Christian Living, Culture, Food

The Powerful Imagery of Bread

Yep. Bread. It’s more “supernatural” than you think!

This semester I’m taking a culinary course in Cornell’s Nutrition Department. Aside from the delightful opportunity to improve my mediocre cooking skills, I’m amazed by the food science principles behind everything we eat. With heat and with precise combinations previously bland and raw ingredients become a unified, rich product. Yet again, unexpectedly I see the glory of the Lord–His power and creativity in providing for our bodies.

Most recently, we’ve studied types of breads–quick breads, unleavened breads, yeast breads, steamed breads. Unleavened bread caught my attention, because I know the Lord specifically called for it during the Passover. As I investigated this, I realized that God enjoys using bread symbolically in His Word. While there may be additional Scriptures than what I have below, I’ve shared a few striking insights from the food we eat so often.

Key Uses of Bread in the Bible: 

1) Do Not Be Anxious

It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Psalm 127:2

In this day and age, with technology speeding up our every move, life is busier that ever before. Our ancestors labored fervently outside from dawn until dusk, while our days are filled with ambitious careers, the internet and endless diversions long after darkness. From the sleepless nights of the studious college student and the 60-hour weeks on Wall Street, to the working mother caring for the home and chauffeuring her children, our time can easily build in pressure and anxiety and weariness. When additional trials invade the already existing insanity of life, it is easy to fall into despair.

The message proclaimed in the ancient days of the psalmist is the same message we need to hear today: Rest, and trust God. Do not eat the bread of anxious toil–for what gain does it bring? Meditate on this point. What you eat fills you, nourishes you. If it is anxiety, stress, or dread, your mind, body, and soul is being fueled by the sinful deception that God is not at hand. That God does not know. That God, who is all powerful, is doing nothing.

In reality, the Lord establishes the work of our hands, we are at His mercy and living by His grace. He asks us to be filled instead by His promises, His Word, His church, and His everlasting love. More so, God has designed us to sleep nearly a third of our life for a reason. Sleep and godly peace are very connected.  Not only in the day, but in the night we must lift up our responsibilities, questions, and concerns to God. Sleep is a time of patience, of waiting upon the Lord, of humility, of remembering the comfort we have in Christ.

If God’s power is made perfect in our weakness, then surely we may believe this psalm that when we hand over our anxieties to God and lay our heads down in peace, God works with all his might through the night on our behalf.

The great test of faith is to believe that when we can see only a bleak outcome to some situation and no good coming of it, yet the sovereign God can and will bring out of nowhere, as it were, a turn of events or attitudes that brings great blessing. And he can do it while we sleep! Beware lest you try to interpret his work too hastily; it may not be what you expect and he may not be finished. John Piper

2) Be Satisfied Forever

So if we are not eating the bread of anxiety, what shall we eat, and what shall we do? Interestingly, the only “toil” we should be actively engaging in is the work of God–believing wholeheartedly in Jesus Christ. For this is the only toil that beautifully renews.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 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. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6:26-29

Physical hunger stills remains a definite issue in our country and world, and as the church we must address it to honor the second commandment. With this said, beyond satisfying stomachs, we must simultaneously satisfy hungry souls with the good news of Jesus Christ. God provides for those who eagerly seek Him and ask with faith in His Son; He offers both eternal life and daily needs. Where the world fails in its brokenness and inequality, the Lord redeems us in His salvation and an ever-filling relationship with Him. After responding to the crowd with a call to faith, Jesus asserts that He will feed them with true life:

Jesus said to them,“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

This does not mean Christians cannot face hunger, thirst, or physical hardship, but that the love of Christ will powerfully sustain us until we are in eternity with Him. This bread, the bread of Christ, will never become stale.

Physical hunger may not be your difficulty. However, the hunger principle remains. Are you trying to feed yourself with the temporary solutions and sins of this world? Or will you respond to the call to do the work of God, to wholly trust in His Name? He is waiting to fill you.

3) Remember His Sacrifice

Jesus is the bread of life because He offered up His body for our sins; He took upon Himself the death we deserve because of our rebellion against God so that we may have eternal life in Him. This sacrifice is symbolically demonstrated during the last Passover by the breaking of bread.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:26-28

Communion is a common practice in the Christian life. Why? The physical act of eating bread and drinking wine reminds us to fully acknowledge the high price paid for our sin. Perfect love is embodied in the broken bread, perfect holiness is embodied in the wine, the blood of our Savior.

4) Do Away with All Sin

Early on God utilized unleavened bread to illustrate the restored life we can have in Him, and Him alone. It begins in the old Testament:

The original unleavened bread symbolized total detachment from the old life in Egypt, carrying nothing of its pagan and oppressive “leaven” into the Promised Land. It represented a separation from worldliness and sin and the beginning of a new life of holiness and godliness. John MacArthur

Today, under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, we are officially set apart for God completely. The bread of life has been given to us, and we must not return to our olds ways, to our shame-filled Egypt, to our works-based theology, to our sin. The leaven of old is to be forgotten.

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

This passage speaks about ridding sin from the church. Each and every one of us should likewise be careful to rid sin from our lives, to not ruin the eternal bread with useless leaven. Hold onto sincerity and truth.

For as I learned in class, what does leaven do? It spreads throughout the dough, consuming and producing gas to expand, to puff up. May we not leave the pureness we have in Christ and allow sin to puff us up in hopeless pride.

Instead, let us live by faith and in humility, knowing that the bread of life will remain fresh and fulfill us forever.

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