Our Daily Manna
|“Manna” is a Hebrew word meaning “What is it?” It is a question – a question which was asked implicitly every time this “bread from heaven” was named. “What is it?” And, indeed, almost everything to do with this manna was a puzzle and a mystery. It could be baked and boiled; but when the sun shone on it, it melted away. And just consider the point about the quantity gathered every day: no matter how much anyone gathered, or thought he was gathering, it always worked out to be exactly the right amount, neither more nor less. If, however, it was not all eaten that day, and some was left over until the morrow, it bred worms and stank. The meaning of this was clear enough: they were to be content with what the Lord provided for their daily needs, and not be anxious about the future. There would be an exact sufficiency for them all.
Each day is a kind of life in itself. We are born in the morning when we awake from sleep, and we die in the evening when we go to sleep again. We come into this daily life with what we have assimilated from our previous days’ lives, and we take with us into the future what we have made of it today. Only today is real, actual, open to us, available, alterable. Today is placed upon the bench for us to work upon. The past exists in our memory, and the future in our imagination; only what we do today can affect our lives. Today is our field of operation; here our freewill can be exercised. Today is the one single point of our lives which is in our own hands and we can do something with it, for good or ill.
When we go to sleep at night, the Lord takes over. He straightens things out, smoothes down some of the sharp corners, suggests answers to problems nagging in our subconscious, and recharges the batteries, as it were, for another day’s living. If there were no sequence of day and night, waking and sleeping, we could not endure, let alone progress. Keeping people awake for long periods, with noise and bright lights, is a form of torture too terrible to contemplate. Thank the Lord that, unless prevented by the evil will of man, “The Lord giveth his beloved sleep.”
Swedenborg informs us that the angels are directly conscious only of the present. There are no clocks or watches in heaven, because there is only one time – the present. Of course there is sequence, one state giving way to another, one thing happening after another. The angels have memory and imagination, much more keenly than we have. But their memory and imagination only function when required in connection with the work in hand, to which their whole attention is devoted. That is why they can, and do, live to eternity without getting bored. People think it would be dreadful to live to eternity. They say sixty or seventy years of life in this world is long enough; but they are thinking from time. Let them get absorbed in some intense activity that interests them, some hobby maybe, and time will disappear for them, to such a degree that they will have to be fetched to the meal table! That is the kind of interest in the Now that angels enjoy to eternity. It is eternity for them: a succession of present experiences, each one of which absorbs their whole attention, but is forgotten when they move on to something else. Fortunate are we if we can achieve something of this single-minded absorption in the NOW, here on earth! I have often experienced it, and I expect you have too: perhaps while gazing at a beautiful scene in nature, or listening to good music, or being with a loved one. In every religious experience, when worshipping the Lord or praying to Him, we slip out of the fixed dimension of time, into eternity. But also in our daily work, if it is congenial to us. I am sorry for the clock-watcher! His day must drag dreadfully. My advice would be either that he should change his job, or else change himself in relation to his job, so that he can lose himself in it, and not be continually wishing for closing time.
Most of us have toyed with the idea that we should be better off somewhere else: in a different place, even a different country; in a different job; perhaps with a different married partner. There is always the urge to change one’s situation. And sometimes, quite obviously, a change of situation is good, even necessary. But don’t bank too much on it! Wherever we go, we take ourselves with us, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it is we ourselves who are the cause of the trouble. There is something in us that reacts badly and must be humanized and got under control, softened down, sweetened up. And it may be just for this reason that unpleasant situations are allowed to develop around us and within us. They are medicine which our loving Father is administering for our good. We are inclined to laugh when our children struggle against taking medicine. Take it like a man!
When Jesus sent forth his disciples on a missionary journey, he said: “Into whatsoever city ye enter and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.” And, “In the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as are set before you.” (Luke 10:7) Would you be prepared to eat anything that was set before you? I have been offered food in foreign countries, the very thought of which has made me want to throw up. Unrecognizable bits of meat, parts of animals which we throw away as offal. Half-bad food covered with flies. I was once offered a cod’s eye on a fork! Does our Lord mean we must not be squeamish over our food, but must eat whatever we are given? Or is he speaking of spiritual food, events that crowd in upon us in our daily life, situations in which we find ourselves, some agreeable and attractive, others very disagreeable and unattractive? They have all been given to us for a purpose, and each situation can benefit us if we take it in the right spirit. Accept things as they are, with the responsibilities and duties and obligations they bring with them, pleasant and unpleasant. Use them all for the nourishment of your soul. But don’t go out of your way to get involved with concerns which are not your responsibility and which you cannot alter. “Go not from house to house.”
Fortunately not all the food offered to us is unpleasant. Much of it is delicious, like “coriander seed, or wafers dipped in honey.” The manna was very tasty while they were eating it. They were only in for trouble if they left it over until next morning, when it bred worms and stank. This means, I take it, that we should not carry over into the future the emotions associated with situations that are passed. Often we do this sentimentally, trying to recapture the “good old days” as a form of escapism, to avoid confrontation with the realities of the present. Some mentally sick people live in a fantasy world of the past, and in order to be cured they must be brought back into the reality of the present. The emotions of today must be associated with today’s situations, not with romanticized memories of the past or dreams of the future. The same applies to unpleasant, negative feelings. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” said our Lord. On no account should we carry over feelings of annoyance, anger, resentment or guilt from day to day or from year to year. Events which took place twenty or thirty years ago; mistakes we made, hurts we suffered, should not be allowed to arouse in us a sense of shame, self-criticism, humiliation, indignation and resentment whenever we remember them. These situations are past and done with. Many of the people involved in them are dead anyway. Nothing exists any longer in connection with them except our memories. They are no longer real, only fantasy. Those little bits of manna left over from yesterday are crawling with maggots. The sensible thing to do, if you turn up any such putrefying morsels, is to say, “What is it?“and throw them out for the birds!
There is a useful saying in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus: “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Before going to sleep at night, think of anything that has happened during the day that has remained unresolved, and settle it in your emotions once and for all, so that it will not bug you any more. This is not easy. Often it is very difficult to do, if the thing has affected you deeply, even impossible in your own strength. In which case, just hand it over to the Lord in prayer as you drop off to sleep. Think how wonderful He is, and gradually your own tensions will relax, your troubles will shrink into insignificance and fade away. The manna will melt in the sunshine of His glory, and you will be free.
Don’t be anxious about the future. There will be food enough for tomorrow, as there was today, neither too little nor too much, just sufficient. Our daily ration will be meted out to us by our loving Father – “angels’ food” as manna is sometimes called, food for the nourishment of angels. Eat it up and digest it, and it will carry you right through your wilderness wanderings until you reach the holy land.