One of the things I will never forget about growig up in Ft. Wayne is the bread factories. Whether we road bikes downtown or took the city bus, as soon as we got near the library, the smell of fresh baked bread just overwhelmed us.
Of course, it really depended on the direction of the wind but with two major bread factories downtown, Holsum Bread slightly north and Sunbeam bread just a little south, the smell would almost always waffle in and perk up our senses.
There is just something about the sweet, buttery, toasty mix of sheat and yeast that makes you stop and inhale deeply. In fact, studies have been done in France and also at the Univeristy oin Dublin about how the smell of fresh ‘baked bread’ affects us.
The aroma of fresh bread,they say, makes us happier and kinder to one another. 89% said the smell made them happier and also brought back good memories. While 77% who were observed; would help others more often in a place where the smell of fresh bread was thick in the air I remember a realtor telling us, if we wanted to sell our home faster, bake a loaf of bread before people come to do a walk through.
Famed author of “The Art of Eating”, M.F.K. Fisher wrote, “The smell of ‘good bread baking’ is indescribable in the way it evokes our ‘innocence and delight’ … Breadmaking is,” she continues, “one of those ‘almost hypnotic businesses’, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells … there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of medication…; that will leave you ‘depleted of bad thoughts’ than this homely ceremony of making bread.”
While the NIV Bible mentions bread 271 times, in the original languages of the Bible, it is mentioned over 492 times. There are at least 7 words ‘referencing bread in Hebrew’ in the Old Testament and 3 Greek words in the New Testament.
In the Holy Lands back in Jesus’ day, it has been estimated that 3/4ths of the people survived entirely upon – either bread or items made from wheat or barely. Both of these are still used there today. Barley was typically used by poorer families, whereas wheat was eaten in wealthier homes.
Where ‘we’ eat 3 meals a day, they generally ate only two. For breakfast, they most likely ate bread, dried fruit, olives and cheese. That was their lightest meal. In the evening, they ate bread, vegetables, dried fish, fruit, butter or cheese and wine cut with water. They rarely ate ‘other meat’ unless it was during a festival or wedding.
It was customary for wives to make 3 loaves of bread each morning. One for each meal – and one extra, in case visitors stopped by. Bread in the home was prepared by kneading it in wooden bowls or troughs. Them it was pressed into thin cakes or oval loaves and baked. They used unleavened bread on special occasions, like Passover.
The word bread also was used figuratively in such expressions as ‘bread of sorrows”< “The bread of wickedness”, or “The bread of deceit”. In the Bible, if you wanted to invite someone over to eat dinner, you would usually say, “Join us for the breaking of the bread.”
In ancient cultures, it was believed that if two people ate from the same food, then they were both being nourished from the same source. In this way, they became ‘as one’ and were said to be in agreement with one another In the Old Testament, covenants were made by the sharing of bread. Peace was also established by disagreeing parties when they broke bread together. Bread could also be used as currency to pay debts or was often given in trade.
In the 1960’s it was common to hear people ask others for ‘bread’, which meant money. And you will probably hear others call ‘the partner who makes the most money in a marriage’, the breadwinner.
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray he said, “This is how you should pray, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven Give us our daily bread…”(Matthew 6:9-11)
Besides this reference to daily bread, the phrase is only used 2 other times in the Bible. In the Bible’s oldest book, Job 23:12 reads, “I have not departed from the commands of (God’s) lips, I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”
The other reference comes from Proverbs 30:8 which reads, “Give me neither poverty or riches; but give me only my daily bread.”
The words ‘daily bread’ appears in few documents outside the Bible. Around 400 AD, an accountant’s book was found and it recorded these words in Greek which apparently meant ‘enough for one day’. That is how people were paid back then, one day at a time.
While both of the scriptural passages are referring to food, Jesus was actually expanding on that idea. Abraham referred to God as, Jehovah-jireh; which meant “The God who provides”. God’s provisions were not only food – but also clothes, shelter, peace, patience, hope, guidance and truth.
As Martin Luther explained, “Our daily bread is everything necessary for the preservation of life; including food, a healthy body, a job,, a home, a wife and children.”
The 4th petition in the Lord’s Prayer begins with us — not me. Give us, our daily bread, it is communal. It is a shared meal and a shared blessing. It is not only asking for waht we need – it is also acknowledging ‘God as the source of all good things’. (James 1:17)
When Jesus was teaching his disciples, Luke 12 records these words, “I tell you, do not orry about your life what you will eat; or what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” Later he ads, “For the Pagan World runs after all such things and your father knows ‘that you need them’. But seek his kingdom first, and these things will be given to you as well.”
A young woman brought a man home to meet her parents. After a discussion it was clear he had no job prospects or money. He just kept saying, “God will provide”. The father said to his wife, “The bad news is, he has no job and no prospects, but the good news is – he thinks I’m God.”
‘Our God’ is the one who provides – and with him, we lack nothing.
There are at least 169 verses in the Bible that refer to the ways in which God will provide our daily needs. Philippians 4:19 puts it simply, “And my God will meet all your needs – according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
And of course, Jesus took the idea of ‘Our Daily Bread’ to a whole new level – when he compared himself to the manna that was given by God ‘to Moses and the others’ in the wilderness.
After Moses led God’s people out of Egypt, the Israelites began to grumble about the lack of food and water. We pick up that story in Exodus 16:3-4. “The Israelites complained, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat – and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert ‘to starve this entire assembly to death’.
“Then, the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day – and gather just enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.”
If the Israelites tried to gather too much and hoard it, it would spoil overnight. And sadly, they did try. In a spiritual sense, God wanted them to understand that we must rely on him to provide what we will need ‘for each new day’. As followers, we must walk by faith, trusting that He will provide what we need for our daily sustenance, both physically and spiritually.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them – except in the form of bread.”
In their day, bread was life. Without it many would perish. It was ‘as important to them’ as the air we breathe.
In John Chapter 6, not long after Jesus feeds the 5,000 , the crowds caught up with him again. “Rabbi”, they asked, “When did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed – but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do ‘to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Of course they press him for a sign, bringing up God’s miracle of providing Manna from heaven. Then Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is ‘the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’.” “Sir”, they said, “always give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus is saying…I am all you need. And I will provide everything you need to live and to glorify me. Do you trust me?
He continued, “I tell you the truth, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.
“Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which ‘anyone’ may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
Max Lucado writes, “After seeing all they have seen; healings, miracles and hearing his words, you would think these people would follow Jesus anywhere, but no. They, like us, don’t trust him for our daily bread. Somehow we still think or want to believe that we are in control of our lives.”
We often look down our noses at the rich young man who refused to give up everything and follow Jesus. (Mark 10) Yet few of us would have the nerve to do that.
Ron Sider writes in his book ‘Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger’ that “Most of the concerns that surround the average American are what will we eat – not whether we will eat.” God never intended for us to have our daily bread – and everyone else’s too.
Perhaps our lives would be a little less complicated if we would learn to live a little less comfortably and did not try to fill our every wish and desire instead of attending to our real needs. Maybe if we did that, others may be able to – simply live.
What if we truly believed ‘what Jesus told Satan in the wilderness’, “Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the month of God?” (Deut. 8:3 and Matt. 4:4) Would it chane the way we live?
Remember how Jesus taught us to pray, “Give US this day OUR daily bread.” Life is more than food. Life is more than the stuff we accumulate. Life is…Jesus Christ who is the bread of life. I pray you are filled with him, to the brim and overflowing.
Your assignment is…take stock of your storehouses this week. Open your cupboards and your refrigerators and ask yourself, how much food do I really need on hand? Does it go bad before I eat it?
Ask yourself, ‘Is this the best use of God’s resources?’ Is there a soup kitchen that van benefit from our abundance? Then, take action, You will be glad you did.