When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat” (Exodus 16:14-15). 

Today’s devotion is an excerpt from Bread of Angels by Barbara Brown Taylor. 

There has been a good bit of speculation over the years about exactly what manna was. The Bible says it was “like coriander seed, white and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31). The name comes from the Hebrew man hu – which means “What is it?” – but if you go to the Sinai Peninsula it will not stay a mystery very long. The Bedouin who live there still gather it and bake it into bread, which they still call manna. The flakes themselves come from plant lice that feed on the local tamarisk trees. Because the sap is poor in nitrogen, the bugs have to eat a lot of it in order to live. They excrete the extra in a yellowish-white flake or ball of juice from the tree that is rich in carbohydrates and sugars. It decays quickly and attracts ants, so a daily portion is the most anyone gathers. 

Some believers reject this explanation because they think it takes away from the miracle of manna, but I wonder about that. Does manna have to come out of nowhere in order to qualify as a miracle? Or is the miracle that God heard the complaining of hungry people and fed them with bug juice – with food it would never have occurred to them to eat? Or to put it another way, what makes something bread from heaven? Is it the thing itself or the one who sends it?

How you answer those questions has a lot to do with how you sense God’s presence in your life. If your manna has to drop straight out of heaven looking like a perfect loaf of butter-crust bread, then chances are you are going to go hungry a lot. When you do not get the miracle you are praying for, you are going to think that God is ignoring you or punishing you or – worse yet – that God is not there….

If, on the other hand, you are willing to look at everything that comes to you as coming to you from God, then there will be no end to the manna in your life. 

 Taylor, Barbara Brown. Bread of Angels. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997.

Gracious and loving God: We give you thanks for your constant provision in our lives. Open our eyes to see that everything we have comes from you. Amen. 

Mid-week devotions are authored by members of our community.  If you are interested in creating a trio of reflections to be shared on an upcoming Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, contact Pastor Peter.