In yesterday’s study, we looked at some parallels between God’s provision of the manna and His provision of the Bible, taken from Deuteronomy 8.
A fourth parallel is that the manna gathered daily had to be eaten. It was not enough to see it on the ground, appreciate that it arrived that morning, gather it up, and then do nothing else with it. The purpose of the manna was to feed the people, which means they needed to eat it. In the same way, you and I have to do that with the Word of God. Moreover we have to do it bit by bit.
When you go to a banquet it is served in courses. You talk while you are eating, not just gobble it all down. That’s the same way we need to study the Bible. In a favorite of mine, Isaiah 28:10, we see this rule of repetition: “Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there.” You see, that’s the way you master the Word of God: not all at once, but little by little. You have to keep at it.
A fifth parallel is that the manna lasted until they reached Canaan. Now that does not mean that when we get to heaven the Bible is going to be gone. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away.” The Word of God is going to be there forever. God is eternal and so is His word. But it does mean that the word of God will not fail us during our earthly pilgrimage. No matter what we go through the Bible will not fail us. The Bible is the Word of God, and He will speak to us, and minister to us, as we study it. It is God’s word to us for every possible situation.
We looked at the manna as a symbol of the Bible and how we should study it. But we can’t miss seeing that in John 6, Jesus explains the manna as a symbol of Himself (see John 6:32-33). Jesus taught that Moses fed them with that bread from heaven. But what they really need is the true bread that came down from heaven. This is Jesus Himself, describing Himself as the bread of life. Jesus is telling us in spiritual terms that He is absolutely essential. You have to have food to live, and He is saying that in order to have spiritual life, you must have Him. Jesus has to become part of us. We have to know Jesus Christ in a personal way.
The third major incident is found in the first seven verses of Exodus 17. The people had come to a campsite called Rephidim. There was no water there, and they began to quarrel with Moses just as they had done earlier. They hadn’t learned anything at all. But you see, Moses hadn’t forgotten either. As soon as they began to complain to him, he again went to God in prayer, asking the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me” (v. 4). In response, God directs Moses to a rock, and the Lord tells him to strike it with his staff—the same staff he used to strike the Nile, causing it to turn to blood and making it undrinkable. Now in an exactly reverse situation, Moses is told to strike the rock, and out comes water.
In 1 Corinthians 10:4 Paul also refers this rock as a symbol of Jesus Christ. He is writing about the wilderness, “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from that spiritual rock that followed them and that rock was Christ” So Paul is saying the water also, just like the manna, is a symbol of Jesus. You have to be refreshed by Him.
The last of the four incidents is this battle with the Amalekites, recorded in verses 8-16. The Amalekites were a rather vicious fighting people. They had descended from Esau’s grandson Amalek (see Gen. 36:12). Even though they didn’t occupy all the area of the Sinai, they roamed widely in this territory and did regard it as theirs, thinking they had to protect it against anybody that would come through. As the Israelites were passing through, we’re told in Deuteronomy 25 that the Amalekites, like cowards, attacked the rear of the line—people who were stragglers, weary and sick. Moses knew they had to fight, and so he appointed Joshua, a young man about half his age, as commander of the troops. That’s the first time in the Bible that we come across the name of this remarkable man.
Joshua knew that it wasn’t the strength of his arm that was going to deliver, but God. So Moses sent him out to lead the battle while he, Aaron, and a friend named Hur went up a hill overlooking the battle site to intercede with God for victory. While they were on the mountain praying, Moses held up his hands with the staff that he had used to strike the rock and that had been used by God in the miracles in Egypt. As long as he did that, the Jewish troops prevailed. But when his arms grew tired, and he lowered them down, the Amalekites prevailed. It was an object lesson that God was giving. As a result, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of Moses and they held up his arms.
It’s always been rightly seen as a marvelous picture of friends standing together in intercession for the people of God, and rightly so. F. B. Meyer notes, “It is a most beautiful picture. Three old men in prayer! Two staying up the third!… In earlier days Moses would never have thought of winning a battle save by fighting. He now learns that he can win it by praying.”1 I have to add to this the obvious point that you also have to do the fighting. You can almost picture the scene of Moses, Aaron and Hur, these three men standing up there on the mountain with their flowing robes, their great beards—the patriarchs of the tribes. But down on the plain you see Joshua still leading the troops. The young men are still having to fight the Amalekites. Prayer and fighting go together.
It may not be that kind of fighting for us, but there are battles to be fought. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, said we’re fighting the principalities and the powers of wickedness in the heavenly places. That is our battle, one that is against wickedness, falsehood and injustice. Sometimes you have to do it in an active way, but above all you have to support it by prayer, because without prayer the activity really is ineffective.
1F. B. Meyer, Moses: The Servant of God (New York: Revell, n.d.), 106.