Why the Manna Stopped
Robert D. Pace
For forty years the Israelites awakened with manna piled along the perimeter of their camp. It was their wilderness nourishment as they traveled toward Canaan. Manna literally means, “What is it?”, because nothing on Earth resembled it.
In the English Standard Version, Psalm 78:25 says that the people ate the “bread of angels.”
In the KJV, it’s rendered “angels’ food.” It’s what the angels feasted on!
Either way, the Psalmist wrote of the wondrous opportunity God gave to the Israelites to partake of something other-worldly. It was absolutely delightful!
What was the Psalmist trying to say when he called manna the “bread of angels”?
It could have been called “the bread of angels” because the angels prepared it.
It could have been called “the bread of angels” because angels delivered it.
It could have been called “the bread of angels” because the angels feasted on it.
And then, maybe it was called “the bread of angels” for all the aforementioned reasons.
These are just conjectures but there are several certainties about the manna that we can highlight:
A. The Bible says this delicacy tasted like honey. That meant God had the saccharine balanced with a perfect commingling of flavors. Otherwise, Israel couldn’t have tolerated the excessive sweetness three times a day.
Can you imagine how Israel prepared it? They baked it, boiled it, broiled it, barbecued it, fried it, steamed it, stewed it, sautéed it, and smoked it.
B. It was highly nutritious. Its dietary benefits are unquestionable since Israel consumed it for forty years. Let’s face it; God didn’t scatter Snicker bars around their camp! He gave them a diet fortified with proteins and vitamins. You know that must have been so because after leading Israel four decades, Deuteronomy 34:7 says, “Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength abated.”
C. It was miraculously supplied. According to today’s calculations, Israel gathered nine million pounds of manna daily! That translates into 300 train boxcars. And twice that much was gathered on Friday, so they wouldn’t have to labor to get it on the Sabbath.
(Transition) It’s the food phenomenon of the ages! But despite the miraculous implications there’s something clear about this manna—it was temporal. It stopped! The purpose of this message reveals why God stopped the manna. And the first point that should be noted is this: The manna stopped to mature Israel.
I. The Manna Stopped to Mature Israel
Do you realize there was a generation of Israelites born in the wilderness that knew nothing of agriculture? A generation of people that thought it was perfectly normal to collect their food at their doorstep? They experienced the greatest protracted miracle of human history. This miracle lasted 14,600 days . . . 2080 weeks . . . 40 years. And it was shocking the morning they methodically went outside to scoop a handful of manna and found nothing but sand! Can’t you imagine their thoughts? “Lord, what’s wrong? What sin did we commit that has prevented the manna”? But God does nothing without purpose. He doesn’t indiscriminately repeal His methods. God does everything through His infinite wisdom.
Because the desert is barren, uncultivated land, Israel needed God’s special attention during their 40-year journey through it. But Canaan wasn’t a wasteland, its soil was fertile, and the time of God’s desert supply was over. God stopped the manna to mature Israel and force them to accept the natural laws of agriculture. Here’s the message God illustrates: The Lord will give you manna when you’re in the desert and the only way you can make it is by His supernatural supply. But the Lord won’t typically provide manna when you live on fertile farmland! He expects you to employ the laws of sowing and reaping! That means the manna (God’s provision) stops because He’s asking us to move to a higher dimension of living. Like Israel, the Lord wants us to move out of the desert and into the Promised Land.
Let me show you how Jesus taught this principle to His Apostles. When Jesus ministered on earth for 3½ years He provided for His Apostles in every way:
During that time, He provided lodging and made certain their expenses were paid.
When it was time to eat, He multiplied the bread and fish and fed the multitudes.
When it was time to file tax returns, He told Simon Peter where to fish out the money.
When the storm raged against their boat, Jesus calmed it with the simple words, “Peace, be still.”
If a miracle was needed Jesus performed it.
But notice something about this. In John 6:41 Jesus fed the 5000 with a little boy’s lunch. After that miracle He said: “I am the bread [manna] that came down from heaven.” Why do you think Jesus likened Himself to bread? It is because His “fleshly,” personal presence on earth was temporary. He was like that manna that temporarily appeared in the wilderness for Israel. The manna was wonderful while it lasted, but it had a termination date.
(Application) Here is the “object lesson” Christ presented to His disciples: Jesus wanted His disciples to do more than cheer for Him from the sidelines. He was training them for a higher dimension. During His brief, fleshly appearance Jesus trained His disciples to reproduce His works. But for the “object lesson” to culminate Jesus—“the Manna”—had to disappear! And when Jesus ascended to His Heavenly Father, He poured out His Holy Spirit, and His disciples, now trained, could duplicate His works. You see, God stops the manna so He can provide us with a miracle of another sort.
(Illustration) There was a time when God required me to make quite a financial sacrifice. I’m not referring to a one time sacrificial gift, but as a home missions pastor I operated with limited income. You could describe my financial circumstances as “living by faith.” But God’s sustenance was miraculous. As I labored, the postmaster occasionally delivered “manna.” But the day came when God’s blessing increased upon my ministry, and I received a consistent income. Guess what happened? The manna stopped! But when it stopped I had been matured and was ready for another set of miracles.
When Kingdom Principles Fail
God deals with many areas of our life this way, not just our finances. For example, how many of you once got answers to prayers as easily as scooping up manna, but for no apparent reason your success in prayer diminished? Or, maybe for a season you flowed in a spiritual gift but for some unknown reason the manifestation was curtailed?
Do you know why this happens? Because God designed human life to mature! And during the spiritual developmental process, Christians “grow in grace” by seeking, pursuing, and learning of God’s ways. For instance, God reveals a kingdom principle to us; then validates it by sovereignly manifesting it through us; and then backs-off and requires us to examine it more closely. God answers prayers of a new believer to reveal the value of prayer. But He hesitates in answering the prayer of “seasoned” Christians to show them the secrets of prayer. He doesn’t want our prayer life getting stale or perfunctory. The Bible defines 27 models of prayer! (I have a prayer Booklet entitled, The Diversity of Prayer explaining this.) There isn’t a one-size-fits-all pattern of praying. Just as Moses discovered, God wants us to seek Him, discover His ways, and implement the secrets of His kingdom.
(Illustration) I remember this happening to me when I was a young evangelist. The Lord worked in supernatural ways, people were healed, and blessed. But for some reason the supernatural flow diminished and I couldn’t understand why. Because I didn’t understand God’s dealings with me I mishandled the situation: I all but stopped ministering for the sick. Thankfully, a dear pastor helped me understand my dilemma. I was in Flint, Michigan in a tremendous revival where souls were being saved and the church was being strengthened. But I still wasn’t praying for the sick. The pastor called me aside to discuss it. I told him I wouldn’t publicly minister to the sick because they weren’t healed. He said: “Has no one taught you how to administer God’s supernatural power?” I answered, “No.” He then shared the Biblical instructions for releasing God’s power. It was some of the best instruction I ever received because as I implemented the principles, God’s power appeared!
(Illustration) Years ago, I read of Britain’s great man of faith, Smith Wigglesworth. He launched out in ministry in his fifties and had incredible miracles. But after a season of ministry, Wigglesworth said the miracles stopped. And he was mystified. I’m sure anybody would be mystified as to why, after a series of miracles, they suddenly disappeared. But Wigglesworth prayed and the Lord showed him what happened. When Wigglesworth began his ministry, he said God gave him “miracles on credit,” because he didn’t understand the principles of the kingdom. He was spiritually unlearned. But as time passed, the healings stopped because God wanted Wigglesworth searching for the secrets of the kingdom. And as he studied Christ’s miracles from the four Gospels, he discovered how Jesus dealt with the sick. And when He implemented Christ’s principles, the miracles reappeared in astounding fashion.
(Example) Something similar happened to renowned minister. This minister tells how he languished for years without a consistent flow of God’s anointing. Desperate for God’s blessing, he consecrated several weeks to reading the four Gospels. During that time, he read them 16 times on his knees. From there, God birth the healing ministry of Oral Roberts.
Perhaps you are wondering a ministry “secret” that helps release God’s power. Yes, God says for elders to “anoint with oil. It tells Christians to “lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” But you must also recognize that 38 of Christ’s 40 recorded miracles occurred when He “spoke” His Word! Thus, through Christ’s example, the primary way miracles occur is by “speaking” or “commanding” them to manifest! (That’s why it’s important to apprehend God’s will before ministering. Jesus said: “I do nothing unless I see it of My Father in Heaven.”)
Remember, God will send manna for a season, but the day will come when the manna stops. And it’s because God requires Christians to seek, pursue, and learn of Him and His Word. The manna stops to mature you.
(Transition) Secondly, the manna stops to prevent spiritual complacency.
II. The Manna Stopped to Prevent Complacency
Notice exactly when the manna stopped. Verse 12 says: “The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land.”
There’s something God wants us to know here. And it’s this: Nothing motivates people like food! When people get famished they can, at times, lose their sensibility. When babies get hungry everybody in the house knows it. When dad gets hungry, he becomes . . . well, many times, dad becomes like a baby too! The quest for satisfying our hunger is a great motivation. And notice where the manna stopped. It stopped just outside Jericho. Joshua 6 is where God told Israel to overthrow this pagan city. With no more manna, it becomes obvious why Israel was willing to attack Jericho—they needed food! God stopped the manna to keep Israel moving toward His intentions.
The worse treatment God could have applied to Israel once they entered Canaan would have been to continue sending manna. It would have rendered them ineffective in expelling the Canaanites. But God stopped the manna to force Israel to exercise faith, march forward, rout their enemies, and claim their new territory. God stopped the manna to prevent complacency.
Why Life Gets Difficult
This is why the Lord doesn’t let life run smoothly. We want it to, but there’s rarely a prolonged pattern of smooth, unfettered progress. Life is tame and manageable but then, like a storm on the Sea of Galilee, everything is in an upheaval. The kids need clothes, the car needs tires, junior needs braces, and you don’t know how the provision will arrive. But the reason God keeps life from getting too comfortable is to keep our faith primed. He wants us continually looking to Him as our Source and Guide.
When life runs smoothly, the beach always seems closer, the adventure park seems much more affordable, and the bed is a lot softer—especially on Sunday mornings! But the Lord, who sovereignly stops the manna, prevents His people from settling into a comfort zone. God would rather challenge you than grant you complacency. He wants you passionately pursuing Him and ready to receive His blessing. Too many people have need to reread the New Testament’s pattern for blessing. Paul said: “No work, no food.” He didn’t say: “If you don’t work, pray for a miracle or hope someone feels sorry for you.”
(Example) As a preacher of the Gospel, it would be nice if angels penned manuscript sermons that I could read, study, and then preach. But it doesn’t work that way. It takes multiplied hours of research for me to prepare God’s Word. Wouldn’t it be nice if Christians could place the Bible on their foreheads and suddenly quote hundreds of verses? But it doesn’t operate that way.
Paul said: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
Hebrews 6:12 says: “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Ecclesiastes 11:6 says: “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle.”
Notice the words that describe the Christian life: “fight, run, work, resist, press.” They are action verbs that warn against a dormant lifestyle. That’s why God created life with a built-in system of challenges. We’re challenged from the day we’re born to mature. God ordained this built-in system of challenges so man could avoid complacency. He wants us living responsibly in every area of life, especially as it relates to His kingdom.
God has designed a destiny for you. But if you have no compulsion to “be about your father’s business,” you’re falling short of God’s plan. God has a Promised Land for you. And like Israel discovered, you will notice God will withhold the manna that once sustained you. But here’s what you must understand: God doesn’t withhold provisions to punish you; He withholds provision to push you forward. He has opportunity, cities, and lands for you to inherit. But you can’t claim them though complacency.
(Transition) Thirdly, God stopped the manna because circumstances no longer necessitated its continuance.
III. The Manna Stops because Circumstances no Longer Necessitate It
Joshua 5:9, 12
These verses state that the manna stopped in Gilgal. Gilgal was in the territory God had pledged to “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Joshua had marched Israel back into their homeland. God had given an incredible promise that had sanctified the very soil of Canaan. The Lord called Canaan the land of “of milk and honey.” As long as Israel remained faithful to Moses’ Law, God would bless and not curse Israel. The land would yield its fruit in abundance. This was the promise for Gilgal situated within the borders of Canaan; not in the wilderness.
Here’s the application: God designs one set of miracles for the wilderness and a completely different set of miracles for Canaan. One miracle stops to make room for the next!
(Illustration) I remember a simple answer to prayer that happened years ago when I preached a youth camp in Arkansas. The hosts made preparations for me to stay alone in an empty home. There was only one problem. I had no alarm clock. (Believe me I looked all over that house for one.) I had scheduled an early Saturday morning flight and someone would arrive to shuttle me to the airport. Without an alarm, and out of necessity, I prayed for God awaken me at the appropriate time for my departure. I fell asleep trusting God. At about 5:30 am I awoke, looked at my watch, and thanked God he answered my prayer!
No, that wasn’t a miracle of Biblical proportions, but God did supply my need. However, I can’t expect God to awaken me for every appointment when I have a mobile device with a built-in alarm. God often answers our prayers according to necessity; not because we snap our fingers and demand His intervention.
(Example) Recall the miracle in John 6 when Jesus multiplied bread and fish and fed 5000 people. As wonderful as this miracle was, it wasn’t the precedent for the First Century Christians. The Apostles didn’t organize a committee to find boys with lunch-baskets and then pray for supernatural increase. The book of Acts says deacons helped care for the impoverished from tithes and offerings. There was a practical reason that Jesus multiplied this little boy’s lunch. He knew those hungry people couldn’t make their journey home without sustenance. The Lord worked the miracle because there was no alternative. That’s why we should exercise faith during a crisis. Do you see formula? “Faith in Christ . . . during Crisis . . . equals a Miracle!”
(Example) There’s another example of this in Acts 12 when an angel released Peter from prison. The Apostle James had been beheaded a day earlier and Peter was next. But something remarkable happened. God dispatched an angel from Heaven into Peter’s cell, snapped the chains, divinely opened those heavy iron gates, and then escorted Peter outside the city. The Roman Guard was mystified and the Lord was glorified. But minutes later, guess where Peter was? Shivering in the night air and restrained by a much smaller gate at Mary’s house where Christians were praying. Peter wanted in the house but how would get in? Did he call for another angel to open the house gate? No, he banged on the gate and called for help. He didn’t need an angel this time. All he needed was a little girl to come outside, insert the key, turn the latch, and let him in. God sends a miracle because human need necessitates it! And remember: “Faith in Christ . . . during Crisis . . . equals a Miracle!”
(Illustration) The first five years of my full-time ministry were spent evangelizing and I depended on God to open the doors. But suddenly the doors of evangelism closed! The manna stopped and I couldn’t schedule meetings. But within two weeks of preaching my last evangelistic campaign the doors of pastoring opened!
This is God’s pattern: “God closes one door, so He open another door.” When manna was no longer found on the ground, the crops of Canaan were available. When Moses had finished leading Israel, God had Joshua waiting in the wings. The miracle at Jericho, with its walls collapsing, was amazing. But it only happened once! Joshua’s next battle involved a completely different military strategy. So don’t worry when God stops the manna. That just means He’s ready to furnish another type of miracle.
Now do you understand why God interrupts your life with unexplainable “pauses” and impasses? It leads from slavery in Egypt to life under a cloud of glory. It goes from under the cloud to the expanse of the Promised Land. The Old Testament Law concedes to New Testament grace. The Age of Grace will yield to the millennial reign. And the millennial reign leads to the Heavenly Age of perfection. Let the manna stop; I want a higher dimension!