In Scripture, food points to the gracious provision of God.
Genesis 1:29-30 (NIV)
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
Adam and Eve and every other living creature had an abundance of food to choose from. It was like living in an all-you-can-eat fruit and salad bar. Just turn your head and take a bite. There was food everywhere.
In Psalm 104, the psalmist praises God for the order of creation. That includes the way the creation is designed to produce food.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate- bringing forth food from the earth: 15 wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.
27 These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
In the wilderness, God provided manna, quail, and water for Israel to sustain them on their journey.
In the Torah, Israel was commanded to celebrate six feasts throughout the course of the year. They later added to two more (Purim and Dedication). God rooted the memory of his greatest deeds in food. Israel was taught that one of the best ways to celebrate and remember God’s goodness was to sit down and enjoy a good meal.
Scripture also connects food to sin and its consequences.
In Genesis 3, sin enters the world through the eating of forbidden food. The result of this rebellion against God is a curse that impacts humanity’s food source.
Genesis 3:17-19 (NIV)
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Because of sin, food will no longer be found in abundance. Famine and starvation become possibilities.
After the flood, there if further evidence that the harmony of Eden had been destroyed.
Genesis 9:1-3 (NIV)
1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
On one hand, God blessed Noah and his family by expanding their menu, but on the other hand they now have to be careful when walking through the woods. Lions and tigers and bears . . .
Sin changed our relationship with our food.
The Old Testament sacrificial system was built on Israel being called to sacrifice a portion of their food to atone for their sins.
In Leviticus, Israel was given detailed lists of clean and unclean food fit for eating and sacrifice. God set Israel apart from her pagan neighbors by giving them a special menu. This special menu helped identify them as God’s people. Israel starts taking their food very seriously. In Daniel 1, Daniel and his companions refuse to eat food from the royal table. In 2 Maccabees, faithful Jews refuse to eat pig even though it means they’ll be slaughtered.
In Scripture food is also used in a metaphorical way to describe our relationship with God.
Deuteronomy 8:3 (NIV)
3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
The words of God are equated with food.
Jeremiah 15:16 (NIV)
16 When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.
Psalm 119:103 (NIV)
103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Forgiveness and restoration are described as an invitation to eat the best kind of food.
Isaiah 55:1-2 (NIV)
1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
To return to God is to sit down at a feast.
In part 3, we’ll look at the role food played in Jesus’ life and ministry.