Nothing is more important to the spiritual life and development of the believer than the Word of God. Scripture uses a number of metaphors to picture the value and function of the Word of God in our lives. With this “Note” we begin a series that takes a brief look at a number of these metaphors describing the Word as set forth in the Bible, the first being milk. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Pet. 2:2).
What Peter is not saying. We often link our text with two other verses in the New Testament where the idea of milk is contrasted with meat and connotes something negative, such as immaturity or carnality. The writer of Hebrews complains of those who “are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (5:12b-14). Similarly, Paul scolds the Corinthians, saying, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal” (I Cor. 3:2, 3a). In the two passages cited, the contrast is clear and negative respecting the milk of the Word versus the meat of the Word. But in our text, Peter appears to be making no such negative contrast between milk and meat, i.e., maturity and immaturity, carnality and spirituality.
What Peter is saying. In the present context, the idea of the Word of God as milk is presented as an altogether positive thought. The point Peter is making is akin to that mentioned by the psalmist when he writes that “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” (42:1, 2); or that of Matthew in his gospel who writes: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (5:6). Peter’s point, similar to the psalmist and Matthew’s, is that the Word of God is eminently to be desired, not only above everything else, but in a sense, to the exclusion of everything else. In one important regard, we are to imitate babies. Just as babies know only one food, desire only one food, are satisfied by only one food, and are fully sustained by only one food: their mothers’ milk, so we are to crave the Word of God, feed on it, and be sustained by it. Nothing else can or should suffice. We are to be single-minded in our feeding on the Word of God.
The Word of God should be ever desirable and delightful to us. It should be constantly fresh and satisfying. Barring the possibility of having just nursed, a baby that refuses milk is evincing some physical problem because it is the normal course of things for a baby to grow hungry (often very quickly and frequently) and to demand milk. A believer who has little or no desire for the Word of God, then, is spiritually ill.
Like a mother’s milk, the Word of God provides all the essential nutrients to enable us to continue to grow and mature in the Lord: it is the perfect food. And as the need and desire to nurse are instinctive in a natural child, so the need and desire to drink of the Word of God are inherent in a believer. Yes, in one sense we are to mature and go on to eat of the “meat” of the Word of God. But in another sense, we are to remain like children, ever desirous of one source of nourishment, ever appreciating one food, ever finding it all-sufficient. David prayed, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (63:1). May we remain “babes” in that sense.
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