Exodus 16:13-17,31-35 NIV
 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.  This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ”  The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.  The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.  Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’ ”  So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.”  As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preserved.  The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.
Dear God, I’ve heard and read this story since I was a kid, but I’ve always just heard it through my own ears. The great thing about an artist’s interpretation is that I get to see that same story through someone else’s eyes. So as I look at this picture, it is interesting to see what the artist has chosen to show me.
Before I get into the image, here is what is written in the caption to the bottom left of the image.
Manna was a mysterious thing provided completely by God for the good of his people. The Israelites were not to hoard it, for it would come to them new each day. This print is from a series that looks at the Old Testament through the lens of a love story. Or as the artist writes, “true love is like an Old Testament made New each day.” Here a couple shares some Myrr tea, while locked together in their marriage vows. The premise of this piece is: If God supplied for the Israelites as they wandered about for forty years, then what will God do for a couple that commits to one another, bound through the convenient of marriage?” God proved faithful to the Israelites in their wilderness, providing for their needs and therefore He will supply this couple’s needs as they wander through relational deserts as well as through lands flowing with milk and honey.
See what I mean? I had never thought about tying the Israelites wandering in the wilderness to the journey of marriage.
Given that as our cypher to decrypt the artist’s message, let’s see what I can see he did for us:
- The people look African or maybe even Aboriginal from Australia. If African, I suppose this makes sense since the Israelites had just come from Egypt, which was in Africa.
- The woman’s leg and feet seem to dominate the picture. Both of their legs are drawn to kind of reveal the bone underneath, suggesting to me that they are thin and malnourished.
- Of the four feet in the picture, only one has a sandal. The other three are bare.
- They look tired.
- There are three signs of tenderness being expressed from the man to the woman. 1.) His right foot is resting gently on her left foot. 2.) He is looking at her while she looks off. And 3.) his left hand is touching her face. I wonder how hard it was for the men at the time to feel like they weren’t capable of providing for their families. Was it humiliating to have to collect manna every day? Was it frustrating to see their wife’s fear and be limited in their ability to assuage it? I suppose there are certainly times in my marriage when I feel unable to give my wife what she needs.
- She has on a dress and he is wearing a shirt with a collar and pants. These are not Israelites.
- What I’m really curious about this that keyhole on the wall over her left shoulder. What is that about?
Interestingly, today is World Marriage Day for the Catholic Church. As part of that celebration and emphasis this morning, my wife and I were invited to get up and talk about a couples group we joined through our church over five years ago. Part of my sharing was that that group came along at a time when my wife and I were walking through the darkest, most confusing valley of our 26 years of marriage (back then it was 21 years). We couldn’t tell up from down at that point, and it was good for us to get into intentional community with six other couples, all of whom were at different stages in their lives. Some were younger than us and just starting to have children, some were our age or close to our age, and some were older and experiencing multiple grandchildren.
Father, as I look at this image and I think about my marriage and the manna you have provided to my wife and me over the years, my prayer is that I will know how to show her the tenderness that you need her to have from me, but also that you will meet those needs of hers that I simply cannot meet. It was almost 20 years ago that I finally started to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be everything she needs. If I was, and if she was that for me, why would we need you? No, you have put me here to nurture and love her with your love and affection. But I am also here to support the path she is walking in pursuing you. That’s one of the reasons I attend Catholic Church with her even though I am not Catholic. So guide me today. Give us this day our daily bread.
In Jesus’ name I pray,