And Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At evening you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am Jehovah your God.’”
So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a tiny round substance, as fine as frost on the ground.
And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which Jehovah has given you to eat.” “This is the thing which Jehovah has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need.’”
Every man had gathered according to each one’s need. And Moses said, “Let no one leave any of it till morning.” Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. So they gathered it morning by morning, every man according to his need.
(Excerpted from Exodus 16:9-36)
The Lord wants us to have the peace and joy of heaven. Everything He does leads us away from misery and toward happiness. A willingness to follow the Lord’s instructions doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so we are unhappy at times. The children of Israel complained about their suffering in the wilderness because they trusted neither Moses nor Jehovah to take care of even their needs. Ironically, this very mistrust was the source of their misery.
Just as He cared for the Children of Israel, the Lord responds to our unhappy grumblings by sending two types of happiness: natural (meant by quail) and spiritual (meant by bread). The flavorful quail corresponds to the natural feelings of pleasure that come from doing a good deed—sometimes for selfish reasons. The Lord provides these positive feelings to motivate us, even when we aren’t feeling loving, to sustain us during times of struggle.
While sustaining us with feelings of happiness (quail), the Lord also offers bread, corresponding to unselfish, spiritual happiness. Tasting the bread corresponds to genuinely enjoying serving the neighbor, authentic good feelings not mixed with self-gratification. The bread is satisfying and nutritious; quail was tasty, but the bread was life-giving. The bread corresponds to the happiness of heaven, which the Lord provides each of us.
Here is the catch: you cannot generate these simple, good ideas yourself. The bread was impossible to store and it is impossible to provide ourselves with heavenly life. The test for the children of Israel was to collect only as much as was needed for the day and to trust that the Lord would feed them again tomorrow. Bread stored overnight became putrid and full of worms. This is a picture of what happens when we lack trust in the Lord and His Providence.
Happiness comes from the daily journey. We are filled with heavenly happiness when we gather true ideas from the Lord’s Word and make them part of who we are, when we do what the Lord teaches because we acknowledge Him as God. The Lord understands there are times when the bread is difficult to eat, when it seems tasteless, dry and unpleasant. In those times, the lower delights, represented by the quail, serve to motivate us to continue acting in a good way. These actions form a container into which the Lord can rain down the bread of life and its heavenly happiness.