May 31, 2020
Biblical Studies

In the preface to Serves You Right: Loving Those We'd Rather Hate, I wrote about my first evening in Israel. Madeleine and I attended a performance of Handel's Messiah at the iconic YMCA on King David Street in Jerusalem. It was a benefit concert for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and during the intermission and after the concert they sold small handmade items. The proceeds went to assist these desperate people who had been driven from their homelands. We purchased several olive wood candle holders and started using them for our Shabbat (Sabbath) dinners every Friday evening.

Shabbat is not a legalistic ritual for us; rather, it is an intentional 24-hour stoppage of our routine to relax, contemplate and discuss the Scriptures (especially the paracha--the weekly Torah portion read by Jews around the world) and enjoy a special meal together. We started doing it at sundown on Friday evenings because that is when Sabbath starts in Jerusalem. We have continued this practice, and find it provides a rhythm to our lives that we treasure. As Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

This past Friday we sat down to observe the pre-dinner Shabbat custom of drinking the fruit of the vine and eating a morsel of bread sprinkled with a pinch of salt (very similar to the Lord's Table). After we prayed over each, I looked at the beautiful loaf of challah my wife had made (pictured above) and mentioned that I was thinking about how Jesus taught His disciples to pray:

". . . Give us this day our daily bread . . ." (Matt. 6:11).

Three things struck me about this simple request, and a fourth comes to mind as I write this. The first is the element of dependency it expresses with the phrase, "Give us." When we thank God for our food, we often voice our acknowledgement that every bite we put in our mouths is ultimately from Him. He sends the rain and sunshine; allows the earth to produce food; enables farmers to cultivate crops and nurture animals; gives us the resources to purchase our food at the market; allows us to prepare it and cook it safely and conveniently; and even makes our food delicious and infinitely varied. When we ask him to give us our daily bread, we admit our utter dependence on Him.

"This day" speaks of the immediacy of the request. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is not a given. But today--this day--I must rely on God to sustain me. I am as dependent on Him today as I was yesterday even if, sometime during the night, a rich uncle died and left me a fortune.

The word "daily" implies that sustainability is the third feature of this plea. We hear that term a lot these days, especially in the context of energy and food sources. It indicates the capacity to be maintained at an acceptable level. Although we might buy enough food for a week or so, we must still understand that God orchestrates our circumstances and even the provision of food is evidence of His steadfast love and faithfulness.

Finally, Jesus wanted His disciples to recognize the simplicity of their needs when he mentions bread. Bread is perhaps the most ubiquitous food on earth. Every culture eats bread of some kind. We enjoy bread, and when we travel we try regional breads whenever we can. We bake our own bread at home--I bake sourdough baguettes and country loaves, and Madeleine bakes foccacia, brioche, and saluf, the traditional Yemenite flatbread we learned to love in Israel. I recently introduced my wife to homemade corn tortillas, the traditional bread of Mexico and Central America. When I started making sourdough I learned that bread consists of four basic ingredients: flour, water, salt, and air--and salt is optional. The airborne mico-organisms cause the fermentation that allows the dough to rise. God uses flour and water to sustain people made from dirt.

When you eat your next meal, think of these four elements in that simple request, and remember Who is really feeding you.

Rob Heijermans

Rob Heijermans (rhymes with “fireman’s”) is a church planter and Bible teacher who has served with Biblical Ministries Worldwide since 1979. He is a 1977 graaduate (B.S. in Bible) of Lancaster Bible College. His travels have taken him to forty countries on four continents, including detailed research for this book in Israel. He has three married children and ten grandchildren. He and his wife, Madeleine, live in Ontario, Canada.

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