Food is a peculiar blessing. It is necessary to sustain life, but unlike other necessities (water, air, clothing), it is also a delight in and of itself. The layers of taste, smell, and texture are not just tangible, but by God’s own design are sensual and delightful.
But for all its benefits, food in and of itself is incapable of meeting our deepest needs. It has no spiritual power or efficacy:
Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.
And like all other earthly blessings, food can become a snare if over-indulged in. Just as when Belshazzar drank from the vessels of the LORD’s house or Herod (whose heart was merry in feasting) uttered a rash vow, it is easy for us to leave the path of wisdom when our god is our stomach. And when we do, there is no escaping the consequences:
Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.
But it is also possible to sin in the absence of food, especially when our divinely appointed provisions do not match our fickle appetites. As the Israelites learned in their wanderings, food that is delightful one day can be abhorrent the next. This is why God called His people to look for a deeper satisfaction in His own life-giving words:
Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
God wants us to look beyond our temporal cravings, which will never be fully satisfied, and to seek food that yields better pleasures:
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
Jesus Himself knew the secret of obtaining this heavenly banquet while still on earth. He who was able to miraculously feed the crowds also told His wondering disciples:
I have food to eat that you do not know about.
This food was to do the will of His father in heaven, and it kept Him spiritually filled even during his forty days of temptation and fasting. And just as He told the crowds who followed Him, He likewise calls us to labor for a new kind of food:
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.
What is this food? It is manna—the true manna that surpasses that which Moses gave. The people ate bread in Moses’ day and were sustained, but only for a time. All who ate of the first heavenly bread eventually died. But Jesus said:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.
Unlike the first bread, which was free, this new bread from heaven came at a great cost—that of Jesus’ own life. Only after His crucifixion and resurrection did his disciples understand this hard saying:
The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh… For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
There is no better feast in heaven or on earth. When we remember the Lord’s sacrifice in communion, we feast on the living bread that vitalizes our souls in unseen and eternal ways. And we are to lead others to this feast:
He said to them, “You give them something to eat.”
Lord, thank You for feeding us with Yourself. Just as You were placed in a manger upon your birth, so You continue to feed Your lambs with a never-ending supply of living bread. Help us to seek this better food always, and to lead others to You.
For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
Lord, You know all things; You know we love You!
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”