Today, I want us to talk about bread, and what it means to hunger for God. Many of us have uttered that famous line in the Lord’s prayer – “Give us this day our daily bread,” but if you’re anything like me, you probably haven’t stopped and taken this to heart. There’s a reality behind this prayer, and it’s this: When we’re hungering for God first and foremost, then we can trust Him for our daily bread.
Now, bread also plays a huge role in the Bible’s wilderness stories, something we’re focusing on during Lent (which you can read about here). Lent is a time we remember the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. It also mirrors the 40 years Israel spent in the wilderness.
As we spend the next three weeks focusing on Israel’s story, and lessons the Israelites learned in the wilderness, let’s expect that God has something to teach us as well. Then, we’ll spend three weeks on Jesus’ wilderness story as we ready ourselves for Easter.
For today, we’ll start in Exodus 16, where Israel will teach us our first lesson about hungering for God in this wilderness season.
It’s a time where we can learn about how God wants to shape our hearts.
So together, as women of God, let’s allow Him to develop an insatiable hunger in our hearts for Him alone.
Hungering, but not for God
Before we get to Israel’s story, let’s talk for a moment about what we fill our hearts with, the hungers we’re trying to feed. It’s a deep matter of the heart, but I find it manifests itself in the small moments of life.
Here’s how I fill my heart when I’m hungering for something other than God.
When my husband and I fight, we don’t stand and yell at each other. It’s usually a heated silence rather than heated words. And when I’m struggling to find words to express how I feel, I have a terrible habit of reaching for my phone.
We’ll be sitting across from one another, and to avoid looking in my husband’s hurt and disappointed eyes, I’ll look into the screen of my iPhone instead.
It’s a small decision I make, but it certainly is revealing of what I’m hungering for other than God.
I desire something I can control, something that will distract me from the depths of my pain. Screens are good at that, aren’t they?
In those moments when I reach for my phone, I’m choosing to fill my heart with a self-bent desire to avoid pain rather than confront it.
And the more I choose to do the latter rather than the former, the more my heart learns what it means to love, truly, as God desires.
It’s in these small moments that, like Israel, we reach for things other than God to satisfy our hearts. But we’ll learn together that in these moments, God is shaping our hearts to hunger for Him.
Hungering for Bread... and God
Throughout February we followed Israel from their life of bondage in Egypt, to freedom by God’s hand in the wilderness. Now, we stand with them at the edge of that wilderness. And because we learned last week that God uses wilderness seasons to shape our hearts, that’s how we’ll begin looking at the story today.
Where does Israel’s heart stand as they head into the wilderness?
Hungering for God, or something else?
And in turn, we’ll ask ourselves the same questions.
If you need a reminder of all that’s shaped Israel thus far, head over to read the posts from February.
Hungering for Bread, but not really God
Standing at the edge of the wilderness, Israel suddenly realizes a pretty major fact:
And we can’t blame them. They’ve been through a major ordeal, being freed from slavery and all. Now, desperate for food, they cry out to Moses.
Exodus 16:3 gives us an intense description of their complaint, saying,
“Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Israel wasn’t holding anything back.
They’re saying they would’ve preferred to die in bondage with full bellies, than be hungry and live in freedom. Their basic need for food revealed something about Israel’s hearts.
They wanted to go back to what’s familiar.
It’s a self-bent desire, something we all struggle with in the innermost part of us – our heart.
So before we judge Israel for this dramatic reveal of their hearts, let’s remember:
We’re not that different from them.
We’ll find that out later.
Developing a Hunger for God First
At the beginning of Israel’s wilderness journey, we know they’re hungry. And we know they’d rather go back to slavery than be free with God where…. Well, they’re hungry.
So, now the question is, how does God want to shape Israel’s hearts through this?
We learned last week that God uses the wilderness seasons to shape the hearts of His people… so what is God shaping Israel’s heart toward here?
And how will He do this?
By not only providing for their physical hunger, but showing them an even deeper hunger.
Before He gives bread, God will provide Himself.
Developing a Hunger for God through Bread
After going back and forth with Israel, Moses calls them to draw near, and to look. And in Exodus 16:10, this is what Israel sees,
“they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.”
Can you imagine? God’s own presence right before your eyes?
God is showing Israel that He’s with them in this wilderness.
Then, after giving Israel Himself, God tells Moses Israel will receive the food they’ve been hungering for.
Why this series of events?
God tells them in Exodus 16:12, “Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.”
You see, God fulfills Israel’s need by teaching them what it means to hunger, but for more than food. God gives them their daily bread, as Jesus talks about in Matthew 6. But this is about more than filling Israel’s stomachs.
It’s about having an insatiable hunger for God.
After 430 years in Egypt, Israel’s hearts don’t yet know how to hunger for God. But God is patient, and the wilderness will bring many opportunities to learn.
Are you hungering for God?
Now, let’s talk about us today. As we enter this Lenten season, I’ve got a question for you:
- What are you hungry for?
Israel was hungry for bread. But if bread was all they needed, they had that back in Egypt.
So why did God bring them to the wilderness? Well, they were right about being hungry. Physically, their stomachs were empty. But satiating that physical need wasn’t all Israel needed.
They needed something deeper than meeting basic needs. That’s why God freed them. In Egypt, they had roofs over their heads, meat in their pots and bread in their mouths.
But it wasn’t enough.
So, I’ll ask you again:
- What are you hungry for?
But, perhaps it’s better phrased this way:
- Where do you go to fill your heart?
Honestly answering this question, if we’re able, reveals to all of us what hunger we’re trying to feed.
Is it a hunger for God? Or something else?
Israel wanted to go back to Egypt – to fill their stomachs, yes. But they also wanted their hearts filled with the familiar – Egypt. At least there they knew what to expect.
But in the wilderness?
This is new territory, for us and for them.
Today, I want to leave you meditating on what you fill your heart with besides God. And I want you to do that by thinking about the small moments in your life.
When you’re stressed at work, what do you reach for during your 10 minute break? Social media?
Or how about when you’ve had a long day mediating drama in your family – do you zone out in front of the TV?
There are many hungers which are easier to fill than our hunger for God.
Our hearts are constantly longing for familiarity, for self, for the things of the world.
But when we make the decision to walk through wilderness seasons with God, we can learn to hunger for God above all else. And we learn this through the small moments, the small choices we make.
- Will we allow God to shape our hearts to hunger for Him?
- Or will we stubbornly desire the old, familiar things, longing to go back to our Egypt?
The choice is ours.
I know today has been heavy. At the start of Lent, we said we would challenge you. The wilderness seasons are not leisurely walks.
We take these matters of the heart seriously.
Because we know how easy it can be to fill our hungers with anything but God. And we’ve experienced how those decisions led to death, rather than the meaningful life God desires for us.
So we pray you’ll approach your hungers honestly and with an open heart. Ask God to open your eyes to what you’re filling your heart with, what you’re hungering for.
Dear woman, God is also with you today. He deeply desires to walk with you through this wilderness.
Walk with Him.
Learn to hunger for God.
We’ll talk more on Friday about how all of this relates to Lent, and how we can allow God to shape our hearts through fasting.
remember this call from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, that Moses gave to Israel after their time in the wilderness,
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”