The Powerful Lure of Food
Have you ever noticed that food (or lack of food) makes people do some absurd and irrational things? When I’m hungry I have a short temper, gorge myself on junk, and at times completely lose my ability to think clearly. And sometimes (even if I’m NOT hungry) when I see something I want to eat, there is just no stopping me; I will eat an entire box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese. Also, I am not above hiding chocolate and eating it in secret while the kids are occupied playing in another room. I know I’m not alone. Even if YOU have complete control over your fleshly appetite, I have plenty of company. Take a look at these famous examples from the Bible.
Adam and Eve
They weren’t even hungry. They had access to “every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit” for their food. And yet, as we all know, they ended up not being able to resist the ONLY tree in the world that was off limits to them. It’s not like they were being tempted with steak or chocolate; it was just fruit. More of the same. Yet, fruit is the method Satan used to get them to sin. And they fell for it. (Genesis 1:29; 3:1-6)
Poor Esau. He could have been an ancestor of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. He could have been the one who passed on the seed of the woman Who would crush the head of the serpent. Yet, he despised this birthright and gave it up to his deceiving brother for a BOWL OF STEW!?! Hunger makes people crazy. (Genesis 3:15; 25:29-34)
Israelites in the Desert
We can’t forget them. They had just been miraculously set free after 400 years of slavery. They had just seen the river turn to blood and frogs, gnats, locusts, flies, and darkness cover the land. They had witnessed supernatural protection of their firstborns while every other firstborn child and animal in Egypt was killed on the same night. Not to mention the cool part about crossing the Red Sea and being guided by fire and a cloud. But they grumbled about food. I’m starting to see a trend. Food makes me grumpy too, so I will not be judgmental.
God graciously satisfied their hunger. As He does mine. But some of them hoarded the food, against God’s instructions. And the next morning it was full of maggots and began to smell. Just a side note: I sometimes think if my stashed-away treats were filled with maggots if it would be easier to resist them. Back to the point: food caused them to be grumpy, to disobey, and to hoard. (Exodus 7-16)
Moving Due to Hunger
Have you ever noticed how many passages in the Old Testament start with “there was a famine”? It’s kind of the transition phrase to show why someone is going to do something. People change when they are hungry. Not always for the better. In fact, not usually for the better.
Abraham: When the famine caused Abram to move down to Egypt, his troubles started. This is when he convinced Sarai to tell the half-truth to everyone about being his sister. (Genesis 12:10-13)
Isaac: Ditto to the above scenario, except when the famine came in his time he went down to a town in Philistia and told the same lie about his wife, Rebekkah (who was not even close to being his sister). (Genesis 26:1-7)
Naomi: I realize I am treading on thin ice with this one. And there is no doubt that God used Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth the Moabitess, greatly. However, Naomi and her family left the Promised Land for Moab because they were hungry. And then she let her sons marry Moabite women. Deuteronomy 23:3 says “No Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the 10th generation...." She risked the faith of her offspring by following her hunger pains.
The mom in 2 Kings 6:25-29: I won’t describe what happened during this famine. It repulses me.
I can’t resist taking a little detour here. Amos 8:11 says: Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.
I would propose that we are currently in this kind of famine. And rational, lovely people – WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER, are going down to Egypt instead of seeking God for their fill. We have deliberately removed God’s Word from our lives, publicly in government places, and privately by choosing to listen to pastors who preach health and wealth, non-gospels.
But here’s the good news:
Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine. Psalm 33:18-19
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. Psalm 63:5-7
Remember Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas, in the time when the prophet Samuel was a boy? They literally threatened worshipers who wanted to offer meat sacrifices. The law stated that once the meat was boiled, the priests could eat it. But Hophni and Phineas wanted the meat raw, or at least before all the fat was cooked out. (Fat does make things taste better, right?) These were priests. They were “fattening themselves on the choice parts of every offering.” And as a result they lost their privilege of ministering before the Lord forever. Another consequence of their greediness for food was that “everyone left in [their] family line will come and bow down before [the new priest] for a … crust of bread." Their love of food caused them to disdain God and His worshipers. Food just gets in the way of what’s important sometimes. To our own detriment. (1 Samuel 2:12-36)
Ahab wanted a vegetable garden that didn’t belong to him. The owner wouldn’t give it to him, so he sulked, cuddled up in his bed, and refused to eat. A few episodes of trickery later, his wife had the garden owner unjustly stoned to death, and King Ahab got his vegetable garden. (1 Kings 21:1-16)
The man after God’s heart. He fought Goliath. He resisted the temptation to kill Saul, or even become bitter toward him. But when one foolish man refused to feed him and his men, David’s anger flared and he said to his men “Put on your swords!” and 400 men went up with him. And David swore, “May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!” Wow. I think he overreacted a little. That NEVER happens to me when I get hungry. (I Samuel 25)
New Testament Believers:
Food is not only an Old Testament weakness. Check out what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:20-22: When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
I can’t even wrap my mind around this issue. How could people eat in front of their brothers and sisters in Christ and not share? And once again I am reminded that the desire for food and drink is powerful. It can make even believers in Jesus despise the church and humiliate others.
The lure of food is powerful. Who can withstand it?
Jesus of Nazareth:
Of course! Jesus didn’t eat for 40 days and nights. Forty. Then Mathew writes, “he was hungry.” No kidding! What an understatement! And, possibly because the devil lacks creativity, he tempted Jesus in the same way that he tempted Adam and Eve – with food.
“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
Bread. Yum. But food was never Jesus’ master. The lure of food was never greater than “every word that comes from God.” And it was most certainly God’s word that He trusted in as He was being tempted by the devil at his physically hungriest point. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s His answer: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Mathew 4:1-4)
Jesus had other times when he demonstrated that food should not have the high place we give it. In John 4, he was sitting by the well outside of Samaria (wearied by His journey) while his disciples went into town to buy food. Jesus ended up talking to the Samaritan woman for a while, and when his disciples came back with food, he didn’t eat it. They urged him to eat, but he replied, “I have food to eat that you do not know about”…”my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:1-35)
And that’s the point. Food is not our master. It should never get in the way of us loving our Lord and doing His work. Somehow we have to figure out how to not elevate food to the place where we believe it is what is sustaining us. It is not. Our physical sustenance cannot be our highest priority. It is the “Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:7-8)
I love Elijah. He understood the food-thing and has taught me a lot. When God had him predict years of drought, there is no sign that he was worried about his own provisions. At God’s direction, he went and hid from the king by a brook. The brook provided water, and ravens brought him meat and bread twice a day. I know everyone reading this has other things to do, but I seriously wish there was some way I could get everyone to just stop and take that in. Ravens. Brought. Him. Food. Let’s contrast this with what we usually do when we know there might be a shortage (or a winter storm or something else that is going to prevent us from getting our usual supplies). We panic and buy out the grocery stores. We wait in line for hours to buy gas. We fret, and we plan, as if anything is in our control.
Elijah was fed by the ravens for so long that the brook dried up. So God led him to an impoverished widow to feed him. And that’s just amazing. (I Kings 17:1-16)
“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…. Is not life more than food…?” – Jesus, Mathew 6:25
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” –Jesus, John 6:35
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." - Jesus, Mathew 5:6