The Lord’s Prayer 5 - Give Us Our Daily Bread
Sermon by Pastor Eric Chang, December 5, 1976
In Lk. 11:3, we read the words [which are] slightly different from those in Matthew, and the difference is this, “Give us day by day our daily bread.” [KJV] Now I want to look at these words, but there does not seem to be very much that one can say about it. Well, all you need to say is that it seems to be a prayer in which we ask God to give us what we need - our food everyday - and there does not seem to be much to expound here.
We have seen so many important lessons in the past. We saw last week the important message that the Lord gave us there: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as... in heaven.” [NKJV] You will notice that I did not spend much time during the past week to expound the words, “Your kingdom come.” The simple reason is that those of you who are here slightly longer will remember that in one of my first messages, I expounded the words of the Lord Jesus in which He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” We shall come back to the meaning of the kingdom again and again because in the Lord’s parables, He constantly speaks about the kingdom.
Thus, we will find, as we go on, that the kingdom is a central element in the Lord’s teaching. One of the definitions of the kingdom is in the very words of this prayer. What does “Your kingdom come” mean? It means: “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” The definition is given right there. We saw, too, what that meant last week, that it is the harmony of our will with God when we ask God of our own choice, of our own desire - through God’s working in our hearts certainly, but of our own choice nevertheless - that His will will be done in our lives, as well as in the world, and that in this way, heaven comes into our soul and the kingdom of God is established in our lives.
One more point I should say is that: to ask God’s kingdom to come (“Thy kingdom come”) means today in our prayer we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” The kingdom of God will be established on earth when Jesus comes again. So, when we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” let us know also that we are praying in that prayer, “Lord Jesus, come.” In fact, that was a prayer that was constantly prayed in the Early Church. We have those words at the end of 1 Corinthians, “Maranatha” [1 Cor. 16:22-KJV], that is, “my Lord, come”, “the Lord comes”. Every true Christian longs for Jesus’ coming. That point, too, we have expounded in the past.
But coming to today’s verse, what is there that can we say? What can we say beyond the words in this prayer, that we are asking God to supply us our daily needs? And then, what is there to expound? We shall see in a moment that there are great riches here as everywhere in the Lord’s teaching. I must say, sometimes, as I study the Lord’s teaching and prepare to expound it, I have a feeling, I can share with you, of almost frustration. What do I mean by frustration? I mean there is such a wealth of riches. The more I study it, the more I say, “How can I do justice to the teaching of the Lord?” The riches are so great that I feel overwhelmed with it and I do not know whether I can do justice to it. But by the Lord’s grace, I shall certainly try.
What Are We Asking For In This Part Of The Lord’s Prayer?
What do these words mean: “Give us today our daily bread”? What exactly does it mean? What exactly is being said to us here? What is the prayer that is being prayed? Do these words “Give us today our daily bread,” mean that we are praying and asking God to send the bread down from heaven? Are we saying, “Give us,” that means God is going to suddenly stretch out His hand from heaven and pass us a piece of bread? It might sound [literalistic], but if you want to be literal enough, that is how it should be, isn’t it? “Give us” means to say, as I reach out my hand here, [I say], “Give me my bread.” How strange! The Christians like to be so literal, but when it comes to this point, nobody wants to be literal.
Or secondly, what is the prayer, if we want to be slightly more specific here, when we sink into the prayer? Now so many Christians, they pray, but they are not very sure what they have prayed. When you have prayed something, be sure you know what you have prayed ; otherwise, how do you know that when you have got something, that was an answer to your prayer? You did not even know what you prayed, how do you know what the answer is?
You know, I have often challenged people. Our God is a living God. When you have prayed something specifically, take a book and write down your prayer, the day and date in which you prayed that prayer, and put the other column there, the day and date when it was answered. Now, so real is God, so much alive is God, that I would challenge any Christian to do this, and see for yourself how God answers your prayer. The reason why I would like you to do this is so that you may see that when we say God answers prayer, we mean exactly that. Why do you not take a record and write that down? God is not afraid of the challenge. Why should we be afraid? You know, when I look through the past which the Lord, by His grace, has allowed me to live, I see amazingly how God constantly answers prayer beyond anything we ask or think. But if you have not even asked, how do you know He has answered? And if you have asked only small things, at least write those small things down that you may have courage to ask greater things as you go on.
That is, of course, what George Müller used to do. He used to record his prayer and God’s answer to his prayer. My! What a mighty man of God is this! Little wonder he could say he has in his lifetime prayed not less than 50,000 specific prayers and received 50,000 specific answers. That is how you know your God. Either God is real or is He is not worth believing in. That is as simple as this. And so, we, when we have come to know God, we put down our specific request. I have to say, of course, to non‑Christians, that you are not quite qualified to ask for certain prayers. He is not your Father. The prayer begins, “Our Father which art in heaven.” [Mt. 6:9-KJV] He must first become your Father. You must first be born anew and then He becomes your Father. Then you can pray and then you can receive as a child from Him. Before that, you must only begin with prayers of repentance that God may change your life. But that is something wonderful to begin with. Pray first: in such and such a day I prayed, “Lord, change my life.” You put down there when you got the answer, when God changed your life. That is something. That is the best one, the first one to start with.
So, make sure when you pray something, you know what you are praying. And when we have prayed the prayer, what have we asked? Now, when we are studying the Lord’s Prayer, what are we praying? Have we prayed then, “Give me today my daily bread”? But everyday you are getting your daily bread! How do you know whether you have been answered or not? You can say you are being answered all the time. You had lunch today, have you? There you are! God answered your prayer. The only problem is that the non-Christian also had lunch. You can say to him, “He is not your Father”, but he still got his lunch. Well, you say, “God is kind to the unbeliever, too.” All right, you can take it that way. That is all right with me. But the question is whether that is what the Lord is teaching here.
Does this prayer then perhaps mean this, that “Give me today my daily bread” means “Lord, help me to find a job”? Or, “Help me to keep my job if I have found one”? After all, your job is your bread. That is your rice bowl. You lose you job, you have lost your bread. So, maybe this prayer means, “Lord, help me to keep my job.” If that is the case, why do you not just say, “Lord, help me to keep my job”? Why pray for something round about in a circle? Just be specific. Say what you mean. Is that the meaning or is the meaning otherwise? Maybe we have some needs and our prayer is that maybe God will make somebody supply our needs, that is, God is going to supply our needs by moving someone else to supply our needs. That seems to be also quite possible. Maybe God does not reach out from heaven and give us a piece of bread, but He might move somebody else to give us a piece of bread. Maybe that is what it means.
Or is the meaning that we should pray “Give us our daily bread” [to] mean “Lord, grant us that our crops should not fail”? Because, after all, if crops fail - if there is a drought or a storm or something that has ruined the crops - and then our bread is going to be in question. Maybe that is what it means. But if that is the meaning, should we not pray that specifically: “Lord, protect the crops”, i.e., like how we say that specifically? Or is this prayer a lazy way of including everything all in one package, so that we do not have to keep saying so many things to God? “God, give me my job. And Lord, protect the crops. And Lord, see that I am not getting kicked out of my job.” It saves a great heap to God in covering all these points when we say it in one neat package: “Give me my daily bread.” Our conversation with God can be a lot shorter. You do not have to go on and on. You can say all you want to say to God in one sentence. Maybe the Lord Jesus is teaching us to reduce the quantity of our prayer.
Or else, what else could this possibly mean? It is very interesting. I was discussing with somebody, and I said, “What do you think is the meaning of this prayer?” It is very interesting - the suggestions that were coming out, “Well, it means this. It means that. Maybe it means that the health does not fail.” Well, after all, if your health fails, even if you are not kicked out, even if you can find a job but you are broken in health, you cannot earn your living. And that means to say you cannot get your daily food either. Perhaps it means that. Does it mean that, too? Well, if that is the case, again my question is: Why do you not pray this specifically, “Lord, my health is poor. Please restore my health or protect my health.” Do we have to say, “Give me my daily bread,” by which I mean, “Protect my health”?
But, on top of all this, perhaps we should pray [inclusively]. If this is all what it means by giving us our daily bread, maybe we should pray, “Lord, [we pray] that the factory does not go bankrupt, that the Canadian economy does not collapse.” All of these things are included in there. Why should we not pray for all these? There are so many factors involved in our daily bread. And especially that the bakers do not go on strike, as well as the food people, or we would have some trouble as well. Is that all what Jesus wants to tell us? What exactly then, after all these alternatives, is involved in this prayer? Now you see that we can often pray a thing, [but] we do not even know that we have prayed. What have you prayed? Or, as I have suggested to you, is it possible that by this prayer, it is simply a simplified statement of all those things put together, so that our prayer to God can be very short and brief and we can finish our prayer in one sentence? What do you think, by now, as to the meaning of this prayer? Or are you utterly confused by this time as to the content of this prayer? And yet, we find in the churches people constantly pray this prayer. Do they know what it means? I have questioned Christians and I find that they do not know what it means. How does this come about?
Well, what is more, of course, we have further problems if that is the meaning. If all this means that God could provide us with daily food, the food that you need today, then what happens if at home, you find that your store room, your larder, or whatever it is called, is full of food inside. You find corn flakes, bread and meat. And you have a deep freezer. What do you mean by today’s bread? You have got enough inside there for the whole next 3 months. And so maybe when you pray the Lord’s Prayer, the best thing is you leave out that sentence, since you have not only got enough for today, but you have enough for all the next few days. You best wait till you really have nothing left there, or wait for one or two days before you run out, and then say, “Lord, I am in need now. Provide my food.”
Or maybe we should say, “Ah! Well, perhaps this prayer applies to those who live by faith.” That may be the solution. Maybe it means, “Lord, because I live by faith, so I need daily to depend on Your supply.” If this is the case, of course, that sounds much more likely, except then, the only people qualified to pray that prayer would be people who live by faith. If you do not live by faith, you should not pray that prayer. Now, what do we mean by ‘live by faith’? Maybe I should explain to some of the young Christians [here]. ‘Living by faith’ are those people who go out to serve God on no fixed salary. They have no fixed income. They depend entirely upon God for their needs and their supply. These are people who live by faith. When I speak about living by faith, I speak at firsthand. For many, many, many years indeed, I lived by faith, that is to say, depending solely and utterly upon God for the supply of my needs. But is this what Jesus is saying here? If so, then we can see that this prayer is only for people who live by faith and all the other Christians who are occupied with their other professions really cannot pray this prayer. And if that is true of this particular petition, perhaps it is true of the rest of the prayer. Or should other Christians, when they pray, pray all the other things and just leave out this one in between?
Speaking about living by faith, I had some of the most precious experiences in my life. And I want to tell you, of course, that I did not choose to live by faith. I was put by God in a position in which I had no alternative but to live by faith. It was not something that I took on myself. I was constantly, for year after year, put in the position in which I had absolutely no other alternative, but to live in this way. For example, living in England, I was simply, as an alien, not allowed to work, under no circumstances. The moment I would have applied for work permit, I would have been kicked out of the country. I would have had to discontinue my education, my training. I was, therefore, put in a position of having to look to God alone for my supply. And there I tell you again, if you write down your prayer requests, let me tell you, God certainly provides our physical and material needs. There is no question but that He does so. In fact, this is the point that we are going to come to later on in this chapter when He speaks about not being anxious about our food and drink, that God supplies all these things. But is this the point of this particular prayer?
All Petitions In The Lord’s Prayer Are Concerned With Salvation
Well, what is our answer to this? When we study this, I must point your attention to the structure, the whole overall structure of the Lord’s Prayer to understand what we are praying for and what we are praying about. Now notice the structure of the Lord’s Prayer in the Sermon of the Mount. You will find that there are seven petitions. The structure of it is beautiful. It starts out, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” and there follows seven petitions, seven being a perfect number in the Bible. If you count them down, you will see there are exactly seven. And so we find that this prayer, “Give us our daily bread,” ranks as the fourth of the seven. The fourth, of course, is the middle one. Three on either side is the fourth. Right in the middle of the seven petitions, we find the fourth one, “Give us... our daily bread.” Now, when you look at the other six, you will notice immediately that every single one of them is concerned with one thing only. What is that? It is concerned with the subject of salvation, with God’s salvation, with the salvation of God to us, every single one of them, as we have studied them. We have seen what “Hallowed be thy name” means. We have seen “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth”. We have seen all these petitions. Of course, “Thy kingdom come” and “Thy will be done” are two petitions, but both of them are concerned with the salvation of God coming to us. As we look on the ones after this, “...forgive us our debts” or “Forgive us our sins”, “lead us not into temptation”, “deliver us from evil”, the final petition, every one of these is concerned with salvation. Once you see this, once you see the beautiful structure of the Lord’s Prayer, you begin to realize at once that the middle one must also be concerned with salvation and not merely with the supply of our daily food. It must be concerned with salvation.
Give Us The Bread For Tomorrow
The central point to understand [in this] passage is to understand the meaning of bread. “Give us today our daily bread”, as it is so translated. At this point, I must point out to you that the translation of the word “daily” comes from the Authorized Version and is not by any means the preferred understanding. If you look at your Revised Standard Version, you will find in little words in the margin down below: “our bread for the morrow”. Now that is interesting. What does that mean? Now, I am not going to go into the technical details of this; it is too difficult to explain these technical details, especially when you have no knowledge of the original. Suffice it to say that what is actually being said here is [that it is] not talking about daily bread, [which] has now become English tradition. That is why it is very difficult to change a traditional prayer. Therefore the meaning is put into the margin, “the bread for tomorrow”. Part of the problem is that many people could not understand what bread for tomorrow is, even though that is the correct way of understanding it.
Now, let us consider for a moment what exactly this means? What do we mean by “the bread for tomorrow”? What do we mean by saying, “Give us tomorrow’s bread today”? It is very important because the “bread for tomorrow”, as it appears here, is impossible to translate in English because that is actually an adjective. “For tomorrow” is an adjective and “daily” is an adjective. So here we find that you have not got an adjective in English that translates ‘tomorrowly’. You should perhaps say, “Tomorrowly bread give us today.” Now that is very difficult to put. You have to invent a word in order to translate this. But without going into all these details, what exactly does all this mean? Quite simply, it is this: bread, a very common picture in the teaching of the Lord Jesus and in fact in the Bible, refers to Jesus Himself as the Living Word. So we are not here at all speaking merely about - I will not exclude the possibility of daily bread as such - but it is not merely about physical bread. Rather, in the context of all this prayer, which is concerned with salvation, the prayer is for the spiritual bread, the bread of tomorrow.
What does ‘tomorrow’ mean? It is very simple. If you know the Bible, there is no problem. In the Bible, today is the present age; tomorrow is the coming age, the new day of salvation. When you read the Bible, Hebrews Chapter 4, for example, gives us exactly that picture, “While it is still today, harden not your heart.” What does it mean ‘today’? Today means this present time. This is the day of salvation. It does not mean just today. Today means the present time of salvation. Hebrews Chapter 4 is very important for the understanding of this, but it is not unusual at all in the Bible to find exactly this kind of expression, the use of today as to this present time. And then in Heb. 4:7 it says, “Today... harden not your hearts” [KJV], so that what happens? So that you may enter into the next day! Which day? The new day! Which day? The Sabbath! The day of rest! For, “there remains a day,” the writer to the Hebrews says, “for us to enter into the new day, the Sabbath of God.” Now all this seems complicated to some, but it is very easy to understand. The Sabbath is the day of rest, where there is no turmoil, where there shall be no suffering, where the burdens of sin shall be no more. That is the picture of the Sabbath, the day of rest, the rest from burdens and troubles and cares and the toils of sin. We enter into God’s rest. The whole of Hebrews Chapter 4 is dealing with this. So, today we repent so that we can enter tomorrow, into that new tomorrow.
All this should be very easy for us to follow. The Bible speaks in picture language but picture language which should not be difficult to understand, that today we ask God to supply us the bread for tomorrow. Tomorrow’s bread is the Sabbath’s bread, the bread of the Sabbath, the bread that God will give us at the Sabbath in the Messianic feast in the kingdom of God. “Blessed are those who eat bread in the kingdom of God,” we read in Lk. 14:15. So we find that here we see the picture becoming clearer and clearer to us. But more than that, of course, the full commentary on these words comes to us in John Chapter 6, [where it is] so amazingly and beautifully set forth: “I am the bread from heaven. I am the bread of life. He that eats of Me shall never die.” He is the spiritual food that we need to feed on. He is the bread of salvation. He is the bread of life. Physical bread and physical food is important, but if there is any bread we have to pray for, there is no bread more important than the bread of life. That is the bread Jesus is talking about.
It is so interesting how our minds always operate at a lower level than that of Jesus’. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” [Jn. 2:19] and they thought, “Ah, He is talking about the temple.” No, He is talking about [Himself], His body, His physical body, and they thought, “You see, He said, ‘Destroy this temple...’.” We always operate on a lower level; we cannot understand what He is talking about. And when He talked about bread, and you say, “Ah, He is talking [about physical bread].” Another occasion, He said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” and they said, “Ah, we forgot to bring our bread.” The disciples always operate on a lower level. They can never understand the higher level He is talking about. He is speaking about the bread of tomorrow. He defines what kind of bread He is talking about. But I cannot blame you that the translation just says “daily bread” and so you are being slightly led astray there.
But even so, even without that translation, you would have noticed the very structure of the prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. If you had studied it carefully, you would have seen at once that the whole prayer is concerned with salvation, and therefore, this central petition could be no exception. Not only can it be no exception, being the central petition, the force of the sermon, it must certainly be concerned above all with salvation. Indeed, we find we are not disappointed in our examination of it, whether structurally or linguistically or exegetically. In every respect, we find that, in fact, that is the case. Then we begin to understand the meaning. The prayer is: “Give us tomorrow’s bread,” of that new Sabbath, the bread of God’s kingdom today. Now how can you pray like this? It is not at all difficult! The richness of this for the expositor is almost indescribable.
Manna - A Picture Of Getting Tomorrow’s Bread Today
You know, in Ex. 16:22, we read something very remarkable. The manna which came down from heaven, which fed the Israelites in the wilderness, which is a miracle in itself, is almost indescribable in its wonder. They gathered it six days, but what about the seventh day? What were they going to eat on the seventh day? Because on the seventh day, it was the Sabbath, and they were not allowed to work. So what are they going to eat on the Sabbath day? No problem! God supplied the bread, the food, for the Sabbath day on the sixth day. Anybody who had been to Sunday school should know that. What God did was something wonderful. He supplied tomorrow’s bread today, so that you have the Sabbath’s bread on the sixth day. Now you understand the bread of tomorrow. It is very simple to understand. The Sabbath’s day’s bread is supplied on the sixth day. That was the only time when you could collect two days’ bread in one. No other day could you collect two days’ bread. If you try to keep it, it would go bad. The manna could not be kept. Yet God always worked in such a way that they could only on the sixth day have tomorrow’s bread for today. They could have two days’ bread only on that particular day. The Sabbath’s day bread they had on that day.
That is so wonderful, isn’t it, especially when we have come to understand what the Sabbath means, as we saw, the freedom from being heavy laden, laden by the burdens of sin. Sabbath day is the day of rest, the rest from sin. Now the whole meaning begins to come clear to us. More and more, we see the light of the beauty of the Lord’s teaching. Everything begins to come clear. And it is so characteristic of Jesus’ teaching, when you know His teaching, to do exactly that, to compress so much riches into the scope of a few words. It is exactly characteristic of His teaching. He never says something that is banal, that is trivial, that is ordinary. It is simply remarkable. No, He is always saying something that has great depth. We do not have to invent the depth. It is there as you search for it. That is why now we understand the strange sentence which says, “Tomorrow’s bread give us today.” Now we understand what it means.
By the way, I should let you know, of course, that this translation of “tomorrow’s bread or future bread, give us today,” is by no means my opinion, by no means my invention, in case anyone thinks so. First of all, you see at the margin of the RSV. But, of course also, the majority of the experts and scholars fully understand that this is correct even though they cannot fully understand what it means sometimes in some cases. But you have to give them credit for their honesty, that they accept that this is correct, even sometimes they have not fully understood what is meant by tomorrow’s bread. Some of them take it as a future bread and they understand that this refers to the kingdom of God. That they understand.
We Are The Israel Of God Today, Sojourning In The Wilderness
So now let us press on, finally, to see some of the richness of all this meaning in here. That Jesus is the living bread, as I have just mentioned, is expounded for us fully in John Chapter 6 in Jesus’ own teaching. And we are going to try and follow up some of the riches. It is picture language, of course, but we must ask: What is being said by this particular picture? Clearly, a human being is not a piece of bread that you can eat. It is a picture designed to convey important spiritual truth to us, but what is the truth that it meant to convey? And it also clear that this picture conveys to us something that no other picture could convey; otherwise, another picture could have been used. For example, we could say Jesus is our best friend. That is also a picture and a very real one at that, but that does not convey the important element that this picture of bread conveys. In what ways do they differ? Well, for example, in this way. First of all, we have noticed that by using the bread from heaven, tomorrow’s bread, we immediately see that the picture connects us to the Israelites in the wilderness, and that has very important elements of teaching for us.
What then are the riches of comparing this picture with the manna of the OT? There are many, which I will just briefly hint at. We are like the people of Israel in the wilderness. We, as Christians, are in the same position, [and are] pictured by them. They are a type of us, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 10 [1 Cor.10:6, 11]. Those things were written for us, for our sake. The whole OT was written not just for us to read as a story, but to teach us vital spiritual lessons today. What do we learn? Well, first, for example, that we are the Israel of God today. We are the people of God. As Peter says in 1 Peter, “We are a chosen nation, a royal priesthood.” [1 Pet. 2:9] God has chosen us out of this world, out of Egypt, and is leading us on towards the land of promise. We are now passing through the wilderness of this world. Here the richness of that picture is one that many preachers have used from time to time. So we have been saved out of Egypt - out of the world - and are moving on through the wilderness.
So, secondly, we see the lesson that we are sojourning in the wilderness. And as we sojourn, that is, travel through the wilderness of this world, like the Israelites, we have to depend upon the food from heaven to survive spiritually. You cannot survive in this wilderness of the world spiritually without everyday receiving the bread from heaven. Spiritually you cannot live. You would not survive any more than the Israelites could survive. You know, it is a miracle! The more I think about it, it is a miracle how the Israelites survived in the wilderness. I have passed through that Wilderness of Sin. I have seen the kind of landscape of that wilderness. I traveled through from Jerusalem down to Eilat, passing through that very wilderness, which is part of that wilderness in which the Israelites roamed for 40 years, and it is a terrifying wilderness. You will see as you look through the wilderness, there is absolutely nothing to eat. You look around in that wilderness, and if you were there, you wonder how you would survive. It is so amazing that there were over one million people traveling, living for 40 years in that desert, in which nothing grows, except some wild bushes. How do you feed over a million people? We are told that when they came out of Egypt, there were 600,000 men. Now, you add to that women and children, and you have a figure well over a million people, even over a million-and-a-half people, in fact. How exactly do you feed a million-and-a-half people in a wilderness like that? You try doing that sometime, when one day, if God permits, you stand in that wilderness and ask yourself the question. When I looked out into that wilderness, it really dawned on me, “Lord, how did these people live in this wilderness for 40 years?” How do you feed the multitude? Maybe 2 or 3 people could still manage by some means, but a million-and-a-half people in this kind of a wilderness? How do you live?
So if anyone does not believe in the Exodus, or does not believe that God brought down the manna from heaven, then I am going to ask you to solve the question, to solve the problem: How did a million-and-a-half people live in the wilderness for 40 years? What did they live on? How did they survive? You will find that there is no other way to understand it, but that God must have done an incredible miracle, and that, of course, was the bread from heaven, the manna which came down. If you deny that, you have no explanation of how they lived in that wilderness.
Thus, we are in the same way today. We live in the wilderness of this world, the spiritual wilderness. How can we survive unless God constantly supplies to us the spiritual food that we must have in Christ? We could not survive without it. It is for this reason that some Christians grow weak and some Christians grow sick spiritually and some Christians perish. I am not going to discuss whether they were real Christians or not real Christians and all the likes of it. We are not going into that doctrine right now. Suffice it to say that they do perish. Who can deny that there are many so-called Christians who perish, who cease to be Christians, who turn their back on the Lord? I do not care what kind of a doctrine you hold, but no one who has been a pastor for any length of time would have failed to know many such cases. We cannot survive without that spiritual bread from heaven. As we shall see, it is not a question of eating once that spiritual bread. To survive, you need constantly to depend upon that bread, that food, to sustain you.
“Tomorrow’s Bread Today” Signifies We Are In The ‘Sixth Day’ Of Human History
Also we see the beauty of the Lord’s teaching in this: “Tomorrow’s bread today.” We saw that that happens only on the sixth day, which tells us exactly another truth that the Bible tells us, that today we are in the sixth day of human history. The Bible tells us we are in the last days. Just before the Sabbath, just before His kingdom come, His will will be done on earth as in heaven. His will will be done on earth, remember this. Salvation is not going to comes whisk us really away. God is going to deal with this world. He has not finished with this world yet. Some people have asked me, “Well, if God is God, why doesn’t He concern Himself with the problems of this world?” I answered very simply, “He is concerning Himself with the problems of this world. He is dealing with the very fundamental problem of this world, namely sin.” What are you doing about the problems of this world? Well, God is doing something about the problems of this world. He is doing the one thing that needs to be done. At the very root of the problem of this world is sin and God is dealing with that problem. What do you mean that He is not doing anything? He is doing something all the time. He is tackling the very root of the problem. No man has ever got around to doing that. No government has ever got around to doing that. God is dealing with this world and He has not finished with the problems of this world yet because His kingdom is going to be established in the world. His will is going to be done on earth, and not only be done on earth, but done in such a way as it is in heaven. That is how it is going to be done. That is the glory of the Gospel. The Gospel is no escapism. It does not run away from the problems of this world. It faces the problems fully and squarely and deals with those problems in the most practical way and in the only way that they can properly be dealt with. And we shall enter, by grace, into that day when sin and suffering will cease.
Finally, we can see also this, that we are today able to experience the powers of the kingdom that is to come. Hebrews Chapter 6 says exactly that. Tomorrow’s bread, we can have it today. That is the point. We can experience the powers of the age to come now. That is the Biblical teaching. Eternal life is not something we are going to have when we die. Eternal life is something we have now. Tomorrow’s bread we have today. Oh, praise God for that! Have you got that bread? Scriptural teaching is so wonderful and so practical, and it gets at the root of things. This is no pie-in-the-sky business. This is no question of saying, “Well, tomorrow we will have it, but we cannot have it today.” The Lord works it the other way around. Not only tomorrow you have it; you will have tomorrow’s bread today. Not only today’s bread, not only the bread of the sixth day, the seventh day’s bread you will have also today. That is the superb teaching. How do we find it to be true? Try it! Experience it! Take hold of it and see whether it is so. Feed upon that bread and see if it gives you life. That is the plain, straight, powerful challenge of the Word of God.
Our Spiritual Life Depends Upon Jesus, The Bread Of Life
Now secondly, the picture of the bread points us to another thing. First, we saw that it points us to the riches of the OT as it applies to us as the spiritual heirs of the OT. But secondly, it shows to us the picture that no other picture could satisfy, not even picture of a friend. And it is this: that our life depends upon bread. It depends upon food. Now, it is good to have a friend, but you can do without a friend. It is nice to have a friend, but you would not die if you did not have your friend. But you will die if you did not have your food. And you see why Jesus used the picture of bread: “I am the bread. I am not just your friend. It is nice to have a friend, but you can manage without a friend. But I am the Bread of Life. Without Me, you could not live.” That is the picture that is being conveyed.
Our life depends upon bread for its sustenance. It maintains our life to give us the strength that we need, to keep us alive. So, as our life depends utterly upon food - we would not survive without food - so we cannot survive without Jesus. It is a question of life and death, not a question of having one friend more or less. Even though Jesus is a wonderful friend to have, but you can manage with one friend less, but not without food. That is what the picture is intended to convey to us.
We Never Cease To Depend On Jesus For Life
And thirdly this, too: it indicates to us not only that it is important to us for life, but that it never ceases to be important for us in life. Some things are very important for our life, maybe a certain medicine that you need at a particular time, but once you are well, you do not need it anymore. Now, so many people treat Jesus as though He were some kind of medicine just to cure their ills, and once they are cured, [they say], “So, bye-bye, Jesus.” That is okay. You can say bye-bye to the doctor. I mean, once you are well, you do not need the doctor anymore. As Jesus says, “When you are sick, you need a doctor. When you are well, you do not need him anymore.” But you never cease to need bread. You may not need medicine anymore. But you never cease to need bread.
So not only is Jesus important to us for life. The third point here we can see is that He never ceases to be important for us. We never live apart from Jesus. We never can have eternal life apart from Jesus. Eternal life is not something we get from Jesus and then we do not need Him anymore because now [we can say], “I got eternal life.” Now, it is very strange that some people say to me, “How can a person have eternal life and then lose it, because eternal life must be eternal life.” My dear friend, your logic is very poor. That logic sounds convincing only in a most superficial level, “How can you lose it, because if you lose it, it is not eternal life?” The point is [He] who gave you eternal life can take that away from you. It is not a question that eternal life is something you can have apart from God. You only have eternal life in Jesus! Remember that.
You might put it in a picture like this: if Jesus is pictured as the ark, like Noah’s ark, which is part of the great meaning of being ‘in Christ’, as long as you are in the ark, you are safe; you will always be safe. So long as you stay in the ark, you will always forever and ever be safe. But the moment you step out of that ark, you are no more safe because you cannot have safety apart from that ark. You cannot have life apart from that ark. So long as you are in Christ, you have eternal life. As long as you ever stay in Christ, you always have eternal life. But you step out of Christ, then you are in trouble. You must understand, then, that you cannot [think] that one day Jesus gives you eternal life and you have got eternal life now, [so you] say, “Bye-bye, Jesus. Thanks for the nice gift. I don’t need You now. I have got eternal life.” Huh, my friend, is that what you think of eternal life, that you can have eternal life as though it is something you can have apart from Jesus? Wrong!
Learn the lesson here. We always and forever will - and I thank God for this - we will forever, through all eternity, need Jesus. There will never come the day when [I can say], “I am in heaven and I do not need Jesus anymore because, look, I am saved now.” I see Christians doing that today. [They say,] “I am saved. I do not need Jesus anymore.” So Jesus saves you to put Himself out of business. And so, we can have life now, and now we can do what we like. My friends, do not fool yourself. God is not mocked and God is no fool. “...the foolishness of God is wiser than men,” Paul says. [1 Cor. 1:25] This is the fact that we must ever understand. You do not suddenly get a self‑generating generator apart from Christ that you can keep yourself going - you do not need God anymore - once you are saved, once you are in heaven, or even now. You never have eternal life apart from Jesus. We always need to depend on Him. I am glad of that because I love Jesus. I do not want to be separated from Him. I do not want to be able to have eternal life apart from Jesus. That would be eternal existence, not eternal life, and there is a lot of difference between life and existence. You do not have to be a doctor to know that.
There are people in the hospital [who] are still alive, yes, but only just. That is not life. They are existing by this stage. Life is more than existence. I do not want any eternal life. I do not want eternal life apart from Jesus. There is a person there - you see him on the news everyday - he is waiting to be executed. If life was so precious, here is a man who says, “I want to die. Shoot me, please! Will you do me the favor of taking me out and be shot.” And his mother is trying to intercede for him, saying, “No, don’t let him be shot.” And what did he say to his mother? I heard on the news yesterday [that] he said to his mother, “Get out of my life!” He wants to die. [He says,] “Leave me alone. Leave it. Just let me die.” He does not want life. I would say the same. I can understand him to a great extent. I do not want life if it is apart from Jesus. It is not worth living. There is no point to say, “I live forever.” That would be a disaster. You tell this guy who wants to die, “Do you know what? You become a Christian, you have eternal life.” He would say, “Dear me! I am trying to die right now and you are going to tell me I am going to live forever. That is the last thing I want.” No, no! Eternal life is a quality of life in Jesus. It is not any kind of life but Jesus’ life that He gives to us. It is His life given to me. That is the simple difference. We know the exact feeling. Sometimes we look at somebody else’s life, and you say, “His life is so good. I wish I had his life.” Or maybe you are in poor health and you look at another man, and say, “I wish I had his kind of health.” We can understand that. We have Jesus’ life coming into us. And so the third point we see here is this: we never cease to depend on Jesus for that life. Jesus forevermore! Forever we are going to be in fellowship with this wonderful Jesus.
We Must Receive This Bread If We Are To Benefit From It
So we can see the enormous riches that are in here, but there are still more lessons that we can derive from this bread. The picture here is bread - the manna that came down. It came down in the wilderness. It did not come into their mouth. If you want to eat, that bread of God is not going to be stuffed down your throat. Remember that. God is not going to take this bread and cram it down your throat. No, He is not going to do anything like this. You have got to take it yourself, if you are going to benefit from it. Bread does not push itself at you. You have got to take it. We find in the same way, too, that Jesus never forces Himself upon people. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Some people find it very puzzling. You remember on the Emmaus Road, there were two disciples and they were talking and Jesus was walking with them. What happened? When they got there, they said, “Come in to have supper with us.” And He said, “No, it is all right. Thank you. I will be going on.” But they said, “But, please stay.” And finally they insisted that He should stay and finally He stayed. They are so puzzled about this. What is so puzzling? That is so characteristic of Jesus. He never once, in the gospels, forces Himself upon somebody else. He never crams Himself down other people’s throats. Never! In fact, it says there He would just go on. You do not want to? You do not want to invite Him? He will just move on. He never throws Himself at you. So wonderful!
What a refreshing contrast from some so-called personal workers who terrified the wits out of me and a lot of other people, too. “You believe in Jesus. Hurry up! Here is the Bible. Have you ever read the Bible? You are a sinner. Sit down.” They will lecture you and pump you with the Bible. Hammer the Gospel into you: “Open your mouth, come on, cram it in. Kneel down with me now and confess your sins.” Oh, dear me! Some people become Christians just to be rid of these evangelists. The sooner you can get rid of them, the better. But I never see Jesus doing anything like this. He draws the people to Him. He does not grab them by the scruff of their neck and grind their face in the Gospel. Never! He draws! “When I am lifted up, I draw all men to Me.” [Jn. 12:32] And you find the drawing power of Christ is so wonderful, so magnetic. The spiritual power just draws you. The more you know about Jesus, the more He draws you. He did not grind your face in the Gospel. The Gospel is too good to be grinding your face in.
So we see that Jesus is not going to make any kind of [obligation]. Eastern politeness is sometimes such that they feel obliged to say, “Will you come in to have some food with us?” and hope that you would say ‘no’. “Are you sure you want to come in? Oh, you can’t come in? I am so sorry. Maybe another time! Another time!” So, Jesus makes [it look] as if He is going on. He wants to make sure that their inviting Him to come in is not just out of custom, out of the normal oriental courtesy. So He makes [it look] as if He is going on. He would only come in when you really want Him to come in, then He will come. So far is He from forcing Himself upon people. It is beautiful. Jesus is so wonderful. If you do not want Him, you are the one who is going to suffer. You are the one who loses.
How We Receive Jesus Is What Matters
[We come to] the fifth point. Like bread, we must receive Him, if we are going to benefit. And [it is] not just to receive Him! It is not just receiving Jesus, but how you receive Him that matters. Jesus says that it is not just that you hear, but how you hear that matters. There is a lot of difference between two people who hear. One person hears; another person hears in an utterly different way. That is why I say you have one person listening to the same Gospel and becomes a spiritual pygmy; another man becomes a spiritual giant. They heard the same Gospel, they read the same Bible, they prayed to the same Lord, and one becomes a mighty man of God; another man is a spiritual pygmy. Where is the difference? It is how you hear. Jesus says, “Beware how you hear.” [Lk. 8:18] The same seed is sown; one brings forth nothing, another brings a hundredfold. Same seed, different soil - how you hear, how you receive!
Thus, like bread, it is not just a question of receiving it. All the soil received the same seed, but they received it in a different way. And so, we find that bread, if it is going to benefit me, it is not that I take the bread, and I say ‘thank you’. I have got to eat it if it is going to benefit me. I have got to have it enter right down into the depth of my being. It must enter right into the center of my person. Wonderful! God put the stomach in the center of my body. It is a good thing it is not in my neck or down in my leg, sort of subsidiary, or something like that. It is right in the very center of my being. Even if I do not know anatomy, at least I know where my stomach is. I know it is right there in the middle of me. When I feel hungry, I feel it right there. It is not my hand feeling hungry or my shoulder feeling hungry. It is my stomach, the very center of my being. It is so wonderful, isn’t it? And so, in the same way, Jesus is not going to benefit you if you just accept Him intellectually [as if to say], “Just have a little taste in your mouth. Does it taste nice?” “It is okay. I have got it.” There are some people who say, “I became a Christian.” In fact, they only tasted it. It is a question of eating, taking Him right into your inner being, in the innermost being, and then He benefits you.
And so, we have asked the question, too. You have received Jesus; have you received Him into your most innermost part of your soul, your person? That is what matters. Is He in the center of your being, or is He somewhere in the periphery of your existence? There are so many Christians who have Jesus as their decoration,
Jesus as their badge, [as if to say], “It is here. You see, I am a good Christian. Do you see my badge? I am a good Christian because I do all those external things.” But not until He is in the center of your person, in the center of your life is He is going to benefit you. Oh, we see the beauty of the picture of the Word of God. Nothing is wasted! Nothing lost! Everything has a point and how precious that point is.
Jesus Is The Bread From Heaven, Broken and Given To Feed Many
From the point of view of the Lord Jesus, we can see also the truth that is seen in this tomorrow’s bread, the manna, the bread from heaven. Jesus is the bread from heaven. He came from above. He is from above. Jesus is no ordinary man. He is man, but He is no ordinary man. He is God manifest in the flesh. Always remember that. Therefore, that one life can feed any number of lives. That is why somebody asked, “How can one person die for the world?” Simple! The question is you have to ask who that person is. And that person is God manifest in the flesh. You do not have to be a mathematician to know that an infinite number covers any number you care to mention. That one death avails for any number of deaths because that death is infinity. That is God manifest in the flesh. He came from above. And so, no matter how many figures you write and how many zeroes you write, you write from one end of the world to the other, no matter how many people ever lived in this world, it never reaches infinity. The death of Christ avails for all men. The bread is not any ordinary bread; it comes from above.
But also like bread, in order to be able to feed us, it had to be broken. I mean, I cannot take a loaf of bread and swallow it. I cannot eat the bread without breaking it apart or biting it off piece by piece. It has to come apart before it can feed me. In the same way, Jesus was broken upon the cross in order to feed the world. “This is My body,” the Lord Jesus says at the Communion, “broken for you.” He gave Himself to feed us. His life was broken for us, so that we may be fed. The picture and the richness of this teaching is almost inexhaustible, and our time is very well and far gone.
Have You Asked And Received This Bread
Thus, we must conclude and summarize here very briefly. We see, then, the richness and beauty of this picture, but we have only yet to ask 2 things. First, to the non-Christian, we have to ask this question, “Have you received this Bread?” I am not telling you stories here. I am talking about something that is vital to your life, and eternally vital. If today you have listened to this message of Jesus’ Word and realize that you can ask Him for this bread, “Give us this bread,” if God were not willing to give it, there is no point asking. The whole point of the prayer is that because He is willing to give, you may ask. If God said, “I am never going to give you bread,” then there is no point for Jesus telling you to ask. You may have that bread, provided you ask. But today, if you are not a Christian, you have missed this opportunity by not asking for that bread.
And then we see, too, finally that for the Christian, we must make sure of this: it is not a question that you became a Christian once many years ago, or now, you have become a Christian and your need for Jesus has all but disappeared. Remember this: it is not just the question of feeding on, but feeding constantly upon that bread. Here I want to point very briefly to this. What puzzles me is why is it that some Christians have such a poor spiritual appetite? Why do some Christians have such a poor spiritual appetite? I would like to diagnose this. Why is it that some Christians have an almost insatiable hunger for food, but others seem to drift along as mediocre Christians all their lives? My prayer is not that we may have a big church in the years to come. My prayer is the quality that we have here. Who cares whether we have a thousand people packed in here, all of them mediocre? But that we have a handful, if that must be so - God so chooses, it does not matter; it is up to Him to give the increase - we are now just a small church, but that does not matter, so long as the quality is good. It disturbs me to have mediocre Christians, i.e., Christians who have no kind of spiritual fire, who do not grow spiritually, who forever remain stunted in their growth. Spiritual babes!
Reasons For Poor Spiritual Appetite
Why do we have such poor appetites, and therefore, poor growth? What is the reason for poor spiritual appetite? It means that there is poor health. It is the definite reason. If your health is poor, your appetite seems to be poor. There is some kind of a connection there. It may be you are ill spiritually. And you are ill spiritually if there is still sin in your life. Are you hiding some kind of sin in your life? May God have mercy upon you because you are killing yourself! That spiritual cancer is going to destroy you. Sin is like cancer, every bit of it. You may not feel pain at the time, but it is still as deadly as ever. Make sure that that is taken out of your system. Or is it because you are not yet totally committed to Christ? Are you a partially-committed Christian? And the church is full of those! Then may God help you to know that becoming a Christian is a matter of being totally God’s and completely His. It is a question of total commitment. God does not deal in half measures with anybody. And if we mean business with God, we do not deal in half-measures with God. It is a case of all or nothing.
The second thing is we find there is a lack of service. There are so many Christians who do nothing. They are just waiting for something to be done for them. They do nothing. This kind of Christians do not grow. Doing something is like spiritual exercise. To have a good appetite, you need to have exercise. People like us who sit at the desk and work and work all the time, we do not have very good appetites. I get a good appetite when I go for a run or for a walk or something. If I sit at the desk all day, I just do not feel hungry. There must be activity. And there are so many Christians who do nothing. They are always waiting for people to do something for them. They never think, “What can I do for the Lord?”
This reminds me exactly of Jn. 4:32-34 where Jesus said, “I have food of which you do not know.” Remember after He talked to the Samaritan woman and the disciples brought Him food, He did not want to eat it. They said, “Why? Have you eaten something? Somebody else brought You food?” He said, “I have food of which you do not even know.” “What food?” “My food is to do the will of him who sent me”. We are fed in our doing of God’s service. It is in the process of serving Him that we are being fed. That is our food. We must be active. So many Christians are so passive. They never grow. They never get moving. Even if you have very little energy, use that little energy and it will increase. Be faithful in small things and you will have big things, too.
And then, of course, that food we can see that we need to feed on is also the Word of God. One of the things you can do is get on with studying the Word of God. Move on to the study of God’s Word. Start with that and then you find so much riches you want to share with other people. “You see, do you know what I found in the Word of God today? Let me share that with you.” That will be something to start with in terms of service. I do not mean you have to necessarily go and stand on the street corner and preach. There are so many ways you can do something for God, if only you use your spiritual and mental resources. God gave us a brain to think with, not to sleep with. Use that brain to think. Becoming a Christian does not mean you cease to have any initiative. On the contrary, it makes us sort of burst with a certain spiritual energy. It taxes our mental powers to the limit to think, “How can I serve God more effectively? Becoming a Christian is not to become dull and dumb. And yet, sometimes you look at Christians and you wonder whether that is so. No, no! We must labor - work - in God’s service, and then you will understand what Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me”. As you do that will, that is feeding you. God feeds you as you work.
And finally, of course, appetite comes not only with good health and with exercise, but also with having tasted that the food is good. Sometimes you do not feel very hungry, but somebody cooks a nice dish or something for you, you take one taste, you say, “Umm, that’s nice,” and you finish the whole dish. It is the tastiness of that dish that has aroused your appetite. In the same way, so many Christians, they have not tasted and seen that the Lord is good. Ps. 34:8 says, “...taste and see that the Lord is good!” Notice the relevance of those words to our passage. Taste... the Lord! How else do you see He is good? You taste, then you see that the Lord is good. There we have picture language.
Now here is an apple. If I put this apple here and you ask me, “Is this apple sweet?” What do I suggest that you do? Take it to the laboratory, cut a slice off, put it in the chemicals and see how much sugar there is inside? Well, there is a simpler way of doing that. You can do that as a way of intellectual exercise or you can take the apple and take a bite. “Umm, it is sweet. Yes, it is good. It is good for food.” In the same way, that is the way we do it. “...taste and see that the Lord is good!” How do you know that God is the living God? How do you know that He is good? You are going to sit there and study Him through binoculars or through a microscope or through what? No, the way to know that God is the living God, to know that He is good, is to experience Him. That is what taste means. Take a bite, have a see, see that this Living Bread can feed you and that He is good. There is food that feeds you, but it does not taste very nice. But this food is good. Jesus is the Living Bread and how tasty that bread is! It is time that you taste it and see. And when you have tasted it, my, your appetite is going to come. You see some Christians so much on fire for Jesus - what is the matter with them? Why should they be on fire and you are not on fire? Is it because they had a dream? No, it is because they have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. That is why. The more you taste, the more you know that He is good. And so, taste of this bread that you can have and see, and my, your appetite is going to come. Experience what Jesus can do for you!
So let us, everyone who is here today, receive Him into the innermost depths of our being, so that there we may draw from Him life and strength, that we may taste and experience for ourselves how good God is.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church