Exodus 16:4 “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.”
You would expect God to deliver a swift judgment for their insolent appetites (eventually He does after multiple offenses in Num. 11), yet, contrary to popular opinion God shows a cool hand. His patience is slow to anger. Instead of a stern rebuke, Moses and Aaron receive the assurance that a celestial ration, called mana, would calm their hunger. But this mystery portion did not come without an ulterior motive, for the Lord packaged their meal plan with a set of fine instructions to act as a window to expose the thankless heart.
I don’t think the Hebrew people necessarily struggled to trust in God’s ability to feed them—they had just walked through the Red Sea, a mind-bending miracle(!)—it appears they struggled to settle for anything less than a buffet of meat pots and bread. The problem wasn’t with their theology (can God feed us?) but with their appetite, for a menu and service; a fast food kingdom of have it your way.
There is nothing wrong with hunger. The fact that their stomachs craved to be filled again is of no surprise. During enslavement it was a daily routine to get stuffed with the gruel guaranteed for their labor. Should God not at least match the feedings of the despot? Is not the Almighty fairer than the Egyptian chefs? The famished Hebrews didn’t think so, and the moment they suffered hunger pains they were willing to forfeit a land of milk and honey, just as, in eerie fashion, Esau forfeited his birthright for a bowl of stew.
Did the Egyptians offer better food than manna? Perhaps. I’m no epicurean.
It would be a no-brainer to choose an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of indentured soup over the plain servings of manna for “the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil (Num. 11:7).” Quantity over quality is the motto of my tummy. I eat to the tune of Sam’s Club—in bulk.
But manna was not meant for pleasure but for purification. Hunger compelled them to wrongly test God when it was their worship that needed to be tested, for it was found lacking. God did not bring them out of Egypt to outdo the indulgences of their past slavery. He set them free to have covenant-worship with Him; and it shouldn’t take an expired menu to solicit their worship.
With the gift of manna came a set of instructions designed to test their appetite for worship. To test their hearts. But, for now, the stomach ruled. Meat pots once satisfied their hunger, would manna satisfy their worship.
There is no worship without gratitude and there is no gratitude without being overwhelmed by WONDER.