Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog
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  • In Heaven, Will We Be Aware of Bad Things on Earth?

    Posted By on November 19, 2014

    paul road to damascus In Heaven, Will We Be Aware of Bad Things on Earth? How can we enjoy Heaven if we are aware of all the evil that persists on earth? This is a good question, and Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, offers a biblical answer. Alcorn believes that believers who are in Heaven right now are aware of what’s going on down here on earth. He reasons that

    God knows exactly what’s happening on Earth, yet it doesn’t diminish Heaven for him. Likewise, it’s Heaven for the angels, even though they also know what’s happening on Earth. In fact, angels in Heaven see the torment of Hell, but it doesn’t negate their joy in God’s presence (Revelation 14: 10).

    Abraham and Lazarus saw the rich man’s agonies in Hell, but it didn’t cause Paradise to cease to be Paradise (Luke 16: 23-26). Surely then, nothing they could see on Earth could ruin Heaven for them. (Again, the parable does not suggest that people in Heaven normally gaze into Hell.) It’s also possible that even though joy would predominate in the present Heaven, there could be periodic sadness because there’s still so much evil and pain on Earth.

    What can we learn from passages about Jesus in Heaven?

    Christ grieved for people when he was on Earth (Matthew 23: 37-39; John 11: 33-36). Does he no longer grieve just because he’s in Heaven? Or does he still hurt for his people when they suffer? Acts 9: 4-5 gives a clear answer. Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” When Saul asked who he was, he replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

    Doesn’t Christ’s identification with those being persecuted on Earth suggest he’s currently hurting for his people, even as he’s in Heaven? If Jesus, who is in Heaven, feels sorrow for his followers, might not others in Heaven grieve as well?

    An objection that might be raised at this point is Rev 21:4, which says, ““He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” How do we deal with this verse?

    Alcorn reminds us that there are two Heavens described in Scripture, the present Heaven where all who have departed reside right now, and the eternal Heaven, or the New Heaven and New Earth, which will not arrive until after Christ’s second coming. Rev 21:4 is clearly referring to the eternal Heaven, or the New Heaven and New Earth.

    It’s one thing to no longer cry because there’s nothing left to cry about, which will be true on the New Earth. But it’s something else to no longer cry when there’s still suffering on Earth. Going into the presence of Christ surely does not make us less compassionate. . . .

    Christ’s promise of no more tears or pain comes after the end of the old Earth, after the Great White Throne Judgment, after “the old order of things has passed away” and there’s no more suffering on Earth. The present Heaven and the eternal Heaven are not the same. We can be assured there will be no sorrow on the New Earth, our eternal home . But though the present Heaven is a far happier place than Earth under the Curse, Scripture doesn’t state there can be no sorrow there.

    So how is it that those in the present Heaven can bear the burden of witnessing all of the evil and suffering still taking place on earth?

    [P]eople in Heaven are not frail beings whose joy can only be preserved by shielding them from what’s really going on in the universe. Happiness in Heaven is not based on ignorance but on perspective . Those who live in the presence of Christ find great joy in worshiping God and living as righteous beings in rich fellowship in a sinless environment. And because God is continuously at work on Earth , the saints watching from Heaven have a great deal to praise him for, including God’s drawing people on Earth to himself (Luke 15: 7, 10).

    But those in the present Heaven are also looking forward to Christ’s return, their bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and the fashioning of the New Earth from the ruins of the old. Only then and there, in our eternal home, will all evil and suffering and sorrow be washed away by the hand of God. Only then and there will we experience the fullness of joy intended by God and purchased for us by Christ at an unfathomable cost.

    Will We Remember Our Earthly Lives When We’re in Heaven?

    Posted By on November 17, 2014

    memory ln Will We Remember Our Earthly Lives When Were in Heaven?According to author Randy Alcorn, in his book Heavenwe surely will. Alcorn starts building his case from the contents of Rev 6.

    As we’ve seen, the martyrs depicted in Revelation 6 clearly remember at least some of what happened on Earth, including that they underwent great suffering. If they remember their martyrdom, there’s no reason to assume they would forget other aspects of their earthly lives. In fact, we’ll all likely remember much more in Heaven than we do on Earth, and we will probably be able to see how God and angels intervened on our behalf when we didn’t realize it.

    Alcorn points out the fact that we are promised, in Luke 16:25, to be comforted in Heaven about the bad things that happened to us on earth. That comfort implies that we will remember what it is we are being being comforted for.

    Additionally, there is the fact that we will give an account of our earthly lives after we die (see 2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 12:36). Alcorn argues that

    [g]iven our improved minds and clear thinking, our memory should be more— not less—acute concerning our life on Earth . Certainly, we must remember the things we’ll give an account for. Because we’ll be held accountable for more than we presently remember, presumably our memory will be far better.

    But perhaps his strongest argument for memory of our earthly lives is the doctrine of eternal rewards. Alcorn explains:

    The doctrine of eternal rewards hinges on specific acts of faithfulness done on Earth that survive the believer’s judgment and are brought into Heaven with us (1 Corinthians 3:14). In Heaven, the Bride’s wedding dress stands for “the righteous acts of the saints” done on Earth (Revelation 19:7-8). Our righteous deeds on Earth will not be forgotten but “will follow” us to Heaven (Revelation 14:13).

    The positions of authority and the treasures we’re granted in Heaven will perpetually remind us of our life on Earth, because what we do on Earth will earn us those rewards (Matthew 6: 19-21; 19:21; Luke 12: 33; 19: 17, 19; 1 Timothy 6:19; Revelation 2:26-28). God keeps a record in Heaven of what people do on Earth, both unbelievers and believers. We know that record will outlast our life on Earth— for believers, at least until the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5: 10); for unbelievers, right up until the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-13), just preceding the coming of the new heavens and New Earth. For those now in Heaven, these records of life on Earth still exist.

    Alcorn concludes by reminding us of the importance of our memories to our personalities:

    Memory is a basic element of personality. If we are truly ourselves in Heaven, there must be continuity of memory from Earth to Heaven . We will not be different people, but the same people marvelously relocated and transformed. Heaven cleanses us but does not revise or extinguish our origins or history. Undoubtedly we will remember God’s works of grace in our lives that comforted, assured, sustained, and empowered us to live for him.

    Did God Promise to Commit Genocide?

    Posted By on November 14, 2014

    BaalSacrificeAltar Did God Promise to Commit Genocide?In Exodus 23:23, God says, “My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out.” It seems from this verse that God is going to kill all of these people only because of their nationality. Is that what’s going on?

    There are two things that we need to pay attention to. First, these people groups, commonly referred to by the largest of the groups, the Canaanites, have been warned by God to repent of their wickedness. The wickedness of Canaanite society was anticipated in Gen 15:16.

    Their sins are described in Leviticus and Deuteronomy (see Lev 18 and 20; Deut 9 and 12), and include rampant incest, bestiality, and child sacrifice, just to name a few. Theirs is a desperately wicked culture that God had promised to destroy. God had been extremely patient with them, waiting for hundreds of years for them to repent, but they did not.

    Second, the reader needs to continue on to verse 27-30 where God clarifies exactly what he means in verse 23. God’s plan is to drive them out of the land, little by little, year after year. This is what He means by the phrase “wipe them out.” Rather than killing the Canaanites, God’s primary plan is to push them out of the land so that they will not corrupt the people of Israel. Only the Canaanites foolish enough to stay behind will be attacked by the Israelite army.

    Commentary on Exodus 23 (Promises and Warnings)

    Posted By on November 12, 2014

     Commentary on Exodus 23 (Promises and Warnings) Commentary on Exodus 23 (Promises and Warnings)
    Chapters 20-23 of Exodus record all of the covenant laws that God has thus far given to Moses. The Ten Commandments are the most important of these laws, but the subsequent texts build on the foundation of the Ten Commandments, providing more detail. At the end of these laws, we come to Exodus 23:20-33.

    In this section of Exodus 23, God repeats (from Gen 15) and expands on his promises to the Israelites regarding their entrance into Canaan, the Promised Land. This section also concludes the Covenant Code that God has shared with the Israelites over the previous chapters.

    In verse 20, God introduces an angel that will guide them to the land and also protect them along the way. As we read along further, we learn that this angel is actually God himself.

    In verses 21-23, God reminds the people of Israel to pay attention to what the angel (God) commands. If they listen and obey, God will “wipe out” the Canaanites, but if they disobey, God will not forgive their rebellion. The success of the Israelites in the Promised Land is dependent on their obedience to God. The other implication of these verses is that the Israelites have no hope of conquering the land without God’s direct and mighty intervention. They are too small of a nation to accomplish this task on their own.

    In verse 24, we see God repeating and emphasizing the importance of the First and Second Commandments. The Israelites will be tempted to worship the gods of Canaan, to adopt their religious practices, so God is warning them again not to do this. In fact, in the next two verses, God promises to bless the people of Israel with food, rain, fertility, and long life, if they will only worship Him.

    Why would Israel be tempted to worship the Canaanite deities? Douglas Stuart explains in Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary) Commentary on Exodus 23 (Promises and Warnings):

    The answer is that once settled in Canaan, they would surely desire agricultural success, which in the ancient world was generally attributed to proper involvement of the deities in the agricultural process through worship. In general, ancient peoples believed that the gods could do anything but feed themselves. Humans therefore had the job of raising food for the gods, which was then ‘sent’ to them through the offerings humans gave in the presence of the gods’ idols.

    What part did the gods have in this process? They caused the crops to grow and the flocks and herds to multiply. The ancient farmer thought that the gods were absolutely essential to the agricultural process and that the way to involve the goodwill of the gods on behalf of one’s farming was to worship them. The essence of worship was providing food for them in the form of sacrifices. When Israel would arrive in the promised land, the temptation to plant as the Canaanites planted, to cultivate as they cultivated, to harvest as they harvested, and to worship as they worshiped would be almost irresistible since all these were thought to go together as part and parcel of farming in any given locality.

    Verses 27-30 expand on God’s promise to “wipe out” the Canaanites. Here we learn what God means by this promise. God’s intention is to drive the inhabitants out of the land, little by little, over a period of years. The Israelites will be conducting a mere mop-up operation, because God will be doing the heavy lifting during the conquest.

    Verses 29-30 explain that God must drive the people out slowly because the Israelites are not numerous enough to inhabit the land. The land will become desolate and overrun with wild animals if the Canaanites are driven out too rapidly.

    Verse 31 reminds the reader again of the borders of the Promised Land, The Red Sea (northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba) on the east, the Mediterranean Sea on the west, the Negev desert to the south, and the Euphrates River to the north.

    Finally, in verses 32-33, God again warns the Israelites not to worship the gods of Canaan. If they allow the Canaanites to live among them in great numbers, they are sure to adopt the worship practices of the Canaanites.

    Douglas Stuart summarizes the meaning of these verses: “Without Yahweh, they were nothing, could do nothing, and would end up as nothing. With him leading and them following obediently, however, all would fall properly into place, and their purpose as a people would come to fulfillment.”

    Why Should We Focus on Heaven?

    Posted By on November 10, 2014

    stairway to heaven at morning time Why Should We Focus on Heaven?Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Christians are so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good.” The idea behind this statement is supposed to be that Christians are content to leave the world the way it is because we are simply biding our time here so that we can get to our final destination, Heaven. It’s only those people who don’t believe in Heaven that will do the hard work to improve the Earth, because Earth is all there is.

    While this is a catchy cliché, it misses an important point. Christians do try to make the Earth a better place, every single day, and they do it because Heaven represents what Earth is supposed to be like. Heaven, the Christian’s final destination, is a perfected and transformed Earth. Heaven is what Earth was supposed to be before sin entered the world and corrupted it.

    It is only by focusing on what is supposed to be, that we will change what is. C. S. Lewis says this eloquently in Mere Christianity Why Should We Focus on Heaven?:

    If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.

    Randy Alcorn summarizes the point: “We need a generation of heavenly minded people who see human beings and the earth itself not simply as they are, but as God intends them to be.” So, rather than chide Christians for focusing on Heaven too much, the non-Christian should hope that Christians do just the opposite!

    The Christian vision of Heaven is what drives us to improve the Earth we currently call “home.”

    Does God Punish Children for Their Parents Sins?

    Posted By on November 7, 2014

    exodus 20 Does God Punish Children for Their Parents Sins?In Exodus 20:5-6, the text says “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Many people mistakenly presume that these verses state that God punishes children for the sins of their parents, even if the children are innocent of those sins themselves. Is this right?

    No, it clearly is not the right interpretation, as we are reminded in Deut 24:16 that “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.” So what does it mean?

    According to biblical scholar Douglas Stuart in his Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary) Does God Punish Children for Their Parents Sins?,

    this oft-repeated theme speaks of God’s determination to punish successive generations for committing the same sins they learned from their parents. In other words, God will not say, ‘I won’t punish this generation for what they are doing to break my covenant because, after all, they merely learned it from their parents who did it too.’ Instead, God will indeed punish generation after generation (‘to the third and fourth generation’) if they keep doing the same sorts of sins that prior generations did. If the children continue to do the sins their parents did, they will receive the same punishments as their parents.

    In fact, if we finish reading verse 6, we see that God’s real desire is for his people to love Him and keep his commands so that He can show His love to a thousand generations.

    Commentary on Exodus 19-20 (The Ten Commandments)

    Posted By on November 5, 2014

    ten commandments  131121204920 Commentary on Exodus 19 20 (The Ten Commandments)At the beginning of chapter 19, the Israelites have finally reached the base of Mount Sinai, on the third day of the third month after the Exodus from Egypt (48 days).  The people of Israel would reside at Mount Sinai for a full year – the rest of the Book of Exodus, all of the Book of Leviticus, and the first ten chapters of the Book of Numbers all take place here.

    In verses 3-6, God speaks to Moses and announces the covenant that He will make with Israel. God first reminds Israel that He brought them out of Egypt. He then tells them that if they will obey His commands, He will bless them as His special people – “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Note that this is a conditional covenant with Israel. They will only be blessed if they obey God.

    Douglas Stuart, in his Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary) Commentary on Exodus 19 20 (The Ten Commandments), notes that this covenant “represents the separation of his chosen people from the general world population, or, stated in terms of the overall biblical plan of redemption, the beginning of the outworking of his intention to bring close to himself a people that will join him for all eternity as adopted members of his family.”

    Additionally, “full monotheism is expressed in the words ‘although the whole earth is mine.’ This is one of the clearest early statements of monotheism in the Bible and certainly must have represented a sudden education for many of those present to hear Moses first relay these words to the people, since so many of them had grown up polytheists.”

    In verses 7-8, the people agree to God’s covenant. Unfortunately, the remainder of the Old Testament conveys the sad truth that the Israelites were unable to hold up their side of the bargain.

    God then tells Moses to prepare the Israelites for His coming in great glory on the mountain at Sinai. Moses warns the people to stay back from the mountain or they will be put to death. After three days of preparation, the people of Israel assemble at the foot of the mountain and God puts on an amazing display of pyrotechnics – thunder, lightning, fire, smoke, tremors. God again warns Moses that only he and Aaron are allowed to go up the mountain.

    Once everyone has been assembled, God starts to speak to the Israelites and his first words to them are the Ten Commandments, or literally the “Ten Words.” The commandments are outlined in other parts of the Bible in different order, so they have been numbered in different ways by modern Jews and Christians. It seems that the best way to harmonize most of the biblical texts is the following:

    Ex 20:2-6 – 1st commandment “You shall have no other gods before me.”

    Ex 20:7 – 2nd commandment “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”

    Ex 20:8-11 – 3rd commandment “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

    Ex 20:12 – 4th commandment “Honor your father and your mother.”

    Ex 20:13 – 5th commandment “You shall not murder.”

    Ex 20:14 – 6th commandment “You shall not commit adultery.”

    Ex 20:15 – 7th commandment “You shall not steal.”

    Ex 20:16 – 8th commandment “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

    Ex 20:17a – 9th commandment “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.”

    Ex 20:17b – 10th commandment “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

    Another popular way to delineate the Ten Commandments is to make verses 4-6 be the second commandment and to combine verses 17a and 17b as one commandment.

    These ten commands from God are general moral instructions that can be applied to all sorts of specific situations. The many other laws found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy are all applications of the Ten Commandments.

    Following is a brief word on each commandment.

    The 1st commandment is a straightforward command to worship only Yahweh, the God of Israel. The Israelites were surrounded by cultures where polytheism (worship of multiple gods) was the norm. God is teaching his people that they are to discard all of the other false gods that were worshipped in Egypt and that will be worshipped in Canaan.

    The 2nd commandment is meant to teach the Israelites how they are to call on Him. They are not to presume upon Him, but to treat His name with dignity and respect befitting the Creator of the universe.

    The 3rd commandment instructs Israel to rest every 7th day and to assemble in worship on that day, repeating the pattern of the creation week.

    The 4th commandment reminds children, both young and old, that they are to respect and honor their parents for as long as the children live. Even after their parents have died, they are to honor the teachings and instructions of their parents. This command assumes that the parents taught correctly about God, so it is not a blanket command for children to blindly follow their parents, even when their parents are clearly wrong about God.

    The 5th commandment repeats what God taught in Genesis 9:6, that one man is not to take the life of another man without proper justification.

    The 6th commandment reiterates God’s restrictions on sexual intercourse. It is to occur between a man and a woman who are married.

    The 7th commandment forbids taking what does not belong to you.

    The 8th commandment stresses honesty and accuracy.

    The 9th and 10th commandments forbid a person to passionately desire or yearn for that which belongs to his neighbor, whether that be his neighbor’s spouse, property, or wealth. In essence, any kind of covetousness is prohibited.

    How Can We Picture Heaven?

    Posted By on November 3, 2014

     How Can We Picture Heaven? How Can We Picture Heaven?
    Christians frequently fail to picture what Heaven will be like. Movies often portray Heaven as a silly place with people floating on clouds and angels playing harps. But we know from the Bible that the eternal Heaven will be centered around a transformed and reconstituted Earth. If that’s the case, then maybe Heaven is a little easier to picture.

    Randy Alcorn offers some very practical advice to the person who cannot picture what Heaven will be like. In his book, aptly named Heaven, Alcorn explains that in order to get a picture of Heaven, “you don’t need to look up at the clouds ; you simply need to look around you and imagine what all this would be like without sin and death and suffering and corruption.”

    He continues:

    When I anticipate my first glimpse of Heaven, I remember the first time I went snorkeling. I saw countless fish of every shape, size, and color. And just when I thought I’d seen the most beautiful fish, along came another even more striking. Etched in my memory is a certain sound— the sound of a gasp going through my rubber snorkel as my eyes were opened to that breathtaking underwater world.

    I imagine our first glimpse of Heaven will cause us to similarly gasp in amazement and delight. That first gasp will likely be followed by many more as we continually encounter new sights in that endlessly wonderful place. And that will be just the beginning, because we will not see our real eternal home— the New Earth— until after the resurrection of the dead. And it will be far better than anything we’ve seen.

    So how can we get a preview of Heaven?

    So look out a window. Take a walk. Talk with your friend. Use your God-given skills to paint or draw or build a shed or write a book. But imagine it—all of it— in its original condition. The happy dog with the wagging tail, not the snarling beast, beaten and starved. The flowers unwilted, the grass undying, the blue sky without pollution. People smiling and joyful, not angry, depressed, and empty.

    If you’re not in a particularly beautiful place, close your eyes and envision the most beautiful place you’ve ever been— complete with palm trees, raging rivers, jagged mountains, waterfalls, or snow drifts. Think of friends or family members who loved Jesus and are with him now. Picture them with you, walking together in this place. All of you have powerful bodies, stronger than those of an Olympic decathlete. You are laughing, playing, talking, and reminiscing. You reach up to a tree to pick an apple or orange. You take a bite. It’s so sweet that it’s startling. You’ve never tasted anything so good.

    Now you see someone coming toward you. It’s Jesus, with a big smile on his face. You fall to your knees in worship. He pulls you up and embraces you. At last, you’re with the person you were made for, in the place you were made to be. Everywhere you go there will be new people and places to enjoy, new things to discover. What’s that you smell? A feast. A party’s ahead. And you’re invited. There’s exploration and work to be done— and you can’t wait to get started.

    Sign me up. I can’t wait to get there.

    If We Witness a Miracle, Will We Believe?

    Posted By on October 29, 2014

    blue sea parting If We Witness a Miracle, Will We Believe?Some skeptics claim that if they only see a miracle, they will believe in God. If God would write something in the clouds, or appear in a burning bush and speak directly to them, they would believe.

    Let’s test this theory out. What we find when we read the Book of Exodus is that God performed one miracle after another for months, even years. First, there were the 10 plagues that God brought on the Egyptians. Then there was the crossing of the Red Sea. There was the cloud pillar by day and pillar of fire at night.

    In Exodus 16 we see even more miracles. God provides food (manna) for the Israelites every morning. On every 6th day, he provides a double portion of manna. He also miraculously preserved the manna for 2 days so that it wouldn’t rot.

    The miracle parade goes on and on for the Israelites. So, according to our skeptic, the Israelites who witnessed all of these miracles day after day should have all trusted and believed in God, right? Those of you who have read the rest of Exodus and the following books of the Old Testament know that the Israelites time and again did not trust God. In fact, their lack of faith in God is a central theme of the entire Old Testament!

    Even though miracles may help many people to believe in God, they clearly do not convince everyone. A person who simply does not want to believe in God can shove aside any and all evidence that might convince them. Their problem is not with the evidence, but with their heart.

    Commentary on Exodus 16 (Manna and Quail)

    Posted By on October 27, 2014

    quail Commentary on Exodus 16 (Manna and Quail)Following the crossing of the Red Sea, the Israelites continued to travel south in the desert of the Arabian peninsula. As they moved further away from Egypt, they simultaneously moved further away from civilization. They became more and more hungry because there were few plants and animals for them to eat. This is the situation when Exodus 16 picks up.

    In verses 1-3, we discover that the Israelites have been in the wilderness for over a month, and they are grumbling about their situation. They complain to Aaron and Moses that they were better off in Egypt than they are now. At least in Egypt, they were eating. Douglas Stuart notes in his Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary) Commentary on Exodus 16 (Manna and Quail), “This was the first time the Israelites made the ‘if only we had died in Egypt argument,’ but it would not be the last (see Num 11:4, 18; 14:2; cf. 20:3; Josh 7:7).”

    God decides to test the faith of the Israelites by offering them a very unconventional food source, “bread from heaven.” The test is simple. The people of Israel are to gather food provided by God each morning, but only enough for that day. On Friday, the sixth day, they are to gather enough food for two days.

    Stuart explains: “Moreover, God was teaching them a concept: that he was their ultimate provider, the one who from heaven gave them not necessarily what they expected but what they really needed. Thus his satisfying them with the bread of heaven becomes a theme of Scripture that not only refers to the manna described in this account (cf. Ps 105:40; Neh 9:15) but to the ultimate provision of eternal sustenance, Christ himself (John 6:31–58).”

    In verses 6-11, Moses and Aaron remind the people that it is actually God they are grumbling against, not Moses and Aaron. But, they assure the people that God has heard their complaints and is going to provide meat in the evening and bread in the morning. Once they gather around the pillar of cloud, which is God’s presence among them, God reiterates what Moses and Aaron told them. What is the purpose of God miraculously providing this food? “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”

    Douglas Stuart elaborates on God’s plans for the Israelites: “God was testing his people throughout the exodus events: leading them in odd directions without fully explaining why (14:1–4), surprising them with potentially destructive enemy attacks even after they had left Egypt (14:10ff.; cf. 17:8ff.), requiring them to walk into and through deep ocean water (14:15ff.), and taking them to locations that lacked the necessities of life (as in 15:23ff. and 16:2ff.). All of these challenges were part of a plan to develop a people’s willingness to trust him. Explaining everything in advance would have run counter to that plan. It was necessary for Israel to learn faith while confused, while afraid, while desperate—not just in theory but under pressure of actual conditions where survival was uncertain and faith was tested to the limit.”

    The meat appears that very evening in the form of quail, and in the morning a bread-like substance appears which the Israelites have never seen before. They actually name the substance “What is it?” This translates into English as manna. Once the manna appeared, the Israelites gathered it as instructed, only gathering one omer per person. An omer is equal to about 2 quarts.

    Moses gave an additional command, however. Nobody was to save the manna overnight. It must be eaten the same day it was collected. Why would God command this? To force the Israelites to rely on him daily for their food. Some Israelites, thinking they could hoard the manna, saved it overnight, but the next morning it was “full of maggots and began to smell.”

    Recall that on the 6th day, each person was to gather 2 omers, or twice as much as the other days. Why is this? God explains in verse 23. “‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.” Every seventh day was to be a day of rest, so God did not want the people of Israel gathering food and cooking it on the day of rest, the Sabbath.

    The daily giving of the manna was so important to God and the Israelites that God commanded them to set aside a single omer of manna and keep it as a reminder of God’s daily provision of food for the 40 years they spent in the wilderness. It wasn’t until they entered the Promised Land that the manna ceased to appear each morning.

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