Food is important for a study called “Hungry.” Even when I have to serve leftover goodies, the spread needs to be impressive.

OK, you’re right. That picture wasn’t taken at last week’s study. It might not even have been taken in the United States. Ooh la la, I wonder where I could have found those macarons?!

No matter what picture I pick to illustrate this chapter, the subtext is clear: Food Glorious Food! The generous God has richly supplied us with both physical and spiritual food in his created world. Who among us hasn’t been distracted by glossy photos on food magazines in the checkout aisle? Which one of us doesn’t peruse food blogs, cooking shows, or even the latest hardcover cookbooks at a bookstore, even if we don’t plan to cook a single recipe?

The fact is, food is gorgeous, whether you’re perusing a farmer’s market or browsing a bakery window. Even if it hasn’t been professionally staged and photographed, the extravagant colors, textures, tastes, and variety are sometimes beyond belief. Such is the abundance that flows from the God who creates what is good.

But ever since the rebellion of Adam and the first couple’s banishment from Eden, food has become a problem for all of us.

Has food ever been a problem in your life?

Food As Problem

Last week we talked about the wilderness.

Food is scarce in the wilderness, and that’s a problem. But the scarcity of food isn’t our biggest problem. In fact God brings us into the wilderness precisely so we won’t be able to fend for ourselves there. In the wilderness we are not only hungry, but unable to find food. By this means God shifts our dependence from secondary means to himself, the primary supply line of all that is good.

The problem that surfaces at this point is how will we react to that loss of control?

When I asked, “Has food ever been a problem in your life?” I didn’t expect the discussion to explode the way it did. “Of course!” they said, citing:

  • weight and self-consciousness
  • body image even for those who are thin
  • obsessive thoughts about food
  • the numbers game (calories and pounds)
  • rebellion against childhood rules–“clean your plate”
  • as well as those hangry moments when hunger makes us grouchy

“How did you try to solve the problem?” That was my next question. We talked briefly about diets, rules, and other approaches we’ve tried. But no one summarized it better than author Emma Scrivener, writing about her struggles with anorexia:

With my body, I was able to create my own universe. I was no longer at the mercy of my feelings. I was in charge: a self-created, stainless steel person. Bleached to perfection.” ~Emma Scrivener, A New Name

Control–that’s our solution to the problem of food–even if it kills us.

Food As Grace

God’s solution is quite different. It’s grace. He gives us food, not just in the Garden, but in the wilderness. He gives us food, not just when we ask nicely and wait patiently, but when we grumble and complain against him.

Exodus 16 (the giving of manna) and John 6 (the giving of Jesus) are meant to mirror each other. How are they similar? Here’s what we came up with.

  • the problem of food was the same, there wasn’t any
  • God solved the problem by grace, even though no one asked him (count how many times “give” appears in John 6:25-35)
  • God’s solution was a supernatural provision–manna, multiplying loaves & fish
  • both miracles act as signs, pointing to something else

Moses explained the meaning of the sign in Exodus 16; the manna was pointing beyond itself to the sustaining power of God’s word. Every word from his mouth is meant for us to live by.

Jesus explained the meaning of the sign in John 6:1-14. The loaves and fish weren’t meant to point to the manna, but beyond the manna to the gift of “bread from heaven,” fulfilled by his coming to die for their sins.

The crowd, who had been so eager for more bread, turned away when they were offered the Savior. Why do you think they did that?

The Enemy of Grace

On one level they were repulsed by his graphic language. Phrases like “Feed on my flesh” and “drink my blood” sound cannibalistic to us. Just imagine how they would have hit the ears of those steeped in the Law with its prohibition against consuming raw meat (Exodus 12:9) or blood (Leviticus 7:26-27).

But on another level they were being asked to turn from trusting in themselves and turn to trusting in the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

Professor Michael Horton makes this aspect of faith clear:

Faith is not only knowledge of and assent to gospel truths, but trust in Christ as one’s own Redeemer …. The (Greek grammar of faith) emphasizes the transfer of trust from ourselves to God in Christ.” ~Pilgrim Theology, p. 266 (my substitution)

The enemy of grace is our desire for control. Grace offends our pride. We’d much rather trust ourselves than someone else, even God. So when we’re offered grace–the grace of God in Jesus Christ–we politely refuse it.

Even for those of us who have believed in Christ’s death for our sins, the preference for saving ourselves remains. That’s why we must learn not just to begin by grace, but live by it.

Feeding on the finished work of Christ is a learned behavior. God has to bring me to an end of my if-I-try-harder-I’ll-eventually-get-it life. He pushes me until I’m really out of options. He takes me into the wilderness to feed me with Christ. ~Hungry, p. 93

Do you have a taste for grace? Jesus is our welcoming host to his banquet of grace.

He is our Bread of life, our “food, glorious food.”

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