“…I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down out of heaven: if any one shall have eaten of this bread he shall live for ever; but the bread withal which I shall give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
– John 6:48-51 (JND)
While the Israelites were in the wilderness, God miraculously sustained them with bread from heaven for forty years.
Manna was not a supplemental food source – it was something God’s people had to rely on completely for survival. As with all good gifts from God, it met all of their nutritional needs. And yet, it did not necessarily satisfy their lust for other things.
And the mixed multitude among them lusted with a great lust; and the sons of Israel also turned back and wept, and said, “Who shall cause us to eat flesh? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt for nothing; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic; and now our soul withers. There is nothing except this manna before our eyes.”
– Numbers 11:4-6 (Green)
Manna provided everything they needed, but they wanted more. They remembered the taste of the food they had in Egypt. And this got them in trouble.
Perhaps J.R.R. Tolkien got his idea of lembas from manna…
“… The lebmas had a virtue without which they would long ago have lain down to die. It did not satisfy desire, and at times Sam’s mind was filled with the memories of food, and the longing for simple breads and meats. And yet this waybread of the Elves had a potency that increased as travellers relied on it alone and did not mingle it with other foods. …”
– The Return Of The King
Manna was symbolic of Jesus Christ. While we go through this wilderness of temporal life, looking forward to entering the promised land, God has provided all of what is needful for life in His Son, who is the Bread of Life. There are times when we desire to fill our souls with the “leeks and onions” of the world we were rescued from, but like the lembas, the potency of our heavenly Bread increases as we rely on Him alone. We need to not dilute the nutrition we receive from Him with worldly food:
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, having been rooted and built up in Him, and having been confirmed in the faith, even as you were taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Watch that there not be one robbing you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
– Colossians 2:6-9