“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11, KVJ)
When attending a recent camp meeting sponsored by a local conference, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The main evening sermon was preached by a man relatively unknown in our region, so the auditorium was half full. Such attendance was typical given that the sermons were preached on week nights. Partway through the week, another speaker – one known internationally throughout the denomination – took his turn at the pulpit. Though it was still a week night, attendance surged and nearly doubled. As expected, the main worship service on the subsequent Sabbath saw the highest attendance of all.
This experience called to mind a practice I was guilty of as a medical student – church hopping. The Adventist “ghetto” of Loma Linda, California is blessed with a multitude of churches within an easy drive on Sabbath mornings, making it trivial to “comparison shop” the various churches. Though I was new to the area, I learned in a few short months which churches had services that ran late into the afternoon and which finished at 12:30 right-on-the-dot and according to schedule. I discovered which churches had the good potlucks (bountiful, free food for starving students!) and which had none because their members ate in local restaurants for their Sabbath lunches. On and on, the various church characteristics could be compared, from the quality of the various Bible study classes to the comfort level of the worship environment (padded pews – check, air conditioning – check), from the friendliness of the church members (or the lack thereof) to, of course, the quality and fame of the scheduled preacher of the day. Just like my camp meeting experience with an internationally famous preacher, churches that ticked more boxes on the list of desirable features tended to have the highest attendance. Call it comparison shopping or church hopping, but the result was the same: I lost sight of one the most important reasons for attending church. I attended church based on what it could give me, and not based on what I could give the church.
The Threefold Miracle
When God led the Israelite nation out of Egyptian bondage, He was faced with an enormous challenge. Following a four-hundred-year sojourn in Egypt, many of His people had forgotten the worship of the one true God – they forgot how to “do church.” Having been immersed in the Egyptian culture for generations, the people were more familiar with the worship of Ra, Set, and Horus than they were with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Israelites were as little children in their ignorance of God. So, God introduced Himself to them through some of the biggest, boldest miracles recorded in Scripture. Through the ten plagues and, later, through the parting of the Red Sea and subsequent destruction of Pharaoh and his army, God demonstrated His superiority over the entire Egyptian pantheon in the dramatic He freed the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt. And once the Hebrews could finally relax in their freedom and continue on the road to Mount Sinai, God started their education with the simplest lessons possible. Just as in the Garden of Eden, God used food to teach His children about Himself.
Bread rained down on the people, and through this bread, or manna, God instituted a regular series of miracles that taught the Israelites how to preserve the holiness of the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath. Daily, each person was to go out and gather his or her portion of manna. This simple, physical act gave outward proof of whether or not one walked in God’s law (Exodus 16:4). Physical disability was no bar to participation. As long as each person participated in the daily harvest, even the weak and infirm found that they were able to gather manna sufficient for their daily needs. “…he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack…” (v. 18). Furthermore, all learned that on any regular workday, extra manna not consumed that day spoiled overnight and could not be eaten the next day (v. 20). And so it went on the first five days of each week.
A special task fell to the people on the sixth day of the week, which the people soon learned was a day of preparation for the coming Sabbath. On the preparation day, the people were to collect double the usual daily amount (v. 5). The extra manna collected in preparation for the Sabbath was miraculously preserved (v. 24), and because no manna fell on the Lord’s Day, those who failed to collect sufficient manna on the sixth day found themselves hungry on the seventh (v. 27).
Through the threefold miracle of manna, God revealed the Sabbath covenant, “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.... The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever...” (Exodus 31:13-17).
1. A double portion of manna was to be collected on the sixth day, emphasizing the importance of Sabbath preparation.
2. Because the Sabbath was a rest day and no manna appeared for collection, those who did not adequately prepare on the sixth day of the week broke the covenant by foraging on the Sabbath.
3. Only Sabbath keepers ate on the Sabbath. Unlike the other days of the week, extra manna collected on the sixth day was preserved by God so that it could be enjoyed on the Lord’s Day. All rested on the Sabbath, for there was no manna to be harvested, but non-Sabbath keepers went hungry.
The Three Angels’ Messages
So how does this relate to our Sabbath experience today? God instructed Moses to store a pot of manna inside the Ark of the Covenant so that the lesson of manna would be handed down throughout the generations (v. 32-33). Manna’s presence inside the Ark of the Covenant also suggests that the experience of manna is integral to our modern Most Holy Place experience (v. 34), and that this lesson is one that will continue until we reach the heavenly Promised Land (v. 35).
As such, the threefold miracle parallels the Three Angels’ messages. Compare this summary of the Three Angels' messages with the threefold miracle of manna:
The Bread of Heaven
John 6:35 identifies Jesus as the Bread of Life. Jesus Christ, who came to this world that we might not only have life now, but also that we might have it more abundantly in Heaven, is the antitype of the manna that once fed the children of Israel. Therefore, the threefold miracle of manna also teaches us of our relationship with the Son of God.
1. The experience of “eating” the Bread of Heaven is one not to be reserved only for special occasions – this is a daily experience. Just as we eat physical food to sustain the body, we require a diet of daily spiritual bread. Through prayerful Bible study, our Savior imparts to us His life and His righteousness, preparing us for victory over sin. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).
2. “And he said unto them, [the Devil] can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). Christains who fail to receive this daily experience not only break their covenant with God, but they will also fail to overcome sin. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:8, 7).
3. “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven…freely ye have received, freely give…” and, “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (John 3:27, Acts 20:35, Matthew 10:8). There is a double blessing to be gained in Sabbath preparation. God will sustain you through the Sabbath such that when you go to church, you will not only receive a blessing for yourself. You will also be a blessing to others.
The Great Controversy
Even more, the connection between the threefold miracle of manna and the Second Coming can be seen when it is viewed in the context of the Great Controversy. The preparation day before the Sabbath represents the time that now is, when we should be preparing for the second coming of Christ, the event which marks the beginning of the Sabbath millennium that the saints will spend in Heaven. Just as the Israelites harvested a double portion of manna, we need a “double portion” of the Bread of life, Jesus, by receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Latter Rain. Those who keep God's Sabbath covenant and receive their “double portion” will find their relationship with Jesus preserved through the coming crisis. Just as those who left their double portion unharvested saw their manna melt with the heat of the sun (Exodus 16:21), those who fail in their daily duty to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ will find themselves “manna-less” when persecution arises. Starving for a Savior, they will find themselves unable and unwilling to repent and be forgiven of their sins. Ultimately, those who fail to receive the in the Latter Rain will, in keeping with their weekly rejection of the Sabbath covenant, fail the final Sabbath test.
Before the final Sabbath test comes, we have a Sabbath test that we face every week. The unfaithful Israelites found no manna to gather on the Sabbath. If one is scheduled to preach or teach on Sabbath morning, to defer preparation to Friday night is to break the Sabbath covenant just as the unfaithful Israelites once did. The Sabbath is the time during which God sustains the blessings one receives on the preparation day. This realization has caused me to rethink how I prepare for the Sabbath. Fortunately for all who now find themselves, myself included, to have been Sabbath-breakers, there yet remains time to repent. Although the Israelites who failed to gather a double portion of manna went hungry that first Sabbath in the wilderness, in the following week, they woke up to a new opportunity to re-establish their covenant with God. With the lesson of their recent hunger fresh in their minds, they were given a new chance to gather a double portion of manna in preparation of the next Sabbath.
To those currently warming the pews of our larger churches, I would share the following:
“Many of the members of our large churches are doing comparatively nothing. They might accomplish a good work if, instead of crowding together, they would scatter into places that have not yet been entered by the truth. Trees that are planted too thickly do not flourish. They are transplanted by the gardener, that they may have room to grow, and not become dwarfed and sickly. The same rule would work well for our large churches. Many of the members are dying spiritually for want of this very work. They are becoming sickly and inefficient. Transplanted, they would have room to grow strong and vigorous” (White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 244.2). “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35. By giving of yourself in ministry within a smaller church, you will find greater Sabbath blessings than those you would receive while merely warming a pew in a larger church.
I no longer church hop, for keeping the Sabbath is not about finding a church with the most melodious music, the finest food, the softest seating, or the most prominent preacher. The Sabbath is the time God set aside for us to fulfill the two great commandments: “The first of all the commandments is...thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).
May this coming Sabbath be a blessing to you as you worship God and show His love to others. Be a blessing, so that you may receive more in kind. Amen.
Michael (Ken) Mindoro, MD