THE UNIVERSAL TOOL Based on Gen. 43:24-34
By Pastor Glenn Pease
Life revolves around eating, for where there is no eating there is no life. Our vacation made us all the more aware of this obvious truth, for everyday we had to make decisions about where we would eat. In Fort Lauderdale where we stayed there is a place to eat every few feet, and along the ocean there is one expensive place after another where people can eat while watching the ocean.
It is beyond my ability to conceive the massive amounts of food that are eaten daily in the huge hotels that line the beaches. Conrad Hilton of Hilton hotel fame tells of the stock of food needed each day in the famous Stevens Hotel in Chicago many years ago. He writes in his autobiography Be My Guest, “To feed the population of the Stevens on an average good day takes 1000 pounds of butter, 1000 dozens eggs, the meat of ten steers, and 1000 pounds of pork. We drink 700 gallons of coffee and possess a mechanical dishwasher that would clean the debris at a top speed of 193,000 pieces of silver and china per hour.”
I share this just to give you an impression of the massive amounts of food that people eat in hotels. We were light eaters, for as soon as it got light we started to eat. Not really! But the fact is, while on vacation you tend to eat more than you do in your routine pattern of life. Everywhere you go that is special and fun there is an abundance of food that is appealing and expensive, and people are eating it like pigs at the tough. The point of all this is that eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and it is the one most frequently enjoyed. It plays a major role in God’s plan for man.
These chapters of Genesis dealing with Jacob and Joseph and his brothers all revolve around food and eating. Famine had gripped the world and Joseph has become the savior of the world by his plan to store food during the good years. The economy of the world and the plan of God for His people all revolved around food. Our text here in Gen. 43 is all about food and eating, and this motivated me to call to your attention just how important this subject is in the Word of God.
Eating is really for the birds. They need to eat at least half of their own weight each day to survive. Young birds need even more. This means your average size robin needs 14 feet of worms a day. When Lavonne and I lived in the country we learned by observation that cows are pretty much just eating machines. We would go into town in the morning and cows would all be in the fields eating, and 8 to 10 hours later we would return and there they were still eating. They lived to eat and their destiny is to be eaten.
Eating, of course, is the basis for all of life. Without food all life would cease, and so though we do not eat all day, nor do we eat half our weight each day, it is still a vital part of our existence. The interesting thing about this most common behavior of life is how often it is related to the plan of God. Half of the 5th chapter of Mark is about the miracle of raising up the daughter of Jairus. The tension was enormous. This synagogue ruler’s house was full of people crying and wailing. Jesus had to clear them all out, and then He took the mother and father with Peter, James and John into the room of the 12 year old girl. Jesus astonished them by saying to her, “Little girl get up!” She stood up alive, and the story ends with Jesus saying these words, “Give her something to eat.”
Jesus had just performed one of His greatest miracles. He raised a person from the dead. Only a hand full of people in all of history have had this unique experience. But the first thing Jesus says in this glorious context of supernatural power is, give her something to eat. Miracles can bring you back from the dead, but they don’t feed you. Even the miracles of feeding 5000 was not a feeding by miracle. It was a providing of the food to feed the 5000. They still had to put it in their mouth, chew, and swallow, or the miracle would have been in vain. The point is, Jesus linked the supernatural and natural together as vital partners in life.
Anybody who tries to be so spiritual that they reject the natural is just as foolish as those who so depend on the natural that they reject the supernatural. Both are of God, and Jesus honored both and used both, and so must we to be wise and Christ like. Miracles don’t feed the body and keep it in operation in a healthy manner, and eating right cannot raise the dead. Neither one takes the place of the other. To push such a basic activity like eating off into a category we call natural or secular, and pretend it has no baring on the spiritual life and God’s plan for history is to be blind to the revelation God has given us in His Word. Food was the key to the salvation of God’s people, and all of the spiritual results, which includes the coming of the Bread of Life.
Joseph expressed his spiritual affection toward Benjamin by giving him 5 times as much food as the rest of the brothers. This was excessive obviously, for no one can eat 5 times more than all you can eat. It was a feast, but Benjamin was honored with abundance beyond anyone’s ability to eat. Keep in mind that these men had been rationing food, for they were running low, and had not been doing a lot of feasting for the last two years. This was a feast they would never forget. We are not told about the entertainment they likely enjoyed, but only about the lavish spread.
Dorothy Berliner, the celebrated pianist, arranged a recital by her youngest students. At its conclusion, a repast of ice cream and home-made layer cake and brownies was served. One young musician had brought her little brother as a guest. When they were leaving, Miss Berliner asked, “Well, Fenimore, did you enjoy the recital?” “You bet,” answered Fenimore. “That is, all but the music.”
The food was his highlight, and so it seems is the case here with Joseph and his brothers who are eating under the same roof for the first time in 2 decades.
They are eating things they likely have never eaten before, for Egypt was the trading center now with all the world, and they had foods from all over the world. We see this in verse 11 where Jacob says to his sons to take gifts. They were to take the best products of the land to Egypt, and it lists these foods: Honey, spices, pistachio nuts and almonds. People from each nation would be doing this, and so there would be foods from everywhere. It had to be one of the most varied and extravagant meals every experienced in the ancient world.
Such food extravaganzas have gone on in our modern world too. There are foods most of us will never even see let alone taste. At the gala dinner of the prestigious Explorers Club, held annually in the posh Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, they have such delicacies as braised filets of python, thin squares of zebra brisket, small slices of steamed rump meat of the goat-like Himalayan taahr, kangaroo tail, pickled shark fin, cocktail crackers smeared with caviar from the white sturgeon of the Black Sea, tiny sausages of armadillo meat, Aleutian salmon liver with tundra berries, fried Katanga termites, spruce-bark bread, stuffed Liberian breadfruit, mashed cactus pears, and cubes of meat from an extinct mastodon that was fresh frozen more than 10 thousand years ago in the arctic tundra but defrosted recently. Not exactly your average daily menu.
Joseph was treating his brothers to a banquet that was like this. It was totally unique for them. Shepherds were despised by the Egyptians, and so they never would have even gotten into an Egyptian dinning room, let alone be served such a lavish feast. They did have to be separated from the Egyptians, but they were not denied any of the abundance. All of this is a picture of God’s people at the marriage feast of the Lamb that begins eternity. Jesus as our brother is exalted to the level of Lord of all, and He invites us who love Him to join Him in a feast to celebrate His victory over all evil. All who are a part of that victory are His family and bride. It is beyond our wildest dream what will be at that feast.
It is impossible to speculate on just what eternal feasting will consist of, for the more you study the gourmet eating of history the more you realize your speculation about heaven could fall short of what men have enjoyed even in time. In Colonial America, for example, there was a Virginia dish called presence of foul. It consisted of a dove inserted into a partridge, the partridge into a guinea hen, the guinea hen into a duck, the duck into a capon, the capon into a goose, and the goose into a peacock or turkey, and the entire extravaganza cut for serving into transverse sections.
Maybe something like that will be daily food in heaven. But maybe some of you are saying that all of this thinking about food is not very spiritual, and that it seems like a waste of time to focus on such a commonplace function of life. But let me remind you that we are to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God, and the Bible has more to say about food and the eating of it than almost any other subject. If you just look up the words eat, eating, and food alone you come to near 1000 verses of the Bible. If you think food is not an appropriate study, then you have to take you complaint to God, for He obviously feels it is.
Food is a subject every human being has in common, and it can be a bridge to relate to the non-Christian. Paul used food to bridge the gap in Lystra where the pagans were ready to worship them as gods. Paul points them to the living God of all creation. In Acts 14:17 he says of God, “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” God is the great food provider, and this is a link God has with all men. It is one that can enable us to witness to all men. This physical commonplace aspect of life can lead to the highest spiritual conversation about the Bread of Life-the Lord Jesus who can satisfy the hunger of the soul as well as that of the body.
Almost all of the great events and great truths of the Bible involve food and eating. One of the two ordinances Jesus left the church-the Lord’s Supper, is a time of remembering the greatest event of history. It is a focus on the cross and Christ’s death for the sins of the world. We remember this by eating bread and drinking the cup. Jesus knew that these commonplace events of eating and drinking would never go out of style as long as history lasted. Other rituals and traditions may change, but eating never will.
Jesus described the entire plan of salvation in terms of eating and drinking. He was the Lamb of God that was sacrificed for our sins. The edible parts of a sacrifice were grilled and boiled and eaten by the priests and the families that brought the sacrifice. Jesus was our Lamb, and He did not expect to be wasted, but to be consumed with pleasure. In John 6:51 Jesus said, “I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. If a man eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. You can sum this up with a proverb-you are what you eat. If you do not eat the bread of life, you are not heaven bound, for eternal life is in what you eat. In the garden of Eden it was in the tree of life, and if Adam and Eve could have eaten of that tree they would have lived forever. They were put out of the garden to deprive them of the food that led to eternal life.
Now Jesus comes and offers man another chance to eat his way into eternity. The only way into God’s eternal kingdom is by eating the right food. This sounds strange to us because we have never associated salvation and eating the way the Bible does. Listen to Jesus as He says in John 6:53-56, “Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” Not only is it true that you are what you eat, but Jesus says that you will be forever what you now eat. Your diet determines your destiny. The most spiritual and God pleasing aspect of you life is in how you eat, or what you eat.
This was a very offensive picture for Jews brought up under the law that forbid the eating of any meat with the blood still in it. Verse 60 says that many of His disciples said this is a hard teaching. Who can accept it? Jesus responds, “Does this offend you?” The answer is that it does, and we read, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” Jesus weeded out all of the superficial disciples by this radical teaching that they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood. We have to admit that it is rather grotesque in its imagery, but by it Jesus was linking eating and salvation as one. When a sacrifice was eaten it was a time of communion between God and man. It was God’s food that he was allowing man to eat with Him. It was God and man at the same table, and in Bible culture when you ate with someone you were companions for life.
The word companion means those who eat together. It comes from two words which are com meaning together, and panis meaning bread. Those who share bread together are companions. How much more those who share a special sacrificial meal? God and man at the same table eating the sacrifice that reconciles and makes them one. It is at the table that people are to make peace. It is one of the tragic realities of our day that families have lost the biblical significance of eating together. Studies show that families fight at the table and abuse one another. They make it a time to blame and scold, and it produces all kinds of emotional problems. The will of God is that the table be the place for love, joy, encouragement, and reconciliation. Food is to be the common ground on which people come together as one.
In Gen. 18 God and two of His angels come to Abraham and he prepares a meal for them. God and man eat at the table together, and God lets Abraham in on His special plans for them to have a baby, and for Sodom to be destroyed. Abraham was the friend of God, and God ate with him and gave him special insight into His plan. We can’t take the time to trace this subject all through the Bible, but when we come to the New Testament we see the story of the Prodigal Son ending with father and son at the table together feasting, for they are reconciled and are one again. Jesus says in Rev. 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” The very essence of salvation and being one with our Lord is found in eating with Him. He not only wants to be our Savior, but He wants to be our companion, and to be one who eats bread with us.
I have books on my shelves I have never read, and so though they are mine, in a very real sense I do not yet possess them. Only when I read them and let the author’s ideas come into me do I have any oneness with that author. We eat the same bread when I consume his ideas, and I eat him when I take in his words. Some of him becomes a part of me by this process. I am a part of all the authors I have consumed. Jesus is the Word who became flesh. As I give heed to the Word, and digest the Word, I take my Lord into my very being. I eat Him, and I share with Him the intimacy of His being. It is not just at communion that I eat His flesh and drink His blood. I do it in devotions. I do it in Bible study. I do it in mediation. I do it in prayer. I eat my Savior and eat with Him anytime I give my mind to the consideration of His Word.
You are only truly one with Jesus when you eat with Him. You are only truly one with anyone by means of eating with them. It was by means of food and eating that Joseph worked out reconciliation with his brothers, and it is by means of food and eating that we can accomplish the will of God in many relationships. It is the universal tool. It is the tool for witnessing to those outside the family of God. It is the tool for fellowship within the family. It is the tool for friendship and encouragement. It is a multi-faceted tool that we need to see as one of God’s great tools all through the Bible and history. It is a tool that we need to use more effectively. Paul put it in I Cor. 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Joseph did it, and so can we, if we become more conscious of the spiritual potential of this universal tool.
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