Bread of Presence, Bread of Life—Part 1

I know a lot of people who are struggling financially right now.  They say the recession is lifting but it hasn’t lifted for my friends, or truth be told, for me.  Or maybe I should say for the entities I write for.  As a freelance writer I depend on businesses, newspapers and magazines with money in their budgets to pay writers to provide content.

So lately I have been searching the Gospels for Jesus’ words about God’s provision.  There’s quite a bit there, but despite the musical Godspell’s perky rendition of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 6 and Luke 12:

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like
one of these.  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is,
and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you,
O you of little faith?

“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him
a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then,
being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will
your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?

“For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all
these things shall be added to you.”

…I have trouble applying these verses to my everyday life.  What do they mean, really?

This past week I came across the story of Jesus and His disciples picking wheat on the Sabbath (Matthew 12, Mark 2 and Luke 6).  Without realizing its application to my meditation on God’s provision, I looked up the Old Testament context on which this Gospel story is based, 1 Samuel 21.  Briefly, it goes like this.  David, running from King Saul who wants to kill him, enters the tabernacle that was at that moment in the town of Nob.  He’s not looking for sanctuary but for bread, as he and his men are gut-twistingly hungry.  But there is no bread, the priest responds, except for the holy Showbread.

This Showbread was mandated by God back in Leviticus 24.  Each of the 12 tribes of Israel was to bake a loaf of bread – 12 loaves total – to be placed on a table inside the tabernacle where the people could see it as a visual object lesson and representation of God’s presence among them.  New loaves were to be set out every Sabbath to replace the old ones, which were then given to the priests (by God’s mandate) to eat…another object lesson to illustrate God’s promise to provide for the basic needs of the priests whose living kept them inside the tabernacle of God.

Back to the story in 1 Samuel, after questioning David about his and his men’s “cleanliness” (their obedience to God’s laws regarding sexuality), the priest gave to David the old Showbread (the bread that had been replaced with fresh loaves the previous Sabbath), still considered holy and consecrated for the priests’ meals.  Besides the ramifications of David taking holy bread, what is not told, but certain seems to be implied in this story, is that somehow those 12 loaves of Showbread were able to fill the bellies of hundreds of hungry men.

As I read this Old Testament story, several images came to mind: manna dropping down from heaven to feed the Hebrew people in the wilderness; the widow who fed Elijah, whose flour and oil never ran out; Jesus feeding huge crowds from tiny portions of bread and fish.  As I thought of these miracles, Jesus’ own words came flooding to mind: “I am the Bread of Life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Confusion filled my brain.  When taken side-by-side with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, the Bible stories of God’s provision and the picture of the Showbread, what does Jesus’ reference to himself as the Bread of Life mean for me?  For today?  As my family struggles to make ends meet?

Yes Lord, I prayed, but these words refer to spiritual life, don’t they?

Immediately, shockingly, a response came fully formed to my mind, a rare occurrence, what I call a God-thought:  “Do you really think I would not take care of you?”

Whoa…I am indeed in the presence of a holy and mighty God.

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series about God’s provision.

5 comments on “Bread of Presence, Bread of Life—Part 1

  1. I never before considered the Showbread filling the bellies if David’s warriors. That is a great observation! I am so slow to completely rely on His promises of provision; I want to provide an escape hatch in case He doesn’t provide in the way that I expect. My assignment is to learn to expect the unexpected. Thanks for a good morning start!

  2. Hi Denise, I’ve been feeling very unsupported by God lately. I want to share with you something that happened this afternoon. I recently started a photo project (working title “Sacred Places, Sacred Spaces”). Whenever I leave the house on the weekends I bring my camera in case something catches my eye. I felt better after photographing some breathtaking scenery, including Camel Rock on Tesuque Pueblo. I got home and began preparing food for the week when there came a knock on my front door. Two lovely young women (Sister Morris and Sister Williams) from the LDS Church said they noticed my gate was partially painted and offered to help me. We got to talking and I told them I actually needed some weeds pulled and other yard maintenance. They were very enthusiastic about doing it, and said they would work for free because it was part of their service to the community. We talked about scripture (I Cor. 13), said a prayer, and set a time for them to come back next Saturday. I tell you this to let you know that your post was very timely for me, and to hopefully give you confidence that God does have you in mind. When his help arrives, it may not look the way you expected it to. He’ll probably surprise you, like he did for me today!

    • Hi DC, I totally understand your feelings. It is not uncommon, I believe, for people to feel this way, especially people of limited means (myself included). While I have “received” a number of God-thoughts over the course of my faith-years, none have hit me quite like this one, which was a reminder to me that I do not follow some faith system but a real person (no one is more a “person” in the fullest sense of the word than God!) who wants to engage me both in my worship and in my daily needs. As you so wisely pointed out, it is important to keep expectations in check and not get caught up in logistics, because this Person we worship as Almighty God does things in unexpected ways. The important thing to remember is that he is always there to engage us, and never, ever forgets us.

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