Sermon preached on September 11, 2011 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
Thirteen years ago I had appendicitis. On the day of my attack Marg took me to the hospital late in the morning. I spent all of the afternoon waiting—they weren't sure what was wrong with me and I had to wait for a cat scan or MRI and some other tests. But because it was an abdominal problem, they suspected that I would have to have surgery in the immediate future so they wouldn't give me any water to drink. They wouldn't even give me a sip, not even an ice chip to ease the dryness in my mouth. After awhile my thirst became almost unbearable. My two main memories of that afternoon are pain and overwhelming thirst. It was the thirstiest I have ever been in my life. I suspect that part of my thirst had to do with one of the drugs they were giving me. It wasn't a normal thirst at all. My mouth was totally dry, longing for relief. It was so bad that that afternoon I would have given everything I owned for a glass of water. Much of that afternoon I kept thinking how nice it would be to have just a sip of water.
As human beings we have many needs and longings. One of the great themes of Revelation is that the followers of Jesus Christ are going to have all their needs met. Revelation often does this in a very positive way. One of my favorite images of this in Revelation is in chapter 22:1-2 we read about,
"the river of the water of life,
as clear as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb down the middle
of the great street of the city."
I love that image. Because of my experience in the hospital that day I also love what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. (John 4:13–14)
"Everyone who drinks this water
will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks the water
I give him will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give him
will become in him a spring of water
welling up to eternal life."
In our text the picture is different. It's about food. Jesus said to the church in Pergamum, (Revelation 2:17)
"He who has an ear, let him hear
what the Spirit says to the churches.
To him who overcomes,
I will give some of the hidden manna."
The great truth we see here is that
if you overcome, God will give you some of the hidden manna—He will sustain and nourish you with His life.
Manna was the food that God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. Literally, the word 'manna' means, "What is it?" In Exodus 16:14 we read that when the dew was gone,
"thin flakes like frost on the ground
appeared on the desert floor."
When the Israelites saw it, (verse 15)
"they said to each other,
'What is it?'
For they did not know what it was."
That became its name. The name showed the amazement that the people had when they first saw it. Moses told them that it was bread that the Lord gave them to eat. According to Exodus 16:31,
"It was white like coriander seed
and tasted like wafers made with honey."
According to Numbers 11:8, the people, either,
"ground it in a handmill
or crushed it in a mortar.
They cooked it in a pot
or made it into cakes.
And it tasted like
something made with olive oil."
In Exodus 16 Moses told Aaron to take a jar and put an omer of manna in it and to keep it for generations to come. The Israelites ate the manna for the forty years that they were in the wilderness. Every morning the manna would appear on the ground around the camp. The manna didn't stop appearing until they arrived at the borders of the promised land. Under Joshua they camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho. On that day, they ate some of the produce of the land. The manna stopped the very next day.
Besides providing physical food for the Israelites the manna that God fed them with also had a spiritual lesson for them. In Deuteronomy 8:3 Moses said to the Israelites,
"He humbled you, causing you to hunger
and then feeding you with manna,
which neither you
nor your fathers had known,
to teach you that man
does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes
from the mouth of the LORD."
This was the verse that Jesus quoted to Satan when He resisted the first temptation that Satan threw at Him. The lesson is that we live, not because we have food to sustain us, but because God sustains us. His Word is our life, it tells us how to truly live. We never have to sin in order to continue going on living. Rather, while we live we are to look to His Word as our guide for how we are to live.
We saw from our Responsive Reading in Psalm 78 that the manna was called 'the grain of heaven' and 'the bread of angels'.
The manna in our text is referred to as 'the hidden manna'. Hebrews 9:4 tells us that manna was one of the three things that was put into the ark of the covenant. It contained the two stone tablets of the covenant, Aaron's staff that budded, and the gold jar of manna.
According to Jewish tradition the prophet Jeremiah took the pot of manna that was in the ark when the Babylonians destroyed Solomon's temple. Jeremiah was reported to have hidden it underground in Mt. Nebo. The manna would remain hidden until the coming of the Messiah. Jeremiah would then reappear and return the ark and its contents to the new messianic temple in Jerusalem. (Mounce, Revelation, p. 82) Another tradition was that the bread of angels was to descend from heaven during the messianic kingdom to feed the blessed.
But the real meaning of the manna was that it pointed to Jesus and how He gives us eternal life. In John 6:32–35 Jesus told people that the Old Testament manna pointed to Him. He said,
"I tell you the truth,
it is not Moses who has given you
the bread from heaven,
but it is my Father who gives you
the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is
he who comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world."
When they asked Him to give them that bread, Jesus said,
"I am the bread of life.
He who comes to me will never go hungry,
and he who believes in me
will never be thirsty."
Jesus then said, (verse 40)
"For my Father's will is that
everyone who looks to the Son
and believes in him
shall have eternal life,
and I will raise him up at the last day."
Thus we see the meaning of the hidden manna. Christians who overcome will be rewarded, (David E. Aune, (Revelation 1–5 WBC p. 189)
"with eternal life in which intimate fellowship with God will be enjoyed."
Note well those two things:
- Eternal Life
- This eternal life will be characterized by intimate fellowship with God.
The eternal life you will enjoy will be one that is one of ultimate satisfaction. The ancient manna pointed to Jesus. It is related to Jesus Christ, to being nourished and satisfied by Him. All the effects of His death and resurrection will be given to us because of our union with Him. In John 6:47–51 Jesus said,
"I tell you the truth,
he who believes has everlasting life.
I am the bread of life.
Your forefathers ate the manna
in the desert, yet they died.
But here is the bread
that comes down from heaven,
which a man may eat and not die.
I am the living bread
that came down from heaven.
If anyone eats of this bread,
he will live forever.
This bread is my flesh,
which I will give for the life of the world."
We are going to eat the hidden manna. We are going to have a special, blessed relationship with Jesus. He is going to feed and nourish us. He is going to sustain us. He will be our life. This life will last forever.
Now there's a great lesson for us here. It is this:
God will give you better than what you give up.
There seems to be a contrast here between the food sacrificed to idols and the hidden manna that God gives. We know that those who participated in the pagan idolatrous feasts and at them ate food sacrificed to idols did so because they thought it would benefit them. They thought it was better to do that than not to. I mentioned last week that not to do so would probably have resulted in them being ostracized both economically and socially. If they didn't participate they might have lost their jobs or their business might have been shunned. Not to participate would mean the end of social advancement in Pergamum.
But Jesus promises them that He will give them some of the hidden manna. He will give them eternal life where they will be fully nourished and satisfied. He is basically telling them that if they are obedient to Him they will not be losing end. It's just like He said in Mark 8:35,
"whoever loses his life for me
and for the gospel will save it."
Remember how it was with Solomon? God was pleased with him and appeared to him and told him to ask for whatever he wanted. Solomon asked for wisdom to know how to govern God's people. God said to him, (2 Chronicles 1:11–12)
"Since this is your heart's desire
and you have not asked for wealth,
riches or honor,
nor for the death of your enemies,
and since you have not asked for a long life
but for wisdom and knowledge
to govern my people over whom
I have made you king,
therefore wisdom and knowledge
will be given you.
And I will also give you wealth,
riches and honor,
such as no king who was before you
ever had and none after you will have."
It was the same with Daniel and his three friends. They didn't want to defile themselves with the king's food. The official in charge of them was afraid that Daniel and the others would look worse than the other young men if they didn't eat the royal food. So Daniel asked him for a 10 day test. At the end of 10 days Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than any of the other young men. So they were exempted from the king's food. Then we read that God gave those four young men knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning, and Daniel could also understand visions and dreams. When these four men were examined by the king, none were found equal to them. When they were questioned, they were found to be 10 times better than all the magicians. So they entered the king's service.
In Matthew 19:28–29 Jesus said His disciples,
"I tell you the truth,
at the renewal of all things,
when the Son of Man sits
on his glorious throne,
you who have followed me
will also sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has left houses
or brothers or sisters or father or mother
or children or fields for my sake
will receive a hundred times as much
and will inherit eternal life."
Jesus promises that He will give you much better than what you give up. Moses left Pharaoh's palace in Egypt. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God than to enjoy the luxuries of the Egyptian court. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ of greater value than the treasures of Egypt. Where is Moses today? He is with Christ. He appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Elijah. The glories that are his!
Think of Abraham. Did he turn out to be the loser by letting Lot choose whatever land he wanted? Lot chose the best land, the land of the plain. Yet in the end where did it get him? He had to flee with just the clothes on his back. But Abraham was blessed.
Christians, trust what Jesus says. The world will tell you that you need to take care of yourself, to put yourself first. It will tell you that sometimes you have to compromise your principles, that you have to compromise your faith, that it will be all right for you to indulge in some sin or a little idolatry. It will tell you that you sometimes have to do that in order to keep your job, in order to get ahead socially.
But Jesus tells you here to never compromise with the world. We can't be friends with the world in the sense of becoming like them. Antipas stood firm. He made the right choice and he lost his life. But he really gained it. Christian, be faithful. Stand up for your principles. Don't compromise with evil. As the apostle Paul said in Romans 12:21,
"Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good."
Secondly, Christians, this mean that
you should look forward to your time with Jesus with great anticipation, great delight. He is going to satisfy you fully.
All the good longings of the soul of man will be fulfilled in Jesus. Not only will you never thirst and never hunger—you will sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the heavenly banquet. What joy will be yours. What contentment. What satisfaction! Revelation 22 describes it. (verses 1-6)
"Then the angel showed me the river
of the water of life, as clear as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb down the middle
of the great street of the city.
On each side of the river stood the tree of life,
bearing twelve crops of fruit,
yielding its fruit every month.
And the leaves of the tree are
for the healing of the nations.
No longer will there be any curse.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city,
and his servants will serve him.
They will see his face,
and his name will be on their foreheads.
There will be no more night.
They will not need the light of a lamp
or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light.
And they will reign for ever and ever.
The angel said to me,
'These words are trustworthy and true.
The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets,
sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place."
Lastly, for anyone here who is not a Christian,
you should pay good heed to what Jesus said about the worth of your soul.
in Mark 8:36–38 He said,
"What good is it for a man
to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
Or what can a man give
in exchange for his soul?"
As it is now, your are going to miss out on eternal life. Instead of satisfaction, you will experience unfilled longing. Instead of joy, you will experience misery. Instead of contentment, you will experience pain and suffering. What good is it if you gain the whole world and lose your soul? It's no good at all. Go to Jesus. Turn from your sins and ask Jesus to save you. Go to Him, find life!