One of the great moments in the story of the exodus of God’s people has to be the provision of manna from heaven. In that epic narrative of how God delivered Israel from their years of slavery in Egypt, I love the description (Exodus 16) of how the Lord fed his hungry people in the wilderness with the gift of manna each morning. The Hebrew word, manna, literally means “What is it?” For the gift of the heaven-sent bread, which came fresh like the morning dew, was greeted initially by the people with wonder and confusion. They had never before encountered the marvelous food which scripture describes as being white like coriander seed with a taste like wafers made from honey. For forty years, as the people wandered in the desert, God provided his people with manna, sufficient for health and strength and hope.
This past week, as the Proclamation event got underway, it seemed to me that God was once again providing heavenly manna each day. (Proclamation is a ten day event in which the whole of the Bible is read aloud from 7 in the morning till 9 at night. Readers from the various churches in our Valley are coming together to proclaim the wondrous Word of God which we find in scripture!) I’ve had the joy of spending most of the first two days of Proclamation simply sitting and listening as the Word is proclaimed, and truly, it is manna to the soul.
Not that I didn’t know and trust in the power of the Word before this. Yet, for most of us, we are accustomed to such comparably small nibbles of scripture at any one time, and rarely do we give ourselves the opportunity to be so immersed in the Word. More likely, in our personal devotions, we may read and then meditate upon just short excerpts of scripture. Even on Sunday mornings in our gathered fellowships, we likely do not read aloud more than a handful of verses altogether, lasting a few minutes. But in the Proclamation event, the Word is read aloud—great chunks of the Old Testament and then the New. It’s like eking by on crumbs (even though the crumbs are rich and powerful) and then suddenly coming to a huge and expansive banquet. I suspect most folk would confess that we spend too little time reading scripture; the Proclamation event has just underlined for me how we need to spend so much more time devouring big hunks of scripture, letting its power, wisdom and light have entry into our hearts.
The second thing I realized afresh is the power of the Word spoken aloud. Again, most of us simply read visually; yet scripture is an oral book. Scripture is meant to be read aloud to the community of faith, and the Word takes on so much more vibrancy and impact when we hear with our ears, not just read with our eyes. Perhaps part of the reason is that we tend often to skim when visually reading, and our minds can so much more easily wander. When we sit, however, and listen intently to the drama and glory of the story of God’s searching after his children, how much more do we find ourselves, as it were, “inside” the story. It is not just the story of the Israelites long ago, or the disciples in their time, but the Spirit begins to invite us in a powerful way into the midst of the action, so that we begin afresh to comprehend and appreciate the narrative as not only our story, but the story of our hope and salvation.
Centuries ago, the prophets would often call out to their audience to “hear the word of the Lord.” Sitting with so many others listening to the Bible being read aloud, we have indeed gloried and marveled as the Word of the Lord has sounded deeply into our hearts.
We’ve been fed. We’ve been nourished. We’ve been blessed and renewed, all because of the amazing manna of God’s Word. The banquet is ever available. Thanks be to God for his gift.