Editor’s Note: If your New Year’s resolve is beginning to dissolve, Courtney’s post today reminds us why we need to be feasting on God’s word.
I like food. A lot. And, the truth is, I eat for a variety of reasons and in an assortment of ways. I eat because I’m hungry. I eat when I’m (pick an emotion) . . . sad, happy, angry, tired, frustrated. There are times I’m neither hungry nor emotional, but the food looks delicious—so I eat. Sometimes I eat because know I need the nourishment. The point is, I’m pretty consistent in making sure I have my three-squares a day. Outside of fasting, I haven’t gone without food for one single day in my entire life. And I like it that way. Because I really like food.
God likens his Word to food (Deut 8:3; Heb 5:12-13; Ps 119:103; Jer 15:16). So, the question I need to ask myself is, are the things I just said about physical food also true about God’s Word, my spiritual food? Do I like it? A lot? Do I let my hunger, my emotions, and my need for nourishment drive me to it? Is it appealing to me? Have I ever missed a day of being in the Word?
The answer to the last question is, of course I have. Sadly, I’ve gone through seasons of such spiritual malnourishment that, if we were talking about the intake of physical food instead of spiritual, I would have been dead. And that may be the point God wants me to grasp: I am to depend on, desire, and delight in his Word even more than I do my daily food.
Do I DEPEND on God’s Word?
The ancient Israelites spent forty years wandering in the desert. During those forty years, God sustained them with bread—miraculous, consistent, nourishing, sustaining, even delicious (Ex 16:31) bread. The bread was there every morning; their job was to get up and go get it. Can you imagine if they had chosen not to? Picture the excuses: not this morning, I’m too tired; it’s too cold to get out of bed right now; I’ll get it tomorrow; I shouldn’t have stayed up so late; I’m too busy . . .. By noon, their tummies would have been rumbling; by 5:00 pm, the headaches would have started; and by bedtime, they would have felt weak and cranky. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? I’m pretty sure that every Israelite made it a priority to get up and get their food for that day. Why? Because their lives depended on it.
According to Deuteronomy 8, the point of the manna was not only to sustain them, but also to help them understand their need for God’s Word:
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deut 8:3 ESV, emphasis mine).
At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses warned God’s people that the words he had given them were “no empty word . . . but your very life, and by this word you shall live” (Deut 32:47). Sadly, I fear most of us live as if God’s Word is an optional afternoon snack at best—it’s nice to have, but not necessary for life. Moses was saying that if we are to be alive spiritually, we need to be eating spiritually.
Do I DESIRE God’s Word?
The imagined excuses of the Israelites plague most us every day: not this morning, I’m too tired; it’s too cold to get out of bed right now; I’ll do it tomorrow; I’m too busy . . . and on and on we go. The reason we can’t imagine the Israelites actually using those excuses is because we know their desire for food was stronger than their excuses. If the excuses are winning in your life, the question you and I need to ask is how do I cultivate a hunger/desire for God’s Word that will be stronger than my excuses?
When I go through seasons of spiritual apathy, the first thing I do is pray and ask God to restore my hunger. Like he did with the Israelites, there are times that I need him to make me hungry. As I pray, I have found that spending time reading Psalm 119 is tremendously helpful. I let the truths about the Word of God create a desire for the Word of God. I have also found Isaiah 50:4-5 to be specific words that help combat the excuses:
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward (Isa 50:5 ESV).
When my alarm goes off and the excuses begin to tempt me, I remember the words, “I was not rebellious; I turned not backward.” I pray that I will not be rebellious and turn back into bed—but that I will get up. Part of what motivates me is found in verse 4, “that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.” The weary person in my day may be me, someone in my family, a friend, or a someone I run into in the grocery store. And I long to have something of spiritual substance to offer them. Not a piece of day (or week!) old bread, but fresh, warm, hot-out-of-the-oven kind of nourishment. And I will only have that if I am not rebellious, do not turn back, but get up and allow the living God to awaken me morning by morning.
Do I DELIGHT in God’s Word?
I have a friend who is a wonderful cook. I love being invited over to her place for a meal because I know it’s going to be delicious! As we sit down to eat, she prays and thanks God for things like garlic, cumin, sage, cinnamon, raspberries, blackberries, bacon, and scallions. She thanks him for taste buds that can savor and noses that can appreciate an aroma. Why? Because she delights in the abundance of God’s good foods.
Oh, that we would feel the same way about God’s Word! That we would sit before the abundance of the feast he has laid out for us in his Word and delight in its beauties and wonders. As the psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 proclaimed after he declared the goodness of God’s Word, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psa 119:103 ESV). Even Jeremiah, in the midst of suffering, declared, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts” (Jer 15:16 ESV).
Ultimately, Jesus declared that he was both the Word of God (John 1:1) and the Bread of Life (John 6:35; 48). My prayer for us this year is that our dependence on, desire for, and delight in Jesus would cause us to be ravishingly hungry for his Word.
About the Author:
Courtney Doctor is an author, Bible teacher, frequent conference and retreat speaker, and periodic blogger. She received an MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary in 2013 and is the author of From Garden to Glory: A Bible Study on the Bible’s Story (2016). Her greatest desire in all of this is to be able to faithfully study, apply, and teach the word of God. She has a love for education and currently serves on the advisory board for Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA. God has blessed Courtney and her husband, Craig, with four wonderful children, two amazing daughters-in-law, and their first grandson, Bo!