Matthew 6:11 (NKJV): “Give us this day our daily bread.”
In last week’s blog, we explored what Jesus meant when He instructed us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. In this blog entry, we are going to continue to dive into the prayer that Christ tells us to pray, and explore Matthew 6:11. Why are we praying for bread, and would it be possible for it to be Panera? Just kidding, but let’s get started.
1) God provides for us while in the wilderness
At the beginning of John 6, Jesus feeds the five thousand with fish and bread, addressing the peoples’ physical need of food and demonstrating His ability to provide. Later on in the chapter, from verse 22 and onward, Jesus references the Israelites in the wilderness who ate the bread that God gave from heaven, called manna (in the same way, God provided for the physical needs of the Israelites in the wilderness). The Scripture Jesus is referencing is Exodus 16, where the Israelites are in the wilderness and begin grumbling to Moses and Aaron about food, saying, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3 NKJV). In response to the Israelites complaints, God provides meat in the evening and manna in the morning, but commands them that they only take what they need for the day. In this way, God is testing the Israelites to see if they will be obedient. If the Israelites collected more bread than they needed for the day, so as to store up extra for the days to come, the bread would spoil, produce worms, and stink (Exodus 16:20).
What is interesting about the bread from heaven, or, “manna,” is that the name “manna” in Hebrew simply means “what is it?”, or, “what?” We see this in Exodus 16:15, “So when the children of Israel saw it [the bread/manna], they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was.” In the same way, we see people in the New Testament constantly saying the same thing towards Jesus: “What?” Christ spoke in a way never heard before, and stumped people with some of the words He spoke. From the miracles Christ did, to the sinless life He led, people could not understand Jesus. It is no wonder that Jesus calls Himself the manna from heaven, because, truly, no one had a context for what He was. This is because mortal humans such as ourselves can’t put God in a box. Jesus--being God--was there, in the peoples’ faces, speaking and living with them just like any other person. What?
But, just like the manna was for the Israelites, and how the people could not fully understand what it was, Jesus is God’s provision for all of humanity. Just like the Israelites, we are all currently in the wilderness. Where God provided manna for the Israelites so that they would be physically and spiritually (obedience in faith) sustained in a hostile place, so has God provided for us in Christ Jesus. Assuredly, we are all in a wilderness state. As we explored in the last blog, this current life within this world is not heaven. If this world is a paradise for you, then your love is set on the world and you have made yourself an enemy of God (1 John 2:15-17). Do not receive what I am not saying; most certainly, in the presence of God there is the fullness of joy. The fruits of the Spirit are God’s, and He freely gives to those who ask of Him.
2) It is by the Bread of Life that we can overcome
But, truly, if we are walking and following after Jesus in this mortal life, the struggle we will face is real. How can we love this life so much that it overshadows heaven, when we are walking in broken vessels that are constantly subject to the temptations of sin? How can we have peace with our flesh when we are warring against it until we die? If we love God, then our heart will break for what breaks His. Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden is light, but let us not fool ourselves either: Christ came to bring a sword and raise an army (Matthew 10:34; Ezekiel 37:10). We are in the wilderness, and our enemies within the dark places of the air want nothing more than to separate us from God. But, let us take heart, for all we have to do to find victory is eat the bread of life daily.
In the battles we have against the principalities of hell and the temptations of our flesh, all God requires in exchange for His victory is obedience. Look at how He provided for the Israelites: “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” (Exodus 16:4 NKJV). God clearly places a precedence on the obedience of the Israelite people. But, how does Jesus fit into this, and what does it mean to walk in God’s law? In Christ’s own words: “‘The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.’” (John 6:29 NIV).
The work that God calls us to do--which isn’t even a work that we can boast of--is to simply believe in Jesus. The Law does not bring life, and looking to anything but God for salvation simply leads to the same outcome that the Israelites who tried storing up manna found: rotten bread (death). When the Israelites tried to walk their own way and store up bread for themselves, not trusting in God’s daily provision, their plans came to nothing and produced death. Yet, despite the many failures of the Israelite people to obey God perfectly, God was still faithful to give them manna six days a week for the 40 years that they were in the wilderness (for on the sixth day the Israelites were told to collect double the amount of manna for Sabbath).
3) Receive the Bread daily
The story of the Israelites and the bread from heaven is a great illustration of our walks of faith in Christ. Though we will not follow Jesus perfectly in this life, God is faithful and continues to provide the bread we need to survive everyday. What does God require? That we believe in the One who gave up His life for us, and pick up our crosses and follow Him. It is no surprise that Christ claims the title of being the bread of life--He even outright says that we should eat Him:
“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink.
Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your fathers, who ate the manna and died, the one who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58 NKJV).
In our troubled and sinful minds, it is easy to take what Christ is saying and imagine a gruesome and cannibalistic scene. But is that really what God is trying to tell us? Did Christ not go to the cross and die for you and me, so that we could see what He is showing us, and hear what He is saying? The manna that the Israelites ate was temporal and perishable--merely a representation of an eternal bread that was coming. God is Spirit, and He is eternal and does not decay. And when we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior, we partake of the bread that He provides personally. What else can be eternal but the Living God, who says, “I alone am God! There are no other gods; no one is like Me.” (Isaiah 46:9 CEV).
It is only by eating the bread of God that we can walk the narrow way. It is nothing of our own doing--did the Israelites do anything to earn, deserve, or produce the manna they ate? No, they didn’t even know what to call it. In the same way, God is so much greater than what we can even begin to think or imagine, and has already provided us the sustenance we need to overcome the wilderness. It is in the Bread of Life--Jesus Christ--that we alone will be saved. “This Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NIV).
Christ calls Himself the bread of life, and He is also called the Word of God. What is the daily bread that Christ calls us to pray for? The daily bread we are praying for is Jesus Himself; without God in our walks of faith, we have nothing. One of the ways we can find God is in His Word, the Bible--the prime medium in which God has chosen to speak through. Thus, not only are we called to seek after God daily, but also to find Him in His Word as well. Therefore, let us meditate on what the Scriptures say, and open our palms each day to receive our portion--that is, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Bread of Life.