The Present Truth : October 22, 1896
The Jews found it difficult to believe the words of Christ, that He would give them Himself to eat. They said, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Jesus repeated the statement still more emphatically, and then said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life.”
If each one of them could have eaten of the flesh of Christ as He stood there, and the flesh, which they ate, had been replaced, so that they could continue to eat of it, taking it into their stomachs, and assimilating it, they would have received no lasting benefit from it. No spiritual good would have come to them. That was what they had in reality already done, when they ate of the bread, which came from the life that was in His body; but they had not profited by it. So if the Romish claim were true, that the priests have power to transform the bread into the actual flesh of Christ, there would be no profit in it. People might eat of it, and be as wicked as ever. “The flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life.” John 6.63
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” Psalm 33.6. He spoke and said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth; and it was so.” Genesis 1.11. All plant life is but the manifestation of the life of the word of the Lord. The life that was in His word caused the corn to grow in the beginning, and that same life has caused it to grow ever since. Therefore all the food that men have to eat is that which comes from the word of God. We cannot see the life in a grain of wheat, but when we eat the bread that is made from it, we experience it. But the physical strength, which we receive from the food, is but the working of the word of the Lord. Now if we do not recognize and acknowledge God in this, we get nothing but physical strength; but if in everything we see and acknowledge God, we receive of His life of righteousness. He says, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3.6
When God directs our paths, those ways will be right; for “as for God, His way is perfect.” Psalm 18.30. The people who ate of the loaves in the desert, did not believe the Lord, and did not recognize His life, and so they derived no spiritual life from it. So it was with the children of Israel in the desert. “They believed not in God, and trusted not in His salvation; though He had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, and had rained down upon them manna to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.” Psalm 78.22-24. So although they were indeed feeding upon the life of Christ, they received no spiritual life, because of their blind unbelief. In the giving of the manna God was giving the same lesson that Christ gave the multitude in the desert, namely, that His word is life, and that “man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
The manna was the test of their loyalty to the law of God, and especially to the Sabbath as a seal of that law. But in the manna they were taking in Christ, if they had only realized it. Therefore we are to learn that if we but allow Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith in His word, —not a part only, but the whole, —He will bring into our lives the keeping of the whole law, including the Sabbath. Every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God is necessary for our lives.
It is customary among Christians to return thanks whenever they eat. There is just as much reason for giving thanks when we drink, or when we receive any other of God’s blessings. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” The trouble is that giving thanks is so often a mere form. It is often done because it has become the custom, and not from the heart. What does it really mean? Just this: That our food and drink, and everything necessary for our life, comes from God. It is all a manifestation of His love for us. But since “God is love,” the manifestation of His love is but the manifestation of His life. In partaking of the bounties of His love, we are in reality partaking of Him. Now if we continually recognize this, and knowledge it, whether we eat, or drink, or whatsoever we do call, all will be done to the glory of God. We shall live as in His immediate presence. Knowing that His life is righteousness, and that His word is His life, our thanks for food will be thanks for His word.
Who cannot see that such a life must necessarily be a righteous life? With our daily food we shall be feeding upon Christ, and so of course upon His righteousness. This is what God wishes us to learn from the account of the giving of the manna. It was their life, and if they had recognized Christ in it, their life would have been the righteousness of the law. But our daily food comes from God just as surely as theirs did. May we learn a lesson that they neglected.
A Lesson of Equality
In the account of the giving of the manna, we find the statement often repeated, “they gathered it every man according to his eating.” They were also told to gather it for them that were in the tents. “And the children of Israel did so, and 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.” Exodus 16.17, 18
There is something wonderful about this. It seems as though there was a miracle in it, and so there was in a sense; but the miracle did not consist in one man’s large amount suddenly shrinking in the measure, and another man’s half empty measure mysteriously filling up. The Apostle Paul helps us to an understanding of it. Writing to the Corinthian brethren, concerning giving, he said: “I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance may also be a supply for your want; that there may be equality; as it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.” 2 Corinthians 13.13-15
The miracle was a miracle of the grace of God in giving. He that gathered much had nothing over; because he divided with some one who had little, or who had not been able to gather any; and thus he that gathered little had no lack. And so we find that there in the wilderness there was the same principle acted upon that was in the church after the day of Pentecost. “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked.” Acts 4.32-34
We talk much about the faults of the ancient Israelites; it is well sometimes to consider the other side. With all their faults, they had none except such as are common to men. They were no worse than people generally are, and they sometimes rose to heights of faith and trust that are rarely seen. We need not suppose that they always kept up this kindness, and that there were not greedy ones among them. Even so it was in the church whose history is given in the Acts of the Apostles. But it is enough for us to know what they did at least part of the time, and to know that God approved it. God gave them bread abundantly. Their part was simply to gather it. There was therefore no reason why they should not divide with their needy brethren. Indeed, as we look at it from this distance, it seems the most natural thing in the world to do.
But our condition is the same as theirs. We have nothing except that which comes from God. He gives it, and the most that we can do is to gather His bounty. Therefore we ought not to consider any of our possessions as our own, but to hold them simply in trust for Him. But take notice that this is far different from all modern schemes of communism. It is not a dividing of property by law, but a daily giving by the strong to the weak. No one laid up anything for the future, leaving others destitute of present provisions, but trusted God for his daily supply.
That sort of communism cannot be attained by any human plans. It is the result of the love of God in the heart. “Whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” This grace and this love characterize the true Israel.