Have you ever been hungry or thirsty? I mean really hungry? Hungry enough to “eat a horse!” or maybe even a barbecued Quail?
Psalm 78 mentions God’s miraculous provision of water and food in its poetic narrative of God’s intervention in delivering the Israelites from Egypt on their way to the Promised Land. Sadly, a reminder of what they seem to have so easily forgotten too often.
Firstly, among other amazing miracles, he provided good, pure and abundant water. Even in the desert:
9 The men of Ephraim…did not keep God’s covenant
and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done,
the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors…
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness
and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag
and made water flow down like rivers.
Then, despite their lack of faith, he provided food “from heaven” in the form of Manna and Quail:
17 But they continued to sin against him,
rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
18 They wilfully put God to the test
by demanding the food they craved…
21 When the Lord heard them, he was furious…
22 for they did not believe in God
or trust in his deliverance.
23 Yet he gave a command to the skies above
and opened the doors of the heavens;
24 he rained down manna for the people to eat,
he gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Human beings ate the bread of angels;
he sent them all the food they could eat.
26 He let loose the east wind from the heavens
and by his power made the south wind blow.
27 He rained meat down on them like dust,
birds like sand on the seashore.
28 He made them come down inside their camp,
all around their tents.
29 They ate till they were gorged—
he had given them what they craved.
Now, the logical response should surely have been grateful hearts, humble trust and obedience, but sadly, the psalmist tells us:
32 In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
Unfortunately, a couple of thousand years later not a lot had changed in Israel. In John 6 Jesus comes up against a similar unbelief from those who should have known better. Having just fed around 5000 people from just five small barley loaves and two small fish (6:9), Jesus is confronted by some of the people who were later looking for him. Like their ancestors, despite having seen Jesus feed thousands from so little, they still ask:
30 …”What sign then will you give that we may … believe you? What will you do?
Then the subject mentioned in this psalm arises. They say:
31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’
Jesus then surprises them, suggesting that this “bread from heaven” was only a foretaste of a greater reality or better things to come. And that “better thing” was Him! He said:
32 “… it is my Father who [now] gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life…”
He then explains:
“Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty… 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6)
As Kidner says, “…if [the manna) nourished the body for a while, he [Jesus, the bread of life], would satisfy a deeper hunger and be made the food of immortality.” (# 29)
Wouldn’t it be great to tell you here that those listening to Jesus responded differently than their ancestors, but sadly, I can’t. We read in John 6 that:
41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
We later read that Jesus avoided Judea “because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.” (John 7:1)
May we not be one of those who remain spiritually hungry when the “food of immortality” is available for us today. Have you tasted the deeply satisfying true “bread from heaven”? The decision is yours. David exhorts us to:
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
[because] blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8) Amen.