Summary: ‘Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures unto eternal life’ (John 6:27).
CRAVING THE BREAD OF LIFE
This Psalm, the second longest in the Book, demonstrates the cycle of (i) God’s provision for His people/ (ii) their ingratitude and rebellion/ (iii) God’s punishment of them/ (iv) followed by new offers of grace.
The passage before us focuses very much on God’s provision of manna and quail in the wilderness, after the Israelites had ‘tested God in their heart by asking for the food of their fancy’; they spoke against God saying, ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?’; ‘Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people?’ (Psalm 78:18-20). At this the LORD was angry, because of their ingratitude. Nevertheless, He sent them the food they “craved” (Psalm 78:29) - but not without there being casualties (Psalm 78:31).
Is it not a remarkable thing that those poor slaves who had seen - and ‘by the blood of the Lamb’ been spared from - the plagues of Egypt; had witnessed the parting of the sea for them to walk through only for it to fall back on their pursuers; had benefitted from the cleaving of the Rock which thereby gave them an abundance of water to drink when they complained of thirst… is it not a remarkable thing when they, of all people should be indicted as ‘not believing in God, and not trusting in His salvation’ (Psalm 78:22)? Yet that is often the case. In the face of God’s greatest mercies and mighty deliverances, men will still often deny Him!
It is a remarkable thing, too, that God opened the doors of heaven and rained down manna on them to eat! Bread of heaven! Men eating angels’ food! (Psalm 78:23-25)!
As if this was not enough, the LORD “raised up a south wind” to furnish the Israelites with quail for their evening meal. He gave them what they craved (Psalm 26-29)!
Yet, even with the provision, there came also the judgment. ‘While the food was still in their mouths’ (Psalm 78:30), ‘He slew the stoutest of them, and struck down the choice men of Israel’ (Psalm 78:31). Be careful what you crave, be careful even what you pray for, for you might get more than you expect!
The LORD has promised to furnish a table in the wilderness, amid all our doubts and our fears (Psalm 23:5). Elijah ate bread administered to him by an angel, and it sustained him for forty days and forty nights (1 Kings 19:8). During Elijah’s ministry, on one occasion, a hundred men ate of a small offering and had some left over (2 Kings 4:42-44). Jesus fed five thousand men, besides women and children; and later four thousand likewise - and had baskets-full left on each occasion.
Jesus had to address the same doubts in His hearers, when He redirected those who had ‘eaten of the loaves and been filled’ (John 6:26). We must hear it too: ‘Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures unto eternal life’ (John 6:27). ‘For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’ (John 6:33). ‘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). Will we not at least believe Him? Will we not at least trust in His salvation?