How long since you last ate something? Or drank something? Anything? How long before you’ll eat or drink again? For all of us, some bread and wine is on the menu within the next few minutes. After that, a tea or a coffee, a biscuit. Maybe home and have a snack before bed. Then up for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks in between, deserts, coffees, a biscuit here, a piece of fruit there. How long are we ever awake and not eating?
Hunger is written into our humanity – from Genesis chapter 1, humanity has been born hungry. Born needy. Born dependent on something ELSE to give us life. Every day we need food or we die. And every day we feel our hunger.
These days we don’t feel hungry for very long. We tend to graze don’t we? We’re never very far from food so we don’t often feel our hunger. And when we do we feed ourselves pretty quickly, but even that constant eating shows our dependence. Human beings are weak. Within a few hours without food we can become frail, lethargic, despairing… When my blood sugar’s low, the world is coming to an end. Emma has to tell me, “Don’t worry Henny Penny, the sky’s not falling you’re just hungry.” Just hungry. We’re all hungry, all the time. And our hunger preaches to us. It tells me, on an almost hourly basis: “Glen, you are NOT self-sufficient. You are NOT independent. You do NOT have any life in yourself. You have very limited reserves and if you don’t quickly replenish them, you will die.” LIFE must constantly come to us from OUTSIDE OURSELVES. We have no life within us, we are empty, needy, weak, dependent creatures who MUST RECEIVE or we die.
Some people try to resist this necessity. Have you heard of a small sect called the Breatharians? They believe they can exist without food, through learning secret techniques they claim they can live on air and light alone. Last year a 65 year old Seattle woman held out for 47 days without eating. She had only water and tea (which itself is cheating really, but still 47 days is hugely impressive). Nonetheless she was aiming for a one hundred day fast but she called it off after receiving what she called “a message from the universe that it was time to stop.”
A message from the rest of the world says “Don’t be so stupid! You cannot escape your need for food.” You cannot learn special techniques to generate your own sustenance. There are no special exercises or achievements or performances that give you life. You can’t earn life, you’ve got to RECEIVE it, from OUTSIDE yourself.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites got a powerful lesson in dependence. They were saved from slavery in Egypt, brought through the Red Sea miraculously and promised a land of milk and honey. But in between their freedom and their future they had to pass through a howling wasteland. Millions of grumbling Israelites had to survive in a desert with no earthly possibility for food. So what did God do? Did He teach them Breatharian methods so that their own spiritual techniques would get them through? Did He make them SELF-sustaining through their own religious practices?
No, God never wants us to be SELF-sustaining. He feeds His people with the Bread of Heaven. Manna in the wilderness. Every day the LORD supplied this food, like morning dew, it was freely available. It couldn’t be earnt. Even if you went out to gather lots and lots, you didn’t get more than anyone else. If you tried to store it up, it went off. If you went out on the Sabbath, you wouldn’t find any – God provided double on Fridays so that everyone could rest properly. This bread was a PURE GIFT. In NO SENSE was this bread earned. And a whole generation of Israelites REALLY learnt how desperately needy they were and how wonderfully generous God is….