John 6:14-21
IN the verses above we have a vivid picture of the present dispensation, which is characterized by the absence of Jesus from his own, while he exercises His High-Priesthood in the Heavenly Sanctuary; and by the circumstances in which they are found below.
The multitude whom He had fed with the barley loaves and fishes, attracted because they had eaten of the loaves and been filled, own Him as the great Prophet whom Moses had promised that the Lord Jehovah would raise up amongst them (Deut. 18:18,1918I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. 19And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:18‑19)); but it was only with their outward senses they had thus owned Him, and the Lord perceived, and in their carnal zeal, they would take Him and make Him a King. This could not be-He could not take His place in kingly glory by the carnal will of man, and He departed from them, and went up into a mountain alone. His nation was unfit to have God's King amongst them, till the time when the Lord could take that place in virtue of redemption, and until there would be a moral fitness in their hearts to receive Him. When Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King'?" they replied, " We have no king but Cesar." They rejected their Messiah, and His crown was placed on His cross,-"The King of the Jews;" and like His departure from His disciples to the mountain alone, He went away to the Heavenly Sanctuary to be a " Great High Priest" for His redeemed. Meanwhile they are, as it were, left alone in a little ship, toiling towards the land of their destination, aiming at, but not attaining their object-surrounded by the seas and stormy winds of circumstances-unable to accomplish their purpose, "for the wind was contrary" but watched over by Him. He joins them miraculously, and their object is attained-the shore is reached, the danger past, and Jesus with them personally once again.
All this is truly blessed, but we learn something still more blessed in the remaining portion of the chapter. We learn what Jesus is as His people's portion, first to impart life, and then to sustain it here below during their toilsome and dangerous journey, while he is rejected by the world and absent from them. We learn this under the figure of the "Manna"-"the true bread from heaven." "The bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." (John 6:32,3332Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (John 6:32‑33))
When the Lord Jehovah redeemed Israel out of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness, we find that they learned what it was to hunger-(Ex. 16)-and in their murmurings to reproach the Lord for bringing them forth out of Egypt, where they had eaten bread to the full. In answer to their murmurings, the Lord, in grace, provides a portion for their daily food. He gave them the " Manna"-the bread from heaven. What a precious thought we find in Deut. 8:33And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. (Deuteronomy 8:3), " He suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with Manna." The Lord does not always prevent the trials and sorrows of His people in the wilderness way, but he makes them the very occasion of supplying the need or of giving them something better. "He suffered them to hunger." Want of faith in Him says, "Egypt's food would have been better than hunger in the wilderness." But see what He provides-bread from heaven-angels' food. This need always draws forth from the resources of God.
The children of Israel "gathered, some more, some less; and when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack: they gathered every man according to his eating:... and they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating." (Ex. 16:17-2117And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. 18And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. 19And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. 20Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. 21And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. (Exodus 16:17‑21).) Each appetite was fully supplied-those that could eat largely had a full supply, and those whose appetite was small had all they could partake of. How blessed to have a large appetite for such heavenly food; to feed daily upon "the true bread from heaven," the Son of the Father-an humbled Man here below-nothing outwardly great-no form of comeliness in the eyes of the world-but one who entered into every sorrow in fullest sympathy, bore every trial, passed through every difficulty which His people should experience, learning obedience by the things which He suffered, that He might be able to sympathize with them as one who truly felt it all. Do our hearts feel the slights of a cold proud world? Jesus felt them to the full. Do we desire to be humble? Who so humble as He? To be meek. Who so meek as He? To be in our measure peace-makers or heralds of peace. Where such a peace-maker as Jesus, the Prince of Peace? Do we hunger and thirst after righteousness? Who can enter into the desire as Jesus? In every circumstance He can feed and sustain our souls, but we must feed upon Him. He is the Father's gracious provision for our souls, but He must be fed upon. The hungry soul it is who relishes bread, not the soul who has had enough. The more hungry it is, the more will it appreciate the gracious supply. The natural life must be sustained with provision suitable to it, and the spiritual life must be sustained too. The hosts of Israel had no supply around them in the wilderness; their food came down from God. The renewed soul finds that there is nothing in this wilderness world to satiate its spiritual cravings, and it must look up to heaven for its supplies from the hand of God. The natural life must be sustained day by day; it cannot eat in view of a future day; each day's supply must be given to sustain the life of nature. And so with the new man He must feed day by day on Jesus-must live on Him and by Him. " As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; and so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." He lived by the Father when He was in this wilderness world; the believer lives by Him during his journey here. " I live," said Paul, a saint who well knew what the thorns and briars of the wilderness were-"I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:2020I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20).) There is no use trying to feed upon Jesus in view of the need or the trial of to-morrow, or of the next day. When Israel gathered more than enough for the day's need of the manna, it " bred worms and stank;" it was useless. And so, if the believer seeks to lay up today's food, to sustain his spiritual life and support him through the trials of to-morrow, it will be like Israel's manna, unfit to support life. Jesus must be fed on by the day, according to the appetite and need of the hungry soul. The manna, too, was gathered early, before the sun was up; " when the sun waxed hot it melted." When the journey was commenced-the day's march entered on-there was none. The slothful Israelite who did not gather his portion had to endure hunger; his neighbor's feeding was of no use to him; each should feed for himself. But the man who knew his need, and counted on his day's toil, rose early and gathered a good supply; and so, feeding on his supply, he was strong for the way, while the slothful man had no portion.
How all this speaks to our souls. The diligent soul, whose hunger makes him rise early to provide for his need has his plentiful meal on Christ, and is prepared for whatever may come across his path through the day. May the Lord enable my believing reader to hunger for this heavenly food -the sustenance for his soul, provided by His hand who " satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." (Psa. 107:99For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. (Psalm 107:9).)
How often in the journey, when there is no appetite for the manna-no hungering after Jesus, the true bread from heaven-the heart turns back again to the flesh-pots of Egypt. How often "the vanities of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things," find an entrance into the heart, which thus turns practically back to Egypt, trying, perhaps, all the while, to feed upon Christ as well. It is impossible that the two natures of the believer-for he has two natures, the " old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts," and "the new man, which after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness," (Eph. 4:22,2422That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; (Ephesians 4:22)
24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
)-it is impossible that both can be in vigor together. Either the new man must be asleep, sunk down amongst the dead-to-God of this world, and the old nature, in energy and vigor, feeding on the flesh-pots of Egypt. Or the "new man" must be strengthened with all might, growing up in conformity to Jesus, its pattern; and the old man kept in subjection and death, getting, practically, the place and portion which God gave it in Christ on the cross. It is impossible, therefore, to feed both natures at the same time; and a useful practical question for the believer, with regard to all that he occupies himself with in the world, is, " Which of the two natures am I now feeding or sustaining by this?" Of course, this does not refer to his necessary employment in the world, for he must eat and drink those things that are necessary, and toil and sorrow, it may be here.
When we read of their turning in heart back to Egypt, in Num. 11, it is very sad. And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: but now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all beside this manna before our eyes." The flesh remembers its comforts and its luxuries, but forgets the while its cruel bondage under Satan's power—and the heart turns back thus, practically, into Egypt.
How is it with your heart, my reader? Are you hungering for this heavenly food? or does your soul loathe this light bread? Has the bread of God become distasteful to you, and are you in heart craving the pleasures (so called) and the food of Egypt, forgetful, all the while, of the cruel bondage under the grinding hand of Satan, which all they of that land endure?
There was a golden pot of this manna laid up in the Ark, that Israel might see the bread wherewith God had fed them in the wilderness. (Ex. 16:3232And Moses said, This is the thing which the Lord commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. (Exodus 16:32).) It was the " hidden manna." How precious this is to the faithful soul, that, in the times of ruin and spiritual declension, Christ promises that it shall eat of the hidden manna, as a suited reward for its faithfulness here! When we find the church at Pergamos sunk down from being in the position of a "chaste virgin, espoused to Christ (2 Cor. 11), to having her dwelling where Satan's seat is, even in, and of the world (Rev. 2:12-1712And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; 13I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. 14But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (Revelation 2:12‑17)), and where evil was allowed, and all was ruin and wretchedness, the faithful overcomer, who had abstained from eating meats offered to idols, is promised that he will have the "hidden manna" to feed upon-the remembrance of what Jesus was once here, in a wilderness-way, and in a time of ruin and departure from God: His Nazariteship was perfect and undefiled. The soul realizes and feeds upon what He was in the midst of it all.
When Israel got into the land of promise, the manna ceased, and they fed upon the " old corn of the land that same year." "And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year" (Josh. 5:11,1211And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day. 12And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. (Joshua 5:11‑12)). The circumstances in which they had needed this heavenly supply were passed: they had entered upon their possessions, and they partook of the proper food of that land when they had crossed the Jordan into Canaan.
The Christian needs to feed on Christ in both ways. He is walking in a wilderness, and needs his daily spiritual portion from God's hand; but the manna is not the proper food of the heavenly country; he is raised up with Christ and has entered into his heavenly possessions by faith, in Him. The food of that heavenly country is Christ glorified, He is the " old corn " of the heavenly land, and, as risen with Him, the Christian must set his affections upon, and seek those things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God-feed upon these things by faith. He will find that he requires the manna, too; for he cannot enjoy always to the full his heavenly portion while passing through the wilderness here.
May the Lord give a keen appetite to my reader for his portion, whether it be that suited to the wilderness way, or the "old corn"-the fruit of his heavenly Canaan The more he feeds upon this food, the more will be hunger for it, and the food of Egypt will be increasingly unpalatable; and, with his soul filled with Jesus, there will be no turning of heart back to Egypt, and longing for the flesh-pots of the land of his former slavery.