Manna, Funnel Cakes, and Thankfulness

We had funnel cakes on Good Friday.

They made me think of manna. Then I thought of the state fair and how much I enjoy the taste of funnel cakes and all the other foods to be had there and I wondered what manna tasted like. “Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” Exodus 16:31

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Psalm 78 describes manna as the “grain of heaven” and in Numbers we’re told that they would grind it up and make cakes out of it.

And I thought of the mass complaining/justifying/scorning/indulging that goes along with something as silly as fair food. Manna would never pass muster among today’s diet gurus, it would take its place among the naughty fair food. A single grain? Made into a cake? With sugar on top? No way, no how. It didn’t pass muster for the Israelites either. They were so over this “grain from heaven.”

“Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Numbers 11:4-6, ESV)

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The Egyptian diet–now there’s a diet conscientious Christians of the 21st century could get behind: fish for free, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic! Sounds like something from the food network in Greece! Let me at those omega 3 fats! And I’m guessing it all came with non-GMO labels to boot.

The Israelites grumbled so much that God finally gave them some meat to eat. Finally some protein. But it didn’t work out quite how they’d hoped. “Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?” (Numbers 11:18-20, ESV)

When I think of the forceful health movements out there today–the ones that reject a large portion of the food sold at the nearest supermarket as “poison”, I think of the Israelites scorning the manna. Here, in our supermarket, is a place filled to the brim with the answered prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread..” and it isn’t good enough. Here are our “vats bursting with wine..” and we just want to lament over the nutrition label. Gratitude is about as far from our lips as it was the Israelites. Instead we relish our scorn and discontentedness and superiority over all the ignorant ones actually buying the funnel cake mix from aisle 7.

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Now I can hear someone objecting saying, “Well, any food that came straight from heaven would have been nutritionally perfect, so there’s no way I would have rejected that. It would have miraculously had every component necessary for healthful eating, because God is perfect.” I wouldn’t argue with that necessarily, although I don’t think it’s a given.

And here’s something I know for sure, straight from Jesus’ mouth, “Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and they died.” Wait, what? They ate a nutritionally perfect food from heaven and still died? Yep. Well, I’m sure they didn’t die from cancer at least. It was probably just from natural old age. Some maybe, but not all. A whole bunch of them died from God’s wrath being kindled against their ungratefulness and he sent a plague and they died.

The point of all this is not a new diet fad. I’m not advocating a diet of manna-like food over and above any other food. I’m not telling you to eat a funnel cake. (Although they are wonderful and my heart rejoiced at the good God who provided it!)

My point is a caution against complaining and ungratefulness. I’ve heard Christians talk about how the food of decades gone by was so much better for us than the food we have available to us now. How the food we have is bad for us–the food other generations had is what we need to get back to. I myself have wondered if this is could be true and fretted ungratefully at the thought. It sounds so much like the Israelites wishing to go back to Egypt and the food of Egypt. God has provided us food. Today. In greater quantities and qualities than many of the past centuries.  Yet, we spend our time grumbling under the guise of responsible eating, posting articles on how horrible and poisonous our food is, how evil the people who’ve provided it are, and lamenting for a by-gone era.

The Right Food has become a savior. The paleo diet is what will now save us from disease. And let’s not forget that just 20 years ago it was the no-fat diet that was going to save us. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, thyroid problems, migraines, infertility are all just a result of our poisonous food. Our sin against God has little to do with it. Sometimes I get the feeling that for the die-hard health-foodies, Sin= bad food. Bad food is sin. It is the cause of all our problems. Oh, and all the behavior and learning problems your kid is having? That’s because of the sin-food you’ve been feeding him since he was in the womb. There’s a recipe for either crushing guilt on the one hand or insufferable self-congratulations on the other.

The cure for sickness is some sort of “pre-fall” diet. Yet, we will all die. Even more, this attitude is slap in the face to the real Savior. “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” (Matthew 4:23 ESV) How do we overcome disease? By dying and being raised with him on the last day. How do we endure behavioral problems and fatigue and the stomach flu, again? By his death for our death, His life for our life. We live in the already-not-yet kingdom. All things will be made new and the heart where His Spirit reigns is patient heart, eagerly awaiting this conquering and overcoming newness, not demanding disease-free living now.

I have been preached to and evangelized for the cause of healthful, disease-free eating by Christian women as frequently as I’ve been encouraged and admonished in the Lord. This should not be so.

Listen to the Real Savior:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:48-51, ESV)

“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:26-29, ESV)

The antidote to ungrateful, savior-seeking health obsessions is Jesus, the living bread that has come down from heaven. My encouragement to my own heart and hopefully to yours, is this: The LORD has numbered our days. They are written in his book. We cannot, by our striving, add one healthful day to our lives or our children’s lives. Instead we must “believe in him whom he has sent.”
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You might think this attitude fatalistic and irresponsible, as though I’m taking all human responsibility out of the equation. Yet, the Lord holds us responsible for our sin. I understand what sin is by looking to the Word, not listening to what the culture tells me is good and bad about food. Not giving thanks to God for His gifts? Definitely a sin. Eating with thanksgiving, whether it’s a funnel cake or gluten-free-flax seed muffin? Not a sin, rather, a requirement.

The kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink. We may place perfectly healthy food in our mouth and then out of that same mouth spew hateful talk to our children, our husband, our God. We may spend hours sweating at the gym so that we can be as healthy as can be, then let the poison of sin reign and rule as we secretly view porn or watch smutty TV. This, my friends, is NOT healthy living.

And I ask this: what delights God more? A grateful heart enjoying a funnel cake every single night or a superior, self-justified, heart strictly adhering to man-made rules. And maybe you’re in the category of the grateful and happy, no-axe-to-grind, yet-strictly-following-a-paticular-diet-kind-of-heart. And to that I say, Amen. Praise God!
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Let’s agree to this diet-lovers and free-wheelers like myself: let’s give thanks to God for all his good gifts. Even for funnel cakes. Let’s praise him that there is food on the table–whether it’s GMO or not. Let’s honor Him for answering our prayers and giving us this day our daily bread. Let’s tell the world about this lavish and generous God who showers us with The Living Bread from heaven– His Son, Jesus.

P.S. As I was writing this I came across two great articles on this topic: here and here.


9 thoughts on “Manna, Funnel Cakes, and Thankfulness

  1. Thank you. I have often thought that the low point of our American food culture is that we can’t just be thankful for an abundance of food, but we have to be so concerned about its origins and how much fiber or high fructose corn syrup is in each item.

  2. Amen! Thanks for writing this Abigail. We are so prone to try & fix ourselves thinking that if we create a perfect environment (whether it be diets, parenting, relationships, etc) we will achieve heaven on earth. But, this earth is not our home and we will all die on the day God has appointed, uber-healthy or not. Let’s give thanks to our

  3. Amen! Thanks for writing this Abigail. We are so prone to try & fix ourselves thinking that if we create a perfect environment (whether it be diets, parenting, relationships, etc) we will achieve heaven on earth. But, this earth is not our home and we will all die on the day God has appointed, uber-healthy or not. Let’s give thanks to our Father, continue on in sanctification as He gives us the grace for each day & love others just as we love ourselves. Thank God His plans are accomplished even through our failures!

  4. This article is like a voice crying in the wilderness of sin-food obsessions and fixations. It’s so easy (even–especially–for those of us who love nutrition) to make healthy eating an idol. Then, if we’re making food our God, it’s sadly natural for us to fall into the sin of making food rules a matter of morality (even more than what God has set forward as morality). Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and your different perspective. It’s so important for us to keep our aim to live healthy and help others do the same in their proper places. We need to remember that these things are important, but nowhere near as important as glorifying God in being grateful for ALL he provides. Thanks!

  5. Abigail, I heard about this post from a friend, and I just read it, and you have summed up my thoughts on the matter beautifully. I have tried to tell people this is how I feel about food and godliness (in an itty-bitty nutshell), and come away with misunderstanding. Food is simply a hot-button issue, and it causes the same strife today that it must have cost in Peter’s time, when God gave him the dream about all that he could eat. Man-made rules about food abound, and God gives us wisdom and insight over which foods make our bodies feel strong and healthy, but they do not save us. It is a fine line to walk–caring for the creation vs. caring for the Creator.

    Thank you!

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