[Food & the Bible] Not by Bread Alone


Scripture references: Exodus 16, Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:1-4

After 400 years of bitter slavery to Egypt, God had finally delivered His people! The Israelites found themselves on the other side of the Red Sea and in a desert. Three days later, God responded to their complaint for water by turning the bitter waters of Marah sweet. Fifty days into their journey, likely just running out of provisions, they complain again:

The whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, "Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." Exodus 16:2-3

When presented with the choice of food while enslaved or God in the desert, they chose food. Their assumption is what many in our day believe: food, specifically good food, sustains us, not God. Food ensures long life, not God.

But despite the Israelite's misplaced faith, God responds in mercy by raining down bread from heaven, 6 days a week. For 40 years!

The the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not." Exodus 16:4

More insight is given in Deuteronomy 8:3,

"[God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."

Can you see the purposes of God in the above verse? Why did he let them be hungry? Why feed them with an unknown substance? For this purpose: "To make them know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

With the unfamiliarity of the food came a requirement to trust the giver of the food. How could they know it was safe to eat after sitting on the ground? If it was contaminated with disease from the livestock around them? If the ingredients in it would be good for their bodies? Would it poison them? Would it be filling enough? All questions remained unanswered. Trust in the person of God was all they had. He alone had the power over their lives, not their food.

Jesus, the True Israel, also found Himself in a wilderness. Going without food for longer than any doctor would recommend, his hunger on the 41st day of fasting was met with satan's suggestion to make himself bread. In response, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Jesus' fasting in the wilderness is a reminder that obedience to God is more life-giving than a healthy and well balanced diet. That listening to the Word of God carries more physical sustenance than all the best foods in the world. God's Word ought to be of higher value than food.

Our world is full of information about food. Never before have we been so bombarded with the knowledge of what is in our food and what we ought to eat or not eat. There are thousands of options to make up for the nutrients we might be missing from the foods we do eat. But to choose a knowledge of food over a knowledge of the Word of God is a catastrophic mistake. It is tempting in a world full of the threat of cancer and new diseases or ailments to look to right eating choices to sustain us, but the Bible is very clear that is not the answer. God alone gives and sustains life. Knowing and obeying His word is far better for our health than the most researched, healthy and natural diet plan.

I am not advocating for irresponsible and gluttonous eating, but rather for an elevation of the Word of God in a world full of information. Christian, if you spend more time growing in a knowledge of food and diet plans than growing in a knowledge of the Word of God, something is wrong. That is a red flag alerting you to misplaced trust. God alone preserves the health of our bodies. We would do well to remember the Israelites in the wilderness. They had an "unbalanced diet" for 40 years, made primarily of one food: manna. They did not have a healthy mix of all the food groups, but God sustained them nonetheless.

How can we apply this? We can exercise the same faith. What daily bread has God provided for you today? There are times God may allow the privilege to purchase organic foods, and times when budget does not allow it. Sometimes we have the privilege to choose what we eat, other times we may be in another country eating foods we're unsure of. Occasionally a friend may bring fast food from a restaurant we don't prefer. Is our hope in avoiding the preservatives in food? Or is our hope in God? Is our hope in knowing exactly what is in our food? Or is it in the sovereignty of God and His provision for the day?

Whatever circumstances you face, put your hope in the Lord God Almighty. He alone holds your atoms together, keeps your heart beating, and your lungs steadily taking in oxygen. You do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. The question is, do you know His Word? Have you read every word of the scriptures? Why not make your next health goal to know and treasure all 66 books of His written word?

For more posts in this series, click here.