After God delivers His people from Egypt, and they enter the wilderness of Sin on their journey to the mountain of God (Mt. Sinai or Mt. Horeb), God has to teach the Israelites to consistently trust Him before He gives them His Law. Despite the deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites quickly forget what God has done for them. They complain about the lack of food and wish they had never left Egypt. In response, God sends manna each morning and quail for meat in the evenings. Manna was ‘bread from heaven’ that appeared in flakes whenever the morning dew evaporated. The Israelites were instructed only to gather enough bread to sustain them for the day. On the sixth day of the week, they would gather for two days since no Manna would fall on the seventh day. This Manna sustained them for 40 years until they reached the promised land.
The Israelites then complained about the lack of water. Again, God provides when Moses strikes the rock letting water flow out. Yet, the place was known as Meribah and Massah because of the hardness of heart of the Israelites.
The Israelites also faced battle against Amalekites. Led by Joshua, the Israelites won the battle as long as Moses’ arms remained outstretched over the battle. Aaron and Hur even held Moses’ arms up when they got heavy.
Finally, when Moses meets his father-in-law Jethro, he receives some fatherly advice. Moses would judge all of the disputes among the people, but Moses quickly overwhelmed by all the judgments to be made. Jethro suggested making a hierarchy of elders who were honest and worthy to judge the people they were assigned to. Thus, Moses could focus on being the mediator between God and the people. After all of these events, the people arrive at the base of the mountain of God.
In all these instances, God begins to teach the people of Israel how to trust Him as their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had. They had lost that trust in the land of Egypt, and now as God prepared to make them a nation with their own homeland, they needed to trust Him yet again. We see this explicitly with the Manna. The Manna from God was sent daily. If they tried to save it for the next day, the Manna would rot except on the sixth day. Sixth day Manna would last into the seventh day because God was introducing the Sabbath day of rest into the rhythm of life His new nation.
With the Manna and the water from the rock, the people of Israel had to trust with their lives that God would provide their food and water everyday. They also had to trust God to fight their battles with them. It was not through their military expertise that they would be able to take the promised land, but through God’s presence in Moses’ raised hands. God is proving He will continue to fight for His people.
The Manna is also a clear typological connection to the Eucharist. Manna was the ‘bread from heaven’ that sustained the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness into the promised land. The Eucharist is Jesus who is the true Bread from Heaven that is our sustenance in our journey through the wilderness of sin to heaven. Jesus even references Manna in John 6 whenever He is affirming that the bread and wine are His Body and Blood.
Finally, the judges set up for the people of Israel by Moses at Jethro’s suggestion is a typological connection to the Church hierarchy. The wisdom of not relying on one individual for the stability of the nation is given to the Israelites, and the principle of subsidiarity is introduced into the Bible and continued in the Church. Yet, the success of this structure resides in finding able God-fearing men to be part of the hierarchy.
In this journey, we see God forming the people of Israel as he forms His bride, the Church. What he does for the Israelites in the material, He gives to the Church in the material and the spiritual. He provides those who follow Him with food, nourishment, safety, and leadership. His people have the simple task of trusting Him. All that God did in the wilderness of Sin was to prepare the Israelites for receiving the Word of God. As the people of Israel approach the mountain of God, He is planning on giving them His Law which will order the life of the nation of Israel.