The Word, The Bread Of Life

Christians with only a superficial understanding of the word can easily fall prey to the enormous pressures of life.  When we learn to go deeper with the word, we start building spiritual muscles.  A protein rich diet of meat allows us to stand against pressures that might overwhelm us on a diet of milk.   The word was given to man to be food for his soul.  The Bible offers many examples of individuals who drew strength from the word in their time of need.  Jesus, for example, said it was more important than the bread that sustains physical life.  After a fast of 40 days, the devil came to him and tempted him to turn a dry stone into a satisfying loaf of bread.  Surely Jesus had earned that privilege after such a long period of deprivation.  But Jesus’ response in Matthew 4:4 is unwavering as he quotes from the book of Deuteronomy, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.” 

Job made a similar statement when he said “I have not departed from the commands of his (God’s) lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12).   And the psalmist in Psalm 119:103 proclaims “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  Clearly these words were uttered by men who had found a source of nourishment far more satisfying than the happy meals we spend so much time pursuing.  The bread we find on every page of the Holy Scriptures brings sustenance that is eternally satisfying.

This nourishing food sits right under our noses and yet too often, it remains hidden and thus in large part goes to waste.

Like the Christians targeted in Hebrews, are we so complacent and lazy that we are unwilling to invest the effort into fully digesting the word?  Because the word is so readily available, many of us I fear have become content to simply take in the predigested offerings of other people.  As a consequence, we don’t wrestle with the word and so unlike Jacob, we aren’t changed in any significant way.  If we don’t chew on the meatier portions of the scriptures we will never be able to fully digest and assimilate what God has intended for our nourishment: spirit, soul and body. 

Another reason Christians don’t assimilate more of the word is that we have made too many compromises with the world.  Our noses have become insensitive from hovering over the aromas from a different pot.  Our sense of smell is saturated with the perfume of worldly delights, overly strong and demanding but seductive nevertheless.  All the while the true bread, the word of God, immeasurably more flavorful and sustaining, sits like manna on the ground, hiding in plain sight and daily we pass it by with hardly a glance. 

How do we rediscover this exquisite bread that scripture tells us is as precious as life itself?  How do we like Daniel and his Hebrew companions, learn to refuse the delicacies of the world, in favor of the simple but eternally satisfying alternative.  If we suffer from spiritual malnutrition, we must correct the problem.  We must find a way to make the scriptures as much a necessity as our daily bread. 

We need only turn to the scriptures themselves for a revealing directive.   Consider the godly man mentioned in Psalm 1.  He has been upheld as an excellent template for the man or woman who would desire to walk pleasingly before the Lord.  In him we find one whose hunger and thirst for God has found complete and fulfilling satisfaction.   How has he accomplished what so readily evades us?

Blessed is the man ….. (whose) delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3 (ESV)

This is a powerful picture of an often repeated Biblical truth.  That is, the path to the abundant life runs directly through God’s revealed words of instruction.  Those instructions are clearly laid out on the pages of scripture.   The godly man of Psalm 1 is said to be like a tree planted along the banks of a river that gets its nourishment through roots that reach down deep into the earth. This man does not suffer from the spiritual malnourishment so prevalent in today’s Christian culture.   He is living a fruitful prosperous life because he is connected to a never-ending source of life.  What allows him to draw life from such an abundant source?  The psalmist is very clear on this point.  It is because he is anchored in the Word of God.  He is fed by steams of living water because he delights in the law of the Lord and he meditates on that law both day and night.      

Notice the writer doesn’t say this man occasionally gets chill bumps singing worship songs at church.  He also doesn’t say the man scoops out a cup of living water almost every Sunday and sometimes even during the week too.  No, this man delights in the law of the Lord, in the words of scripture given to him by God.  Furthermore this man is said to meditate on the scriptures both day and night! This would be a remarkable statement indeed, if it occurred only one time, but let’s look at another very interesting passage. 

In the opening chapter of the book of Joshua, the Lord is speaking to Joshua who has been chosen to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. After 40 years in the wilderness the task does not appear to be an easy one.  However, Joshua is being told by the Lord that he will deliver the land and its people into Joshua’s hands and is exhorting Joshua to be strong and courageous.  The central message seems to be that the victory that awaits them is contingent on Joshua doing exactly as the Lord commands.  There will be no victory without ready obedience.   Notice the amazing similarities in the following verse when we compare it to the above passage from the Psalms.  Here again we find instructions given that essentially amount to a formula for success. 

This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 

Joshua 1:8 (NKJV)

There seems to be little doubt that God is directing these two mighty men of God to meditate on his inspired word.  The benefits couldn’t be much plainer.  If God’s instructions to these men are so clear and effective wouldn’t we be wise to take them to heart as well?  Keeping God’s word well-rehearsed in our minds and hearts seems to be a prerequisite for finding prosperity and success in life.  The prosperity mentioned in these two passages has little to do with material gain, but everything to do with living a fulfilling and spiritually productive life as a result of walking in the will of God.  At the center of God’s instructions to Joshua, the Psalmist and to us is how we focus our mind and thoughts. 

The desire of every Christian should be to live that kind of spiritually fulfilling life.  Fortunately, God has not left us to fend for ourselves in cultivating that fruitful life.  Let’s look deeper into what the Bible itself says about how our minds work.  It may reveal some powerful insights into why we should be mindful of what kind of thoughts we allow in our minds.