaven. The manna from heaven could only meet the physical needs of the people of God, but Jesus, the true Bread from heaven, can meet our spiritual needs to sustain eternal life.
He told the people of Israel and you and me as well – “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 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” (John 6:47-51).
Jesus is the true Bread from heaven, who laid down His life and died on a cross to pay the penalty for your sins and mine. When we receive Jesus, by grace through faith, we are nourished unto eternal life and will one day enter into our eternal rest. Until that day, let us give thanks and praise to our God, who has promised to meet our every need according to His glorious riches of Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Dr. Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach (www.thecrosscc.org). He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.
For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland.