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I have been asking some questions of the Lord recently.  I’m looking ahead, trying to discern where He wants us to go as a church and am trying to understand how I can lead into the future that God has planned.  I’ve given lots of thought and prayer to that very thing.  While I was in Michigan a few weeks back, the Lord said to me, “Give me your mornings.”  I knew in an instant what He was asking.  He was asking me to fast until lunch.  I’ll be honest, I’m more into feasting than fasting.  Shock, I know.  I did some fasting when I was growing up as it was a tradition to fast from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, but it has been a long time since I have gone much without food.  Most of my fasts have been fasts from sugar or fasts from certain kinds of food.  I take some medication in the mornings and evenings and have sort of always said that true fasting wouldn’t be for me for those reasons, but Jesus called me to trust Him.  And so, once while I was in Michigan, and now several times this week, I have “given Jesus my mornings.”

On Thursday, as I was driving to the hospital to see someone, hungry, I might add, I heard God say, “I want to teach you about hunger.”  I was like, “Huh?”  “You want to teach me about hunger?”  I kept the thought rolling around in my heart through the morning and when I sat down after lunch, with my belly full, to work on a message, God reminded me of a Scripture that said He had caused the Israelites to hunger.  I would say God had put me in the same state several mornings this week.  He asked me to forgo eating, so I would say, He caused me to hunger.  I found the passage, and now, here we are.  It’s in Deuteronomy 8.  The heading for that chapter in my Bible says, “Do Not Forget the Lord.”  The very fact that the heading is there is an insinuation that it is possible to forget Him. Hunger would keep the Israelites mindful of the God who had led them out of slavery, out of bondage, of the God who was taking them to a new, wonderful place.

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 

God caused the Israelites to hunger.  That doesn’t seem very nice, does it?  I don’t like being hungry.  I like the feeling of being full.  I’m probably actually not hungry very often because I find a way to eat, to snack, before I reach true hunger.  I suppose, if the truth were told, I stay relatively full to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of hunger. I doubt I have a very good understanding of what true hunger is like.

Here is what I know intellectually.  Being hungry puts me in a state of longing.  It makes me restless.  It involves a feeling of emptiness.  It creates and increases my desire for food.  When I am in that state, I am in need.  When I am empty and need to be filled, I am conscious of my emptiness and my need. When I am truly full, I am in a position where I lack desire or am not conscious of desire.  When I am full, I am looking to be filled.  I know that sounds elementary, but the spiritual principles here are stunning. 

We read here in Deuteronomy 8 that while the Jews were wandering in the wilderness, on their way to the Promised Land, God caused them to hunger so that He could feed them with manna.  He wanted to be the One to supply their need.  He wanted them to look to Him as their Source.  He wanted them to have a need that would require them to depend on Him to meet it.

Read verse 3 again:  He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 

Do you remember where we find these words in another place in the Scriptures?  We find them in the place where Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.  Jesus quoted these very words in Matthew 4:  Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

I have to believe that Jesus fasted at the instruction of God the Father.  He came to do only His Father’s will, so the fast had to be presented to Him by God the Father.  I can’t think of anyone I know who would sign up for 40-day fast, so I believe Jesus did so in response to the request of the Father.  Like the Israelites, Jesus was in a wilderness experience.  God allowed Him to hunger. He fasted 40 days and nights. There was an intentional emptying of self.  Jesus was emptied of His physical strength to demonstrate that in times of crisis, in times of testing, our victory doesn’t depend on our strength or ability, but it depends on what God has said about what He promises to do for His children.  When Jesus was hungry, tired, weak, empty, in a state of vulnerability, Jesus relied 100% on the Word of God and proved that God’s Word is dependable, trustworthy and enough to sustain us. 

God wasn’t just teaching the Israelites or Jesus about physical hunger or bread.  He was teaching them that they could completely trust the Word of God.

Remember, the Israelites were on a journey when this took place.  They were headed to the Promised Land.  They were headed to a place they were told would be filled with milk and honey. How was the Promised Land a place of milk and honey? Growing up, when I heard about the Land of Milk and Honey, I pictured the Candyland game board. Remember what that game board looks like?  You roll the dice and move from one sugary treat to the next. I could picture rivers of honey and rivers of milk rolling through this lush pasture of candy and cupcakes.  That isn’t quite the way it was, but milk and honey weren’t just symbols of a lush area. The Promised Land had an abundance of milk-producing animals.  From those animals, milk would flow.  Archeological digs in 2007 uncovered beehive colonies dating back to the 9th and 10th centuries BC in the Jericho area. It truly was a land flowing with milk and honey.

Milk and honey were literal references, and they were also symbolic.  God wanted His people to trust His Word about how He would care for them, about their need to follow Him because He was leading them to a good place, a pleasant place, a place of satisfaction and fulfillment.  A place where they could be established.  They had been slaves in Egypt.  That was an awful, bitter experience.  God was taking them from bitterness to blessing, but they had to trust His Word to get there. It was going to be a place of abundance, but they had to believe that milk and honey and all that went with those things we yet ahead.  God’s Word was given to them to help them keep going!

These pictures of hunger in the wilderness wanderings of Israel and in the wilderness temptation of Jesus help us see that when our circumstances aren’t good, God’s Word will sustain us.  When our physical strength is depleted, God’s Word will sustain us.  When we aren’t yet where we want to be, when we aren’t yet where God is taking us, God’s Word will sustain us.  When our flesh fails, God’s Word will sustain us.

God caused His people to hunger, and then He fed them with manna.  Everything God does is intentional.  There is always a spiritual component to the way He works with His people in the physical.  Everything is a learning opportunity.  Everything points to something greater. His ask of me to fast in the mornings isn’t about taking food away.  There is more to it.  I’m going to learn some new things in this process.

When God fed the Jewish nation with manna, He was teaching them about how He would sustain them, not just physically, but He was pointing to Jesus who would take care of every spiritual need they had.  The manna was a bread-like substance.  It literally came from Heaven and would appear on the ground.  That happened day after day for 40 years.  That consistent, always-available-bread, would create a predictability, and a dependance on God to supply.

The word, “manna,” means “What is it?”  As the Israelites found this bread-like substance on the ground, they couldn’t figure out what it was.  It had come from Heaven.  It was unlike anything they had ever seen.  They didn’t even have language to describe it. How did this Heavenly bread point to Jesus?

Just like the manna was God’s idea, sending Jesus, the Messiah, to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world, was God’s idea.  God knew about our need for salvation before we were ever created and had purposed the exact time that Jesus would come into the world to be the Savior.  Revelation 13.8 says, Jesus was the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. Jesus wasn’t any man’s idea.  Jesus was part of the plan from the beginning of time. 

Manna was free for the Israelites to eat.  They didn’t have to work for it.  They didn’t have to ask permission to eat it.  It was available, free for the taking.  The same is true of the salvation Jesus offers.  Salvation is free.  God’s grace is free.  His forgiveness is free.  The new life He offers is free, not because it doesn’t cost anything, but because Jesus paid the price for us all. Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

We cannot miss the tie between the Old Testament manna in the wilderness and the New Testament life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  It’s not a leap.  It isn’t a stretch.  I’m not creating a connection.  Jesus referred to the manna when He talked about Himself.  Look at John 6:31-35:  31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[c]32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, 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. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.  34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”  35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Whoever comes to Jesus will never be hungry or thirsty. There is a spiritual nourishment that we can count on when we follow Jesus. Jesus said, “Whoever!” Everyone is eligible to come to Jesus.  Everyone can become a Child of God.  Do you know that the manna that was on the menu in the wilderness, every day for 40 years, fed the young and it fed the old and everyone in between?  From the youngest to the oldest, that bread had the nutrients each person needed.  No one had to have a special diet.  No one was manna-intolerant.  Everyone was fed and sustained and nourished by what God offered.  The same is true of the universal salvation found in Jesus.  He is truly the Savior of the world.

Jesus went on to say in verses 47-51 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Jesus is our mana, our daily bread, our spiritual sustenance.  I’ll mention that the mana was small.  Jesus made Himself nothing when He came in human flesh.  He humbled Himself.  He emptied Himself.  Though He was God, He willingly entered the human experience, not as the Mighty God, but as a minute baby.  God was wrapped in human flesh.  Majesty and might were delivered in a very small container.

I’ll mention as well that the manna was round.  Just as a circle doesn’t have a beginning or ending, Jesus is eternal.  He is God. Jesus’ existence didn’t begin in Bethlehem.  He is God and has always existed.  He has always been at one with God the Father and with the Holy Spirit.  He simply entered into time and space as a baby in that moment in history.  Jesus said of Himself in John 8:58, “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”  I am not making claims about Jesus or for Jesus.  I am telling you what He claimed about Himself.  Jesus was declaring that even before God’s covenant with Abraham, which was roughly 2000 years before Jesus came to earth, even before that covenant was established, Jesus existed.  He existed because He has always existed.  There has never been a time when Jesus was not.  He had no beginning.  He has no ending.

Third, I’ll tell you that the manna was white.  Exodus 16:31says so.  The whiteness of that bread points to the purity of Jesus.  Jesus lived a pure and sinless life. I Peter 2:22 tells us Jesus committed no sin.  I John 3:5 and Hebrews 7:26 report the same.  That is what qualified Him to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Fourth, the manna tasted good.  It was sweet.  It was satisfying.  It met their need.  Oh, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” Psalm 34:8.  Nothing satisfies the soul like Jesus. Jesus wants to be the One to satisfy us because it is easy for us to become self-sufficient, because it is easy for us to forget to look to God, because it is easy to become satisfied with some earthly experience and forget that there is a Promised Land place, an abundant life experience, that there is more, exceedingly abundantly more.  Do you want the more that awaits? Sometimes, God allows us to hunger for a minute, just so that He can feed us and remind us that it’s about more than food or a physical existence.  It is about a relationship with Jesus, a supernatural walk, a day-by-day dependence that produces abundant life. 

The Israelites knew they were hungry.  They could feel their physical hunger pains.  They knew they were empty and needed filled. They knew they needed food. Their hunger gave God the opportunity to supply what He knew they needed.  They were going to be walking a long time, journeying a long time.  He knew what would give them the nourishment, the vitamins, the energy they would need those 40 years in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.

Lots of people today are walking around empty, but they don’t really know what the emptiness is about or where it comes from. They don’t know what they need to fill their emptiness, so they attempt to fill it with all sorts of things…shallow relationships, one-night stands, Netflix binges, excessive video games or other virtual escapes, shopping for something new to fill the void, the use of drugs and alcohol to dull the ache of loneliness, anything to keep their mind off of their emptiness, when all along, Jesus is there saying, “Let Me come in and fill you. I know what you need to get you where I want to take you.”

The only way for the people to benefit from the manna was to take it in on the inside of them.  The same is true of Jesus.  It’s not enough to know about Jesus or even to believe He is who He claimed to be.  By faith we must take Him in and allow Him to save us from our sin, to save us from our self, to save us from Satan, to save us from eternal death.  As we have been saying this summer, we must take the all of Jesus into the all of us.  As we “consume Him,” He consumes us, provides for us, protects us, empowers us to be His people.  Religion doesn’t save us.  Jesus saves us through His sinless life and shed blood on Calvary’s Cross.

One last observation about the mana.  To access the mana, the people had to bend down and get it.  They had to get low.  They had to physically put themselves in a posture of humility.  It was there, waiting for them, but they had to stoop down to pick it up.  Pride keeps a lot of people from receiving Jesus.  Admitting our need for forgiveness of sin, admitting that we need a Savior to help us day by day, the way the mana was supplied, day by day, it’s more than some people can bring themselves to admit, but it is the only way to put ourselves in the position where we can receive Jesus, be sustained by Him and be taken to that Promised Land existence that He has waiting for us.

Maybe you have never trusted Jesus for salvation.  You have never known forgiveness of sin through His sinless sacrifice, you have never asked for forgiveness for sin on the basis of Jesus’ shed blood.  Today you can.  You can become new on the inside and know that God will walk with you to take you to a place you could never imagine. Today you can become a Christian, a Child of God.

Maybe you have trusted Christ for salvation, but you have forgotten to look to God every day to supply your needs and instead you have looked to the things of this world for satisfaction and fulfillment.  Maybe you have gotten good at filling your life with things that you can supply, and you are missing the miraculous supply God wants for your life.  Maybe you have lost sight of the spiritual concept of abundant life, and you are settling for what you can produce on your own.  Maybe you have forgotten that life with Jesus is a daily walk, a daily dependence.

Maybe you need to get focused again on the Word of God, the promises of God, instead of living a life that is so focused on the things of the world.  Maybe you are in a spiritual struggle like Jesus was in the wilderness temptation, or maybe you feel like your life is just going in circles like the Israelites were doing in their wilderness wanderings, and it is time to live with a sense of victory and a sense of purpose.  Maybe today you need to commit to letting the Word of God give you what you need to overcome. 

Maybe, your current hunger is your opportunity to look to God to supply something new.  I know that right now, God is causing me physical hunger because He wants to do a new spiritual work in my life.  I am willing to be in that position in order that He might reveal what I need to know, that He might give me what I need. 

This morning, I am hungry physically, but spiritually, I am hungry for more and more of Him.

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