Strictly speaking, the written Word of God is never directly referred to in the Bible as bread. Rather, the term bread of God refers specifically to the Person of Christ. This fact is emphasized in the sixth chapter of John, containing the Lord’s discourse on the Bread of Life in which He alludes to Himself as the Bread fourteen times. Two verses illustrate this usage clearly: “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (v. 33). “I am that bread of life” (v. 48). Nevertheless, three times in Scripture we read of the Word of God being contrasted with natural bread in such a way that their similarities are also highlighted. In Deuteronomy we read Moses’ message to the children of Israel: “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live” (8:3). And the Lord Jesus reiterates those words to Satan at the time of His temptation in the wilderness: “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; similarly in Lk. 4:4).
To the degree, then, that we may compare the written Word of God with literal bread we must recognize that it is not being compared to bread typically made of wheat or barley. For although bread in the ancient east was a diet staple, and although it contained more nutrients than modern bread and may sometimes have served for a meal alone and could sustain life for some time, the bread to which the Bible is contrasted/compared is manna, “the true bread from heaven,” given from and by the Father and perfect.
Such was the nature of manna that, not only was it pleasant to the taste, but also it supplied all the nutrients essential to life. It was intended by God and, hence, was capable of sustaining the life of adult men and women as well as children for the forty years that Israel lived in the wilderness without the need of any other solid food. For the quails that God provided were neither His perfect will for His people at that time nor in any way essential for sustaining life. They merely supplied their lust for meat.
Thus, under the figure of bread, we are reminded of several truths respecting the Word of God. First, unlike wheat or barley bread, which required great human effort to produce, manna came from the hand of God apart from human effort. The Word of God is God’s work alone. He was pleased to use men, but the words that they penned were “God-breathed.” Second, manna provided everything essential to sustain physical life and cause it to flourish. Similarly, the Word of God is all we need to support and sustain spiritual life. Man’s philosophy, psychology, and sociology add nothing to the Word of God. It alone is sufficient, and perfectly so. Third, Israel had to gather manna every day (except on the Sabbath). If they tried to cheat and collect enough for a second day they discovered it to be rancid and wormy. Just so, the Word of God is needed every day. As blessed as yesterday’s supply was, we need a fresh supply today . . . and another tomorrow in order to flourish spiritually. The person who tries to get by on occasional, infrequent, or haphazard reading and study of the Word will be spiritually malnourished and fall prey to the disease of sin. Fourth, God gave the manna a pleasant taste. Those who found it otherwise had a problem with their “taster,” not with the food itself. The Word of God is sweet to those who have a palate for the will of God. It is distasteful only to the rebellious. May we find the life-imparting message of the Word ineffably sweet.
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