“It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”
The Rev. Dr. J.A.O. Preuss III – one of my favorite professors at Concordia Seminary – had a saying that was intended to make us think deeper.
“What is the question behind the question?”
He meant that we should look at what is really been asked or talked about, especially in Christian doctrine, theology, and the Scriptures themselves.
I never forgot that phrase and I still ask myself this question, especially when I come across a seemingly simple part of Scripture.
Exodus 16 is one such part. On the surface, it looks like this is a simple enough story.
One month has passed since God freed Israel from Egyptian slavery. The Ten Plagues, the Crossing of the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, all these had been from God and should have led Israel closer to him.
But after walking in the wilderness/dessert for one month, they were exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and cranky.
God provides daily food for his people. Quail meat by night, Manna by morning.
But is this story really just about God feeding Israel whatever it is that he fed them?
What’s underneath this story? What’s at the heart of this tale?
1400 years later, Jesus would teach his disciples to pray to God “for daily bread”.
One of the contexts of this petition is that God’s people will ask God for what they need and seek God’s provision and gifts. They should not be worried or anxious about they will eat or wear. God will provide it all.
In that one phrase “give us this day our daily bread” is so much more than just a couple of slices of bread each morning.
Martin Luther – the 16th Century Reformer – would write:
“For when you mention and pray for daily bread, you pray for everything that is necessary in order to have and enjoy daily bread. On the other hand, you also pray against everything that interferes with it” (The Large Catechism Part III The Lord’s Prayer, the Fourth Petition, quoted from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, copyright © 2005, 2006 by Concordia Publishing House, p 417).
At the heart of the story of Israel being given Manna and quail is why God allowed them to go this long and what he was looking for when Israel received it:
“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).
God wanted Israel to know if they actually trusted God or not.
As we pray for daily bread, the same applies!
Do we trust God to provide for us? Provide everything for us?
We should. God promised to take care of us. He starts by providing the forgiveness of sins through the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Our eternal salvation is taken care of.
But what about life now?
God loves us so much that not only does he take care of our eternity, he takes care of our day-to-day living!
He provides the nutrient-rich soil in which grain grows. He provides just the right amount of water and sunlight and temperature to grow said grain. He provides farmers who sow and reap the crop. He provides the yeast and the oil and the know-how to make bread. He also provides a government to protect the growing of grain and the making of bread, namely providing protection for us.
God provides all that we need to support this body and life, just as lovingly as he provided for our eternal salvation – all through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord!
Heavenly Father, you bless the earth to make it fruitful, bringing forth in abundance whatever is needed for the support of our lives. Prosper the work of farmers and all those who labor to bring food to our table. Grant them seasonable weather that they may gather in the fruits of the earth in abundance and proclaim your goodness with thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.
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