The Manna Jar

It’s dawn. As the sun’s arc begins to break over the sandy horizon, rays of light burst forth above the desert. You see the change in light through closed eyes, your body is used to waking with morning’s first sun. Around you, in the tent, your family still sleeps hard. Silently, you rub the sleep from your eyes and extract yourself as carefully as possible from tangled limbs, heavy with sleep. You gaze a moment at your sleeping husband, your children dreaming peacefully, limbs flung in slumbering abandon. You move carefully, noiselessly, not wanting to wake them. Your day always seems smoother, flows more gently, when you have these early morning moments alone with Yahweh.

As you gently pull aside the flap of your hide tent, you feel the cool morning air fall into the tent like a breath. You wrap a woven shawl around your shoulders, the cool of this desert morning will not last long…but you will cherish it while it does. The sand beneath your feet still feels warm, despite the cooler night…warmth from the previous day, radiating back. You bend to pick up the heavy earthen jar that sits beside your tent. Its clay walls are tall and thick, made of the ruddy-red clay of another, distant land. Egypt’s clay. Here in the desert, this jar is a reminder of where you came from, a piece of the past carried so many miles to this desert place.

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
Exodus 15:13

Egypt’s clay…the jar of a slave, a simple and utilitarian vessel. What is it, here? Who are you, in this dry testing ground? Not a slave, now. But how sparse and dependant is this freedom! There is no clay in the desert. This jar will have to last.

The clay jar heavy on your shoulder, you move quietly away from the tent. Around you, resting like snowflakes atop the warm sand, spreads a shimmering sheen, glinting in the morning sun. The ground is white, bright like frost, glimmering as far as the eye can see. This is your daily bread, this is your sustenance. Bread from heaven, manna. To be gathered this one morning, eaten this one day. Your hands did not make this bread, and they cannot will it into being, change it or make it disappear. Your hands are only meant to gather it, which they do as they have done each morning these many years. Stoop, fill cupped hands, let light flakes sift down into the heavy jar at your side. This will feed you and your family today, and today alone.

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
Exodus 16:4

This is the sparse dependence to which Yahweh has delivered you, this is the reprieve from slavery and the testing ground on which He refines His people, fire in the desert furnace burns the dross and leaves the silver. You remember, as you gather wisps of bread in your hands, the fear of those first weeks. Had He led your people away from Egypt’s cruelty, only to let them perish of starvation in the heat of the desert? You remember that first morning, as the manna sifts between your fingers and fills the jar. What miracle was this, this white horizon in the desert? This substance you had never before seen or imagined, come from the sky out of the hand of He who Is. As the jar at your side fills, nearing the level that you know to be just enough, you remember the first days. Remember filling the jar past full, remember folding manna into a square of homespun wool, tucking it away in case tomorrow’s sun rose over empty desert sand instead of daily bread. Have you learned to trust? Are there still slivers of doubt each morning, as your eyes eagerly seek this day’s provision?

What happened when you gathered more than He allotted? You remember, as the last handfuls of manna fall into jar’s wide mouth and settle. You remember that morning, long ago, when you awoke and anxiously checked the contents of your Egyptian jar, saved by the tent’s door for tomorrow’s meal. What was, yesterday, sweet and fresh….seethed now with maggots. Your stomach turned, as you lifted the corner of the homespun cloth and saw yesterday’s sustenance, now rendered beyond useless, teaming, seething, decaying before your eyes. The vileness of gluttony, the disgust of too much. You remember, as you lift your clay jar to your shoulder and begin to walk back to the tent where your family has begun to stir. You remember opening tent’s flap, panicked by this rancid bread, useless and vile. You saw, resting like a blanket of comfort, today‘s bread.…enough. Enough, for today alone.

“….and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.” Exodus 16:13b-17

The morning is upon you, the sun has made her climb into the impossible blue of a vast desert sky. You feel its warmth upon your shoulders, you see the other women making their way back to waking families, to begin this day. The sounds of your stirring children reach your ears as you come near the tent, a tinkling laugh pierces morning’s quiet as young ones greet the day. Around you, in all directions, manna is disappearing with the warmth of the sun, it melts into the ground and leaves the landscape around you as though nothing had ever rested there. Enough for the day, no more, no less. You are no longer a slave, but in this new freedom you are learning…it is the Lord alone who sustains you, it is He who carries you, provides for you, gives you life. Clinging to Him, here in this desert place, is all you can do.

It is enough, no more, no less. It is always enough.

“As thy days, so shall thy strength be;”—Deuteronomy 33:25

Lord, let me know this day that you will provide. Let me rest in the knowledge that you have us covered, that you know my needs and that, from your vast store of plenty, you will provide for me and for my family…our daily bread. Help me be content with Enough, with the daily bread that only you provide. Help me live in this day, and not worry about the next…you WILL provide, and Enough is all we need. Amen!

related posts: Bread from Heaven


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