The word "manna," as I have said more than once in these articles, means "what is it" in Hebrew. They looked at the sticky substance, apparently secreted by the tamarisk tree, and in wonder and surprise exclaimed, "Man hu?" The name stuck. But more importantly for the author of Joshua, the manna stopped precisely when the people of Israel could stand on their own and produce their own sown crop in the promised land of Canaan. YHWH's miracle gifts of sea of reeds crossing, cakes of manna, and the crossing of the Jordan, are replaced by the results of their own hard labor of planting, reaping, and processing the grain of the land. This does not mean that YHWH recedes in importance for the people, but it does mean that the people now are more responsible for their survival and for their thriving as the people of YHWH.
And that fact brings us to a possible meaning for today. New believers and those who want to renew the passion of their belief need to pay close attention to what Joshua appears to say in this small passage. This Lent we cannot sit back and wait only for the miraculous acts of God to lead us in the directions we need to go. The manna has ceased, and we now must sow and reap our own crop. We can no longer depend only on the faith we have known, nor can we borrow the faith of our mothers and fathers.
Genuine faith in Jesus Christ requires genuine effort from us, not merely a weekly visit to the sanctuary, but a daily concern with our lives of prayer, fasting, and attention to the texts of the Bible. In that way we "eat the crops of the land" and create new and fresh ways to serve the God who calls us to this hour. We, the newly circumcised (and now I do include my female readers metaphorically), are God's chosen ones, called out by God to perform the works of justice in places in desperate need of such work. This Lent may we no longer rely on the manna of the past but instead take up the work of sowing and reaping in the land God has given to us.