Fed by bread, we live temporarily. Fed by the Word, we can live forever.
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My wife and I made bread today. It’s not something we do very often, so it seemed kind of special. It got me to thinking about bread in the Bible. There’s a lot of it.
It starts right at the beginning, when God pronounces the consequences of Adam’s sin: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…” (Genesis 1:19) From here on, “bread” would stand for all food. Bread was the staple; if there was any food at all, there was bread.
Bread had a significant place in the worship of the Israelites. Within the Holy Place of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, there was a golden table upon which was laid out the Bread of the Presence (shewbread in KJV). Literally, the Hebrew means “bread of the face”. Whose face? Sometimes the word is used to indicate being in someone’s presence. In this context, it would certainly refer to the presence of Israel’s God.
Beyond this, every sacrifice offered to the Lord was to be accompanied by a “grain offering,” which could be baked (but unleavened) bread, or flour, or actual grain. The Passover is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. There’s quite a lot more.
Moving to the New Testament, one of the trials Jesus faced in the wilderness was the temptation to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. His answer was a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” It would likely be a helpful habit for us to remember this whenever we have bread. Fed by bread, we live temporarily. Fed by the Word, we can live forever.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) But that’s not the whole sentence. The whole is, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (verses 11-12) So another helpful habit might be to ask ourselves how we’re doing with forgiving, when we eat bread.
Jesus fed crowds of people on two occasions. The main food he gave them was bread, although there was also fish (probably smoked). Jesus would not selfishly use the Spirit power to feed himself, but he would use it to feed others. All the gospel writers record the first event, feeding the 5,000. But only John records what followed afterwards—in which Jesus makes it absolutely clear that the feeding was an enacted parable, carrying a lesson that was hard for the hearers to accept. When we eat bread, we might want to think about that too. (See John chapter 6.)
Of course the biggest thing about bread that comes to mind is the service of remembrance the Lord initiated at the “last supper”. He commands us to do this (eat bread and drink wine) in remembrance of him, until he comes. This, I believe, is a big deal. As Paul expounds later, doing this is a participation (communion, fellowship, partnership) in the body and blood of the Lord.
He also emphasizes that this is a communal act, and the participants are bonded together into one body. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17) This remembrance is not a mere ritual, it’s something to be pondered and is a time for self-reflection. (1 Corinthians 11:23-31)
So, when I make bread, or eat bread, I think I really should reflect on at least some of these lessons. It’s God’s intention that I work in order to eat, and even then the bread I earn will not keep me alive forever. Bread is to be shared. Bread forms part of our worship, and that goes way back.
I should be more forgiving, as I ask for God to provide daily food. I am one with my brothers and sisters and with my Lord, when I remember him in bread—and at the same time, I need to do some self-examination. And more. Quite a bit to think about, packed into a simple, everyday loaf of bread.