In Part 1, we focused on “manna” and the “hard teaching” that only Jesus can live like Jesus, yet if we’ll take him in, he will live like himself in us! It’s only “hard” because we want to have something to do with it, something we can take credit for in our pilgrimage. His “yoke is easy and his burden is light,” but only after we’ve decided to relinquish our control and let him have access to everything in us, behind us, and in front of us. That’s what it is to be a Man(na) lover!
The problem is we tend to be discontent with manna and want something more; we want meat! As with the original manna eaters we have insufficient appreciation for God’s ample supply in Jesus and we whine for something more tangible and tasty.
4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”…
Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it.19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’” Numbers 11
“We detest this miserable food!” Numbers 21:5
Not long after the indefinable miracle bread began arriving, some of the manna eaters got tired of the same thing everyday for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack. All they could think of was the fare they enjoyed in Egypt. What a slap in God’s face to compare manna from heaven to meat from Egypt!
To be fair, how would you feel about eating the same thing for forty years – nothing but manna day in and day out? We in developed countries are accustomed to having a vast dietary variety at our disposal at our local grocery store* and wouldn’t tolerate the same thing for dinner two nights in a row, let alone for decades! But in much of the developing world if they have one or maybe two meals a day it’s boon time! Forget varying their diet. It’s rice and curry or beans and tortillas. Seldom are they ever actually what we would call “full” after a meal. You don’t hear starving people complain about having to eat the same food every day and night. They’re just glad to have enough to keep them alive another day.
* Between 1975 and 2008, the number of products in the average supermarket swelled from an average of 8,948 to almost 47,000, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Option overload is when you can choose between nine varieties of Pringles and eleven flavors of Cheerios!
Let’s unpack the meat-lust of our culture – especially our Christian culture.
Meat versus Manna
Their complaint, “we have lost our appetite,” sounds frightening similar to the condition of the Western Church where there’s little appetite for the Bread of Heaven. Our hunger is often more about feeling comfortable and looking better rather than being more in love with him.
Our lust for meat exposes of our lack of love for manna. We’re bored with the diet of heavenly manna because we’re not actually feeding on Christ. We gather gigabytes of spiritual information and do tons of church activities without actually ingesting the Bread of Life. This may be the fault of the feeders or the eaters or both. I’m more concerned in this writing about the eaters, those who go to church expecting the keys to the American Dream wrapped in Bible verses. They seem to want something more than Jesus, something more scintillating to the taste. If we filled up on Jesus our lust for something else – something more – would wane. Guaranteed.
We’ve developed a craving for the kind of Jesus that appeals to our palate! “Jesus is just alright with me (an obvious phrase coining), but there’s more to life than just Jesus, right? I’m especially alright with him if he gives me what I want. He’s better than Buddha because Buddha didn’t promise me a profit in the stock market.”
Jesus is a means to an end, a utilitarian Messiah, the kind that the Jews in Jesus’ day were waiting for. He kept having to remind even those closest to him that he came to change the world through inhabited hearts and not by military coup.
Manna was anything but extravagant, nothing if not simple – “thin flakes like frost on the ground.” God could’ve rained steak and lobster on their heads for forty years if he had wanted to, instead he chose something simpler to drop from heaven. Could he have been warning us about the threat of being lured away from our simple faith in an infinitely more than adequate Savior? Might he have been saying that we will have all that we need in our Heavenly Man(na), and that we shouldn’t look any further for something or someone with more glamour or glitz?
They remembered the meat they ate in Egypt “at no cost.” “No cost?” Really? Had they forgotten the price they had paid as slaves? It’s easy to forget the cost of slavery when the slaver keeps your stomach full but leaves your soul empty.
In our churches we have a hard time distinguishing between the spiritual and the carnal. We think we’re being spiritual when we demand this blessing from God and that benefit from our church and we have a list of verses to defend our entitled form of spirituality. We quote them to God in our prayers and include them in our suggestion box notes to the pastor. We’re not content with just Jesus. We want something more than manna – we demand meat!
Our demand for more than manna reveals that we obviously don’t yet comprehend or appreciate what we have in Jesus! Simply Jesus – just Jesus – isn’t good enough for us. To those who have ears to hear and taste buds to savor; manna is always far superior to meat! We might not have all our senses titillated or every self-indulgent desire met, but we will have tasted that the Lord is good and he’s all we need. “I will be all that you need me to be when you need me to be all you need.” (Elizabeth Elliott’s definition of God’s name, “El Shaddai.”)
Spoiler Alert: In the “better place” (heaven) we’ll see that he’s always been all we need. I that place he’ll give us even more than we need, more than we knew to ever want! Of course, he’ll be the main attraction there. He’s the One who makes heaven, heaven. It’s the absence of Jesus that makes hell, hell. Hell would be heaven if Jesus were there. But he’s not there; he’s in the better place preparing our place – next to him.