Bread of Heaven

Scripture (Exodus 16:2-8; 13-15) can be found here.

Man hu? That’s Hebrew for “What is it?”

I invite you to a time of imagining.

I invite you to close your eyes, if you like, and imagine with me.

God’s people were stumbling through the wilderness, half starved. See their thinning bodies, the patches where their hair is falling out. Imagine their rumbling, cramping stomachs and leg muscles. Remember true, deep hunger, the kind of hunger that could make you faint.

They wondered whether it might not be better to be living slaves than dead freed people.

Imagine thinking being a slave was a preferable alternative to what you were experiencing, right now.

And God answered their cries for bread with manna. Man hu? What is it?” they said.

Later in this chapter, we’re told it’s “like coriander seed, white,” with a taste “like wafers made with honey.” And it sustained these people, along with quail and water from a mysterious well, linked to the prophet Miriam. It sustained them for forty years.

Imaging it in your hands. Hold it close to your nose, and inhale the honeyed aroma. Imagine this is the first food in days, maybe longer.

That’s not to say they loved it. Later, in an incident described in the Book of Numbers, they complain about it, and they remember again (and moan loudly about) the food they ate in Egpyt—the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, the garlic… “but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at!”

So they put their baking skills to work. They ground it in mills or beat it with mortars. Then they boiled it in pots and made cakes out of it. The cakes tasted as if they’d been baked with fresh oil. (Numbers 11:4-8)

Man hu? What is it? It is bread, we are taught, from heaven. The bread of angels. It is not a gorgeous confection from Baked Euphoria or some superstar baker It is bread for survival, like the lembas made by elves and carried by the hobbits in the “Lord of the Rings.” It is something to get you through.

It is bread for the day—literally; it melts in the midday sun, so it must gathered first thing. It is like the bread we pray for when we say, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

It is what is needed to survive.

What do you need, in order to survive? What do you need to keep body and soul alive, intact? What do you need from God, right now, in this time and place? What, exactly, would get you through? Man hu? What is it?

Tell God, now.

Open your heart, for these few moments.

Invite God in, and tell God what it is that you need.