The Children of Israel, about six weeks after they were brought out of Egypt, were led into the Wilderness of Sin. For a whole month between their resting at Elim and their entry into the Wilderness of Sin we know nothing of their history: but at the end of the full six weeks we see them travelling through this wilderness. The word “Sin” means “The thorn bush;” the Israelites were about to pass through the Wilderness of the Thorn Bush. The stores of food which they had brought out of Egypt had, by the end of six weeks, come practically to an end. Here in the Wilderness of the Thorn Bush were a million and a half people without food, and they looked upon the barren place unto which their steps had been directed. They beheld the stern and inhospitable mountains frowning upon them, and they complained bitterly unto Moses and Aaron, and wished themselves back in the land out of which they had been so gloriously delivered. And when Moses and Aaron went before the Lord with their complaints, the Lord was pleased to speak at once to His servant Moses, and to declare to him that His glory would shine forth in the gift of bread from heaven. That bread from heaven which began to fall in the Wilderness of Sin fell continually every day, excepting the Sabbath days, for the long period of forty years. As surely as the sun arose in the east, so surely did the manna fall.
A year later—as recorded in the 11th chapter of Numbers—we find the people murmuring still. They had had manna poured down upon them for a whole year, and yet they were wicked enough to say they were sick and tired of it, and wanted some other kind of food more pleasant and satisfying to the flesh. Manna! Manna poured forth every day notwithstanding the murmuring and rebellion and complaints of the people! God never failed in His promise. God never failed in His fulfilment though the people were completely eaten up with fretfulness and grumbling, murmuring and complaining. Could they suppose for a moment that that God who had brought them up out of Egypt with a high hand and outstretched arm, who had delivered them by the blood of the Passover lamb, who had cast Egypt’s chivalry into the depths of the sea, and had brought His people over safely to the wilderness, would desert them in the hour of their need and cease to supply their necessities!
Here then were the Children of Israel in the wilderness, and Heaven’s pure bounty was poured forth day by day upon that barren waste. There is something inexpressibly beautiful to my mind in God’s gift of the manna. When you compare what is said concerning it in the 16th of Exodus with what is affirmed in the 11th of Numbers, you see that the manna every morning lay upon the ground between two layers of dew. The manna was not made dirty by contact with the soil. First came the dew distilling silently, secretly, gently; and then the manna on the dew, and then again the dew upon the manna. Bread from heaven, moist, fresh, watered with the dew, the most refreshing form of moisture which our earth can know. And when the dew on the top of the manna had gone up what did Israel find? That which was like the hoar-frost; something that was light and round and transparent, hard and white. Whatever manna was left upon the ground the sun afterwards melted. To such as had an appetite for the manna it was exceedingly sweet, and the God who fed the people saw that one Israelite did not get more than another. The supply was apportioned to each one—an omer for every man. The Lord who gave the manna was the blessed One who, in the days of His flesh, afterwards, fed five thousand, and seven thousand besides women and children. It is said of Him that He caused His disciples to make the people sit down by fifties upon the green grass, so that there was no scrambling for the food; no strife or confusion. There was the green grass; there were the thousands of people arranged in little groups of fifty, and there stood the Lord Jesus with multiplying hands, with a gracious and tender heart, breaking the bread, and the disciples seeing—under His own guidance—that everyone, even of the women and children, was adequately supplied with the food which He was pleased to break unto them. And so our God will ever see to it that none of His children are starved either in things temporal or things spiritual. “Bread shall be given thee; thy waters shall be sure,” has not been found a failing promise by any of the Lord’s people in heaven now, or passing through this vale of tears to-day.
Here, then, is bread divinely apportioned; sent daily in heavenly freshness. And that which comes from God’s own hand is always divinely fresh, an individualised gift suited to the requirements of each person. Our Lord was pleased to say to Moses, “Tell Aaron to take an omer of that manna and put it in a casket, and then put it before the testimony.” At that time neither the tabernacle nor the ark had been constructed, but God said, “Take of the first manna that shall fall on the first day of these forty years, and put it before the Lord to remind you of My goodness, My grace and My faithfulness.” And I ask you, dear friends, to-day, some of you who are cast down in your minds over all that is transpiring (for all of us have much to disturb and distress both from sin and unbelief within, and circumstances without) have you not an omer of manna stored up in your memory, the omer of what God has given to you? The Lord said, “When you look upon that let it speak to you of My all-sufficient grace, and My all-providing power, and My love, tenderness and faithfulness.”
Let us look at our text a little more fully from two points of view: “There is nothing at all beside this manna.” We will speak first of THE RECIPIENTS, and secondly of THE SUPPLY.
Who were the recipients? Israel! the chosen tribes; the people whose history from the commencement right on was of a divine and supernatural character. Everything connected with Israel and with Israel’s salvation and deliverance was supernatural; and everything connected with the religion that saves a hell-deserving sinner, and sets him upon the broad foundation of God’s grace, is divine and supernatural from the beginning to the end. This is an age in which the supernatural is ignored or denied. I am not concerned to argue with those who so deny it. This I know, that I am
“A monument of grace,
A sinner saved by blood;”
and that unless a supernatural work had been commenced in my soul I—and I speak for you who know the Lord—we should not be where we are this morning. And
“The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete.
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.”
Now here were a chosen people—you cannot get over it—a people who had been brought forth out of Egypt with a high hand and with an outstretched arm; and these people were to be supplied with food unseen before by any human eye. They were to gather food that had not been touched before by any human hand. God supplied the Israelites direct from Himself. Now you know, dear friends, to use a very plain and familiar illustration, that fruit loses much of its sweetness by passing through many hands; when you go into the country and pluck fruit from the tree, coming into direct contact with what God has provided, you find the fruit much sweeter. And here in this manna is food untouched by any human hand. Daily bread—”Give us this day our daily bread”—daily bread coming as surely as the light comes; daily bread, suited for all ages and for all conditions. In 1 Corinthians 10 the Holy Ghost tells us that all things that happened unto Israel happened unto them for ensamples or, as the margin has it, for types; so that we see at once, in this divinely provided food, an emblem and a type and a figure of the food which the great God in heaven has provided for the hungry among the children of men. Our blessed Lord in John 6 utters one of His deepest and most momentous discourses, and if I may so speak, the discourse starts from a reference by His enemies to the manna which God gave by Moses to the children of Israel in the wilderness. Our Lord goes on to say, “I am the Living Bread. My Father giveth you the true Bread from heaven. I am the Bread of God.” There is nothing else can satisfy the needs of an immortal soul but Him who describes Himself here as the Bread of God. Oh, is it not wondrous that the Lord, having implanted in your soul a life that cannot die, nourishes and maintains that life every day during all your years of pilgrimage by Him who is the Bread of God, by Him who describes Himself as the sinners’ Friend, “the Man who receiveth sinners!”
In the Epistle of Peter we have this word concerning the recipients of this Living Bread: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.” If we are numbered among those thus described, we belong to that company whom the Holy Ghost calls “the Israel of God,”— the Israel of God fed by the Bread of God, the Bread of God coming down every day of our pilgrimage here below. “If ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,”—heirs of the Bread of Heaven; the true seed or children of faithful Abraham.
In the 110th Psalm we have this word: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power.” If you are numbered among Abraham’s seed, if you belong to Christ, one of the firstfruits of the Spirit in your experience will be hunger and thirst. What a blessed word that is which our Lord, as it were, speaks to poor sinners at the foot of Sinai! He says to them there, “Come now, you dread destruction; you dread My wrath falling upon you because of your sins ; come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord. Bring all, let us reason together; let us talk together. You are here at Sinai, now bring unto Me all your sins that you can remember; bring unto Me all your sins that conscience accuses you of; all your transgressions that the great Adversary of souls calls up; ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as white as snow.’ Come with Me from Sinai unto Zion.” And so the Lord’s people, convinced of sin, with an accusing Adversary, and guilt upon the conscience, are made willing in the day of the Lord’s power to be brought and led by Him to the place where free and sovereign grace abounds. They are brought to trust the Lord their God, and “they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.”
“There is nothing at all beside this manna”—divinely appointed food coming constantly, and for its very constancy, the people exhibiting fretfulness and disappointment concerning it. Now I ask you, dear friends, if there is not often in your hearts a deep sense of disappointment? You say, “I expected sin and self would have been much more subdued long before this, and that the subjugation of sin and self would give me some reasonable ground for believing that the Lord had brought me up out of Egypt.” The people said, “We want something else; there is nothing at all beside this manna.” Why do you say that? They said, “Now our soul is dried away, and there is nothing at all beside this manna before our eyes.” In other words we say, “We feel so cold; we are often so unfeeling; we are so barren, and our fretful souls say we are completely dried away.” What is it you want? You want, and I want, to be always glowing with spiritual fervour. I want whenever I read the Word of God that it be attended with power and savour and unction to my soul. 1 want whenever I speak to others that the savour of Christ may rest upon my words. And so do you, but is it so? Why not? Evidently your wish and the Lord’s will do not lie together. But why is it not so? What would be the issue? Remember that here we carry about with us a fallen nature called by the Apostle Paul the old man; and if we had all that our hearts desired in relation to these things, the issue would be we should admire ourselves. I am certain of it; I should. Now our covenant God by the course of discipline will teach His people here that each one of them is truly nothing, and that Jesus Christ is All and in all. The manna fell during those forty years in the wilderness; they gathered of that manna every morning, and the manna sustained them in health and in strength. But they still felt, and still knew, that they were in the wilderness. Why did not God take them straight away into the land of Canaan? Why did not God, by His own outstretched arm, dispossess the inhabitants of the land of Canaan and convey His people straight away? Why is it that God suffers us to hunger and pass through these varying experiences? Why is it, as the child said, that God does not kill the devil? Oh it is the old problem. Here is the key: “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” (Deut 8:3). Here then is the humbling. We need humbling, we need proving; we need, not that God should know what is in our hearts, for bless His Name He knows it, but that we should know what is in our hearts, and what evil and deceitful hearts we have by nature; that we should know that by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord shall man live. In other words, that we should learn to live by faith alone upon the promise, and though you have no sweet enjoyment, yet, dear friends, though “there is nothing at all beside this manna,” you are fed every day, else you would not be spiritually alive at this time. The manna has never failed you.
But it came day by day. We want a stock laid up foe tomorrow, that we may go and have a look at, and the Lord will never meet our wishes in that respect. Just enough manna fell for the day’s consumption, and none for the morrow excepting on the sixth day. And so God gives to you grace, strength, provision, according to the day, day by day.
What would you like to hang your confidence upon? Joys, overflowings of soul? These mercies are greatly to be desired, but though we may have very little joy or overflowing of soul or soul enlargement—though we may grumble and fret, and murmur, and say, “There is nothing at all beside this manna,” the same kind of food supplied day by day, yet our souls have been sustained in life by this bread from heaven.
You are fed upon that which is imperceptible to sense. Manna kept the Children of Israel in health; and feeding upon Christ, the heavenly Manna, day by day, is a sign and a token that you are a possessor of eternal life. In that same 6th of John the Lord says: “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life,”—he hath—present tense, and because he “hath everlasting life” he cometh unto Me, and is numbered among those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. “Blessed are ye who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for ye shall be filled.” Why, you who hunger and thirst after righteousness, it is not a hunger once for all; you must have food day by day, and that food is set forth and symbolised by the manna. Oh it is a mercy to be brought continually to realise our sinnership.
“Christ is the Friend of sinners,
Be that forgotten never,
A wounded soul, and not a whole,
Becomes a true believer.”
I appeal to you, amidst all your fretfulness, you who say, “There is nothing at all beside this manna. Rapture, joy, confidence, the sparkling eye, the beating heart, beating fully and strongly for Him who is my Saviour and my God, alas, I know but too little of such experience.” But nothing at all beside this manna will sustain, supply and stay your weary soul. The stores of Egypt can no longer meet your need. I would point this out, that when the children of Israel were on the very borders of the Promised Land, on the last day of their pilgrimage, they were as dependent upon this manna as when they first started. “Nothing beside this manna!” grumbling, murmuring, complaining all the way, yet you who say, “There is nothing beside this manna,” have not been suffered to sink; the little life in your heart is still burning upwards in desire; the little faith which you have is still going out and after and upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is this? You have not gone up very high. On the other hand, you have not sunk into that out of which you will rise no more. Why? Because there has been nothing but this Manna supplied to you all your lives. “Oh I have none else but a precious Christ in whom to trust!” True, and that illustrates the word that I have just spoken, “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.”
Once more. Look at that manna falling beside their tents for forty years. What does it spell? The removal of the curse. How do you make that out? “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” But here are these people coming out of their tents in the morning not to toil, but just to pick up and put into the empty omers the bread of God which had come down from heaven. Must it not have been a wonderful thing when as the Israelites were in their tents the whisper of mercy in the breeze entered, and the whisper of mercy said that God had provided for them? The manna falling in the wilderness,—”nothing beside this manna.” There was Amalek; there were the Midianites and all the other foes. The Children of Israel might have been beleaguered; indeed they were sometimes, but neither Amalekites nor Midianites could ever starve out the Children of Israel. Why? Because the manna fell. Their foes might be a thousand thick all around the camp, but God supplied His people’s need. And so all that feeds and sustains the soul comes from above; it springs not out of the earth; there is no store in the camp; every omer is empty; but the Lord Jesus Christ lives, and because Christ lives none of His people shall die, for “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Lastly, there is the supply. Where did it come from? From the hand of Jehovah! How was it served out? Daily. Why was it thus given? Because a covenant-keeping God had declared that so He would do. Brethren and sisters, in things temporal and in things spiritual, all our supplies are in the hand of Jehovah; all come from Him, whose “covenant ordered in all things and sure” is the rule and the plan of His Divine operations.
“Day by day the manna fell!
O to learn the lesson well!
Day by day the promise reads,
Daily strength for daily needs.”
And there is not one of us here who has not proved this promise true up to the present moment of time. The supply came from Jehovah’s hand, and the supply was amply sufficient for the needs of each one of His people. Why is this true down all the ages? Because your need and God’s supply pass through the hand of your faithful and covenant God. Hence the apostle says that the Lord said to him, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Oh, you say, out of that trial, and out of that difficulty, I escaped by the skin of my teeth. That just proves how exactly the Lord knows your frame, His strength perfectly adjusted to your weakness. And then all along the forty years there were the Sabbatical seasons when a double portion of the manna was given; and there laid up in the golden pot that was placed in the Ark of the covenant, was the memorial of God’s great and wonderful mercy. May God enable you, dear discouraged child of God this morning, to bring forth the golden pot of memory, of faith; the golden pot filled with manna shall speak to you that during the whole of your forty years in the wilderness not one good thing shall fail of all that the Lord our God hath promised.
Sabbatical seasons, and a double portion of the manna. In Proverbs 13:12 we read, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” And so whilst the rule is all along the pilgrimage “There is nothing at all beside this manna,” you have your Sabbatical seasons; there are seasons when the desire cometh which is a tree of life; those seasons when you eat of some of the grapes of Eshcol which are brought from the land flowing with milk and honey. The song of God’s people down all the ages has been the song not of a stinted supply, but a bountiful portion, for to have enough is to be full. It is not a song of a stock laid up for next week or next month, but the song of an unstinted supply for the day, and the song of a faithful and gracious covenant-keeping God who will be with us even to the end.
I close. “Nothing at all beside this manna,” but it suited the babe. “Nothing at all beside this manna,” but it suited the young boy or girl. “Nothing at all beside this manna,” but it suited the young man and the father and the mother in Israel. “Nothing at all beside this manna,” but it fed the prince and it fed the pauper, and gave to each life and health.
“O! could we but with clearer eyes
His excellences trace,
Could we His Person learn to prize,
We more should prize His grace.”
Christ is the Bread that cometh down from heaven, and from Him is supplied all the needs of His people. May God bless His Word for His Name’s sake. Amen.
John E. Hazelton (1924) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was the son of John Hazelton (1822-1888). He was appointed the Pastor of Streatley Hall, London. In the December 1924 Issue, the Gospel Magazine wrote of him:
“For a period of fifteen years he faithfully ministered the Word of life to the Lord's people who met in Streatley Hall, London, and these are a selection of the sermons he preached there, lovingly collected together, and printed in book form. By way of introduction there is also printed A Declaration of Faith by Mr. Hazelton. This was found amongst his papers. It has never before been published. It is full of valuable teaching of such subjects as "The Peril and Needs of Our Churches," "The Holy Scriptures," "The Everlasting Covenant," "The Church," and "The Doctrine of Grace.” Mr. Hazelton was an able preacher of the everlasting Gospel, and he loved to exalt Christ and to abase the sinner. These sermons are full of rich Gospel teaching. They tell of a full and an eternal salvation, arranged and planned in the great Covenant of grace before the foundations of the world were laid. They tell of the electing love of God the Father, the redeeming work of God the Son on behalf of His Church and people, and of the regenerating and sanctifying work of God the Holy Ghost. They tell of the blood and righteousness of the Divine Surety of the everlasting Covenant. They are marked by fulness of Gospel truth and by tender and loving words to seeking and penitent sinners. They display a considerable knowledge and much care in preparation. They are the words of a true man of God who in dependence on the aid of the Divine Spirit earnestly proclaimed the Gospel of Divine grace in the prayerful hope that God the Holy Ghost would use the message as the means of regenerating the sinful objects of His eternal mercy. Space will not allow us to quote from these pages, but we strongly advise our readers at once to get the book and make it point of reading one of the sermons every week. Mr. Hazelton was called home on May 8th last. His last sermons were preached on April 6th and 13th, and they form the concluding sermons of this volume. A beautiful portrait of the beloved author forms the frontispiece. By these sermons, and by his valuable Declaration of Faith, he being dead, yet speaketh.”