The Lord spoke to Moses, “I have heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them: At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will eat bread until you are full. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”
So at evening quail came and covered the camp. In the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. When the layer of dew evaporated, there on the desert surface were fine flakes, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they asked one another, “What is it?” because they didn’t know what it was.
Moses told them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each person needs to eat. You may take two quarts per individual, according to the number of people each of you has in his tent.’ ” (Exodus 16:11-16)
Hungry people are unhappy people. There’s nothing unusual in that. God’s response was not to let them starve, no matter that their words and concern grew out of disbelief and a distrust of God’s intentions toward them. They were quick to assume the worst—also a common human failing. It is one thing to ask God, “how much longer” in the midst of a crisis. It is something else to tell God, “you don’t love us and you want us to starve.” One attitude expresses a belief that God does care and will act, however long it might take. The other attitude expresses a belief that God doesn’t care at all or maybe isn’t even there in the first place. The second is the most common response to any crisis.
And yet God’s actions toward the people he loved was always the same. He can’t help but be good and loving toward them.
The Hebrew word for “what is it?” was pronounced “manna” and so that became the name of what was appearing on the ground six days a week. What began as strange and wonderful soon became as ordinary as gravity. People would quickly take it for granted, a part of nature no different than the daily rising and setting of the sun.