Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Sustenance - Genesis 1:11-13, 29-30

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day. Genesis 1:11-13

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. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. Genesis 1:29-30

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים תַּֽדְשֵׁ֤א הָאָ֨רֶץ֙ דֶּ֔שֶׁא עֵ֚שֶׂב מַזְרִ֣יעַ זֶ֔רַע עֵ֣ץ פְּרִ֞י עֹ֤שֶׂה פְּרִי֙ לְמִינ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעוֹ־ב֖וֹ עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃ וַתּוֹצֵ֨א הָאָ֜רֶץ דֶּ֠שֶׁא עֵ֣שֶׂב מַזְרִ֤יעַ זֶ֨רַע֙ לְמִינֵ֔הוּ וְעֵ֧ץ עֹֽשֶׂה־פְּרִ֛י אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעוֹ־ב֖וֹ לְמִינֵ֑הוּ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃ וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם שְׁלִישִֽׁי׃ פ

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים הִנֵּה֩ נָתַ֨תִּי לָכֶ֜ם אֶת־כָּל־עֵ֣שֶׂב ׀ זֹרֵ֣עַ זֶ֗רַע אֲשֶׁר֙ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י כָל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְאֶת־כָּל־הָעֵ֛ץ אֲשֶׁר־בּ֥וֹ פְרִי־עֵ֖ץ זֹרֵ֣עַ זָ֑רַע לָכֶ֥ם יִֽהְיֶ֖ה לְאָכְלָֽה׃ וּֽלְכָל־חַיַּ֣ת הָ֠אָרֶץ וּלְכָל־ע֨וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֜יִם וּלְכֹ֣ל ׀ רוֹמֵ֣שׂ עַל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ֙ נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֔ה אֶת־כָּל־יֶ֥רֶק עֵ֖שֶׂב לְאָכְלָ֑ה וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃ 

On the second half of the third day of creation, God made the plants, trees, and other vegetation. Then, on the sixth day, He gave them to people and animals as food.

When God created the cycle of nourishment on the earth, He did so with a purpose in mind. Theoretically, God could have made a static system, in which His creatures are born with all they need inside of themselves, and they recycle the nutrients within their own bodies, never needing more.

However, God chose to build in us a constant need for more nutrients. Every day of our lives from birth till death, we are all dependent on outside sustenance. But, this physical hunger is actually a gift from God, on several different levels.

FIRST, food is enjoyable. I love good food. My wife is a great cook, and I always look forward to our family dinner, whether it's lasagna, burritos, home-made pizza, hamburgers, roast chicken and potatoes... the list could go on and on. And don't get me started on dessert!

God has given us food as a part of the regular enjoyment of life that we are meant to partake of each day. While the act of eating can become part of unhealthy behaviors, God's desire is for us to daily enjoy the sustenance that He has provided for us in this world. True enjoyment of food results in thankfulness to God, as Psalm 107:8-9 says:
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
 for he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.
SECOND, our constant need for food is meant to be a metaphor, a picture of our constant need for God. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the Israelites how God provided them with food in the desert:
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors 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. Deut 8:3
Our physical hunger shows our physical dependency, and humbles us; it proves our constant need for sustenance from outside of ourselves. In the same way, we are completely spiritually dependent on God for spiritual sustenance. It is not just a trite comment people say in church - we daily need spiritual sustenance from God's Word.

Imagine two armies getting ready for battle: one is well-fed with plenty of provisions, and the other hasn't eaten in a week. Which one will win?

My fight against pornography is a spiritual battle. Jesus taught us by example that in our fight against temptation, we cannot succeed without the sustenance of God's Word:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matt 4:1-4
In this passage, Jesus successfully defends Himself from the devil's temptation by quoting the same Scripture we saw in Deuteronomy above.

In my life, the hardest disciplines to maintain have always been the spiritual disciplines of daily prayer and reading God's Word. But, how can I possibly resist in a moment of temptation if I don't have constant spiritual sustenance? I won't stand a chance. My struggle against pornography is a spiritual fight, and I need spiritual sustenance to have strength for the fight.

THIRD, the right food brings health to the body. As a teenager and young man, I would eat almost anything. As I've grown older, I've learned that many food companies don't actually have my health in mind, they are more interested in their financial success. So, I'm learning more and more about which foods help my body to stay healthy, and which foods help me to feel the best and be most productive.

Pornography is like eating the worst junk food you can buy. It has shiny packaging, but is full of poisonous and cancer-causing ingredients that ruin our spiritual, mental, and social health. Porn rots our souls from the inside out.

The old adage is certainly true: "whatever you feed grows." Consuming pornography twists our thoughts and desires, and the more we snack on it, the more twisted and unhealthy we become.

In comparison, the healthy spiritual sustenance of God's Word can untangle the mess in our minds and hearts, and bring health, peace and lasting satisfaction to our souls. But it may take some time - just reading the Bible for one week does not undo the power of pornography in a person's life. However, daily reading allows God's Word to slowly and steadily renew my mind, refocus my thoughts, and re-align my desires.

TO SUM UP: our daily physical hunger is a picture of our continuous need for spiritual sustenance from God. We need to feed on His Word for spiritual strength in our fight against pornography, as well as for renewal and health in our souls. Will I allow myself to be humbled, and recognize my own dependence, my deep spiritual hunger for God? And will I build daily routines into my life to receive that spiritual sustenance?

[Lately, some of my favorite ways to consistently take in God's Word include using a daily reading plan, and listening to Bible teaching podcasts, such as those by Tim Keller or Brian Brodersen.]

God gave us the gift of physical hunger to remind us of our daily spiritual hunger, our constant need for spiritual sustenance from Him.

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