Exodus 16 / Psalms 70-71 / Mark 4
And the LORD said to Moses, "Look, I am about to rain down bread for you from the heavens, and the people shall go out and gather each day's share in that day, so that I may test them whether they will go by my teaching or not."
More important than observing the restrictions, going by the pattern of teaching of the Father means diligently going out every morning to actually gather the stuff that nourishes our life that is truly life, seeing how the account of these Hebrews is a copy for the spiritual reality for the sons of God. If the Israelites didn't gather in the morning the sun would come up and melt it away. If they didn't use all they had each day it would be rotten by morning. The giving of the manna by God, and the gathering of it by the son is the substance of the teaching of God for His sons, the process of which is able to renew and transform him, keeping him until the day he is redeemed.
In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
It may seems like any time is fine, but the morning is the time to seek God's face and make ourselves available to hear the voice of the Teacher, as waking up from sleep is like being resurrected, and we're new in the morning. The first thing we should do is seek Him in the morning and He will be found by us, day after day the Lord will show us his faithfulness. He will give us our bread for that day, the sustenance of the living bread, which is the Lord's voice, the living word in our heart teaching us the way of the Father, how to be a good son.
The sheep (true sons of God) will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice.
The voice of the serpent is easy to hear. It's what we hear all day long, what we've heard all our life, what we rely on to take care of ourselves so that we can survive like all the other animals on the planet. It's the voice that the humans are driven by across the board and without exception, since the time when they've passed over from child to adult and taken that way into themselves. For the animals it's not a bad thing because it serves them as they need. For the sons though it is the adversary and deceiver—what they have to come away from if they want to move toward their true Father, if the voice of the good Shepherd indeed has been born in them to guide them in the way they need to go.
If the sons of God fill their mornings up with the things of the world, stuffing their minds with its reality—work, news, and culture everywhere they look—they will be full of that, and the way of the dying human will be strong in them because they continue to feed it first thing out of the chute, which sets the tone for the whole day. The way of the vast majority of the humans is to never hear the living word speaking to them. The way of others is to hear and know the wonder of God and then forget about it, to have it stolen away from them, or to just toss it away in favor of something their animal nature craves.
The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
The way of the sons of God is to wake up and make themselves available to hear the voice, so that they can be transformed by the renewing of their minds. They should be quiet, reading and meditating for as long as possible before they have to go out into the world of the humans, which will make them forget all they heard because everything is a distraction and able to do that. The world of the humans is meant to be a constant string of distractions all day long, just to try to cover up the fact that this natural existence means little or nothing, because it ultimately ends in forever becoming one with the earth by rotting in the grave, which is the proper definition of hell (sheol in the the Hebrew).
Not that God's gift of being able to enjoy this creation to every human isn't a miracle in itself; or that the beautiful and incredible creation for the humans to enjoy is meaningless. How do they show their appreciation of it? They strip, rape and exploit it for money. They cut down everything that is beautiful and replace it with things that are ugly, because they're man-made, all because it's in the nature of the humans to serve themselves, which means they can never truly love God because that nature rules them.
God's craving/need is that the son is constantly coming to Him for what sustains his life, gathering the life of the Father into himself every morning. He cannot grow strong in the life that is truly life (not the natural existence) unless this happens, same as the Israelites had to gather every morning for only that one day's allotment of food. While we are still in these bodies we will be drawn to do just the opposite of that, or gather one day and then forget for a while, because the animal hates the things of God and it always forgets as a matter of convenience. It loves to engage itself in what stimulates it easiest, satisfying its cravings, as we have learned to do so well. The last thing it wants to do, or thinks it can do, is wait on the Father to give it what it needs to live for Him each day. It's hard to wait for what actually fulfills, the thing the animal can get by its own hand in a second. What the flesh is unable to truly grasp is the temporality of all those things it thinks will fulfill it.
What is the beast if not the way of man, and what is the mark if not the number of the way of man stamped on the individual's forehead. And what does that number symbolize if not what man loves most—commerce, money, and the chance of getting more of it to build up around itself to feel a little insulated from the reality of the eventuality of death coming around the corner. 666 is not a scary number, but a banal one. The number of a measure of the amount of gold that Solomon accumulated every year—the number of the love of money and the celebration of the accumulation of it—man's number because it's what he loves.
What a person loves is what he gives his life for, and what he loves will be metaphorically stamped on his forehead, because that's what owns him, it's his real identity and already stamped on his heart. The way of man is to be an animal and strive in that system all one's life; at the end it will look very much like any other animal—disappearing into the ground with no hope of anything more. In the brief moments it's allowed to exist, its life goes very much like this (with a few variances): The man is born and raised up to become a worker in man's system, to be able to survive. If he has the opportunity he trains himself to become even more savvy about his place and identity within the system. At a certain point he does what all good animals are trained and expected to do; he hunts for a suitable mate and then secures one, pumps out some progeny, and then the whole thing starts all over again. That's the long and short of the human life-cycle. There's nothing that lasts past him becoming part of the dirt except a memory which doesn't count for much except fading sentimentality.
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.
No accident that John's vision contains the imagery of the curse being lifted and the tree of life being freely accessible. Here it comes full circle back to the beginning, when the curse was put into effect, and the humans became what they are and have been since the time concurrent with the first humans being separated from the Father, the way to the knowledge of the tree of life being obstructed by the angel with the flaming sword (nobody gets at it unless the guard is lifted for that one's sake, according to his Father's intention to remember him, not let him just rot in the ground), the humans being bound up with the serpent by the nature they would now share, symbolized by the animal skins that God would put on them to signify their new identity.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face (which Moses wasn't permitted to see), and his name will be on their foreheads.
The son has his Father's name stamped on his forehead, because it's already stamped on his heart as his real identity if it is the Father's intention that he become a son. He spends his life looking for the hidden manna, the gifts that God has for him, the teaching that can transform him from the lowly animal that is man to a being who looks like the Lord. The way of the son is the secret, hidden way of seeking his Father every day, looking for the food that doesn't spoil, of being nourished by the hidden manna. He comes to his Father in the morning for what he needs just for that day, and the next day he does the same. That way he starts developing this new habitual formula for remembering the new way and staying close to his new Father so he can be transformed into a new creation, an integral part of the new creation which the good Son made possible for all the other sons, for the sake of their Father, that He may have His family of sons close to Him, surrounding Him—the true pride and joy of any good human father, which is the copy of the Father who is spirit (not natural, therefore cannot be conceived of with the natural senses).
He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.
This is not like man would do it, to be so dependent on anyone for the things he needs to survive. He is used to making his own way, as he has no real father except the animal he's bound to who abandoned him long ago, so he has had to learn many ways to survive and feel satisfied and confident with his place in the world, within that identity he must create for himself by whatever means is available, which gives him a purpose for living. Within each of the particular lives of all the men who live and die under man's system, it's up to each of them to figure out how to build things up around themselves to attain the feeling that they are a little more insulated from death, and create, define and maintain identities which give them worth within the system of humans, according to them.
The good son doesn't want to be this one's father or that one's son; he knows who his Father is, and he knows who his son is—any of his true brothers to whom he can act as servant, guardian and shepherd, for the true Father's sake, what He wanted from the Israelites, that each man teach and remind his neighbor/brother about God. It's not to be taught by any human who claims to be an expert; information which most certainly does not come from the Father, but originates from the heart of the animal to satisfy that need and craving to be someone noticeable and acceptable. The son knows that the only One who can teach him or any of God's sons is the same One who was taught by the Father—the firstborn Son.
The good son wants no identity in the world, not to have this or that career or positions of honor; he knows what his work is, and where his identity lies—to learn the new way by believing in Him who is hidden, which starts every morning first thing. He chooses what Mary Magdalene chose, "who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said." To sit at the feet of the One she recognized as her Lord and just listen to his teaching was recognized by the Lord as the good thing she chose, which would not be taken away from her. Martha chose to be busy doing the work of the world, that which was temporary, and was not praised by the Lord for doing it—against what man would expect.
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
However, like Mary, the son must be called to hear the voice and be given the ears which can hear what the secret message is. Otherwise it will just be the man's own devising, or someone else who convinced him they were right. It's clear from today's NT reading that some have been chosen to hear the voice of the Lord, the living word, the hidden manna; and some—the vast majority in fact—have not. It's not up to us to worry about who is and who isn't or how to affect the righteous decision God has already made concerning who has his name written in the book of the living. We can't, inasmuch as the Lord could have chosen the disciples according to anything he may have thought was valuable about them.
Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,
" 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!' "
Next he says something very peculiar to them, for it seems to be a kind of chastising on his part because they are so dull, but it's not that at all. Actually it's a secret that's contained within the very text, not a chastising but a spiritual reality:
Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?
What he is saying is this: The parables I am speaking seem like riddles to everyone on the outside, but to you they are the keys to the message about the kingdom—the secret facts of the spiritual reality—and you have been blessed enough to be chosen to hear and know those secrets because you have to know them in order to become sons. The key to understanding any of the parables is found within this one particular parable. In other words, the only way to understand the message of the kingdom, to use the key I give to unlock the secrets of it, is by actually conforming to one of the scenarios of the parable—by being the good soil which is able to receive the word and produce fruit within himself because of it. The fruit is that he understands the way of God and believes all of the things that the living word speaks to him. All of the other three scenarios are about the way of man:
-unable to hear the word (the humans at large),
-hearing the word but then quickly falling away because of the trouble or persecution that comes because of it, or
-having the word, but then allowing it to be choked off by the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things.
"Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."
Those who are chosen to be sons will have to abandon the way of man and take on the way of the son, or they might slip back into the stream of humanity floating down the river, living only to die, unaware again of the existence of the Father and the Son, as it was before they were called. The good Son lives to teach us the new way, so that we can be pleasing to the Father. When we conform to the new way, coming to the Father each morning, that life which has already started in us will grow within us; we won't even know how it's growing. The gardener will tend the life in us so that we remain in him and he will remain in us because of that nourished life.
This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.