“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” (Isaiah 55:1-2 ESV)
Food—glorious food. The crunching and slurping, sipping and chomping. The baking, chopping and roasting, filling a basket with greens, reds, oranges and yellows in the produce department. I so love food that, living in this land of plenty, I’m addicted to food, and eating healthily is still a learning process.
God’s Word is food for the soul and equally glorious. Like food for the body, God’s Word feeds and nourishes our souls. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” says the Lord God (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4). “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” says David (Psalm 34:8). “I am the bread of life,” says Jesus (John 6:35). “Long for the pure milk of the word,” says Peter (1 Peter 2:2).
I’ve been thinking about how I eat recently. I read In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. Its nutritional advice can be summarized as: eat real food, the stuff your great-grandmother would recognize, and eat mostly plants, in their whole form (not canned tomato soup but fresh, gorgeous tomatoes, maybe in gazpacho or caprese salad or your own homemade soup—without sugar).
What if that’s a good way to approach eating God’s Word, too? Our own Keith Ferrin seems to think so. Rather than munch on a verse here and there, he advocates eating whole books of the Bible, as he did in his sermon on Ephesians, where he spoke the whole book from memory!
This winter, my women’s Bible study had a whole-food experience of the Bible. We read the entire New Testament in 8 weeks, using a Covenant reading plan. One week we read Ephesians, which by itself was a six-course gourmet meal. Words like lavish, surpassing, and unfathomable riches and lots of all-in-allness permeate the book.
When I was a new Christian, I tried to live on just two verses, Ephesians 2:8-9. They’re classic memory verses: good, essential nutrients, but needing their full context. Ephesians as a whole encompasses the whole history of the church, the whole of God’s blessing, the uniting of all peoples in Christ, putting away the dark life, living the light life, walking in good works, and being a small but significant part of a whole community of believers. We’re not alone in Christ or meant to view our walk as solitary. The whole of Ephesians provides whole food for the soul.
Another week my Bible study read and discussed the gospel of John, 1st and 2nd Peter, and Jude. As meals go, that felt like gorging. But the gospel of John touched us all in a new way, taken in one gulp. It’s so much more than a set of one-liners — grammatically and deceptively simple “I am” statements. Those words were costly. They’re little jewels, yes, but set in equally precious lengthy speeches, given in the presence of enemies and sparking round after round of hostile conflict, arguments, debates and threats. The whole of John’s gospel breathes costly victory through battle and perseverance. Conflicts in our lives make more sense, knowing that Jesus’ life was full of conflict and that a servant is not above his master (Matthew 10:24). As I learn to trust God more, I expect more conflict.
As with food for the body, I’m still learning to eat and digest spiritual food. Learning to prepare and eat it whole, without added sugars, is a life-long process — challenging, wholesome and delicious.
Jani can be reached by email here.