God uses simple and memorable analogies to help us understand His plan.
When I was a young boy, I would often hear the Lord’s Prayer recited, and I noted the request humans are to have of God: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:9-13). Food was important to me as a growing teenage boy.It is important to us all because it nourishes us and is necessary for life.
The word “bread” in the prayer struck a strong chord in my young mind because sometimes my mother would stay up late at night baking bread for our family. On those special nights, she would wait until we were all in bed. Dough requires a little time to rise before it is baked. One night, just about midnight, the fresh bread had just been baked and I came out of the bedroom. My mother cut me a slice of the best bread I have ever eaten with a pat of butter that melted right into it. Along with that hot slice came a cup of coffee. That was her reward to herself for a job well done. I do not think I ever missed getting up another night when she was going to bake bread. I could pretty well time the moment it came out of the oven since we had an old wood and coal burning stove and opening the doors or adding fuel made some noise. The bread needed just a little time to cool and then it was perfect. With fresh homemade bread, butter and a cup of coffee, life just did not have anything better to offer me at that time.
God uses memorable symbols
There are some themes in the Bible that God seems to have placed more emphasis on than others. He knows how our minds and our memories work. The theme of bread representing deeper concepts is used in a number of different ways in the Bible and the word has a number of meanings in scripture. When Jesus explained how to pray, He used the word to mean good physical and spiritual food and He was also conveying a deeper spiritual message about our daily bread. He used the word bread in reference to Himself when He said He was the “bread of life”(John 6:48).
Bread in the Bible can also refer to a meal. It is used to describe something special as in the “bread of affliction” as well (1 Kings 22:27). There is often much symbolism when bread is discussed in scripture.
When Israel left Egypt in haste, there was no time for the dough to rise for the daily bread they would usually bake. They ate unleavened bread at the beginning of their journey (Exodus 12:34). During the 40 years Israel wandered in the wilderness, God supplied them with daily bread (Exodus 16:4, 33). It was called “manna.” They were to eat it for a period of seven days during a season called the Days of Unleavened Breadby a statute that God gave them (Leviticus 23:6).
God did not originally intend to feed them manna every day for 40 years; He did not intend for Israel to wander in the dry and arid region of Sinai for 40 years. But because Israel continually defied God and disregarded His commandments, He was forced to punish them. His punishment was that nobody over the age of 20 would see the Promised Land and they would wander for 40 years until all those over that age would have died. During the trek,He would supply them with manna for each day even if they were not obedient to Him (Numbers 14:1-4, 27-34).
The command to eat unleavened bread this first annual Holy Day, was designed by God to be an everlasting command that is still in force today, long after those 40 years in the wilderness. Each year the observation reinforced the understanding God wanted to relay: that they were to be a pure, clean, undefiled people among all the nations of the earth. They were to be “unleavened.” In this case leavened bread was likened to having sin present or being like all others in the world.
Continued symbolism in the New Testament and for us today
When the Father sent His Son Jesus to be our sacrifice and Savior, the meaning of the manna and the days God gave were symbolic of what God was doing. Jesus died on the 14 th of Nisan on the Passover Day the day before the start of the Days of Unleavened Bread. He was the pure undefiled Passover Lamb. Israel had gathered a pot of manna and kept it inside the Ark in the Temple. There was great significance placed on that. Since the Ark was a replica of the Ark that is before God’s throne in heaven, we can easily see that Christ was the symbolic manna ofthat heavenly Ark (Hebrews 8:5, 9:4).
All sacrifices of grains that were brought before God during the period of time that the Levites were to be the acting priests, were to be unleavened (Leviticus 2:1-7, 11). When we come before God in prayer, we are also “unleavened” through Jesus’ sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Not all the members Paul wrote to in Corinth were acceptable to God – some were “puffed up” (1 Corinthians 4:18). Paul likens the “old leaven” to malice and wickedness and being “unleavened” to sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8). The decisions and actions in our lives show whether we are living in a manner that pleases God or in a manner that embarrasses Him.
Jesus referred to Himself as the “living bread” for a reason (John 6:51). All who wish to be saved must come to God through Jesus Christ. We are to symbolically eat His flesh and drink His blood whenever we take the Passover (Matthew 26:26-28). He said we are to symbolically eat His body that was broken for us (1 Corinthians 11:24). Each year at the Passover, unleavened bread is taken as the symbol of His sacrifice for us along with a little wine that represents His blood that was shed for our sins and payment of the penalty of sin for us. We are to be as closely bound to Christ as if we were one (John 17:21-23). The bread represents His body, and a converted person understands that Christ dwells within him. We are to walk according to His example every day.
Ask God for your daily bread
When Jesus said to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” there is both the physical and the spiritual intent of that prayer. We cannot live without physical food for nourishment and we also cannot live spiritually if we do not have Christ in our lives every day. To be the pure and undefiled people of God we have become “unleavened” through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (John 15:3-7). Just as bread is the staple of our everyday lives, so too, Christ is intended to be the daily staple of our spiritual lives. The dual lesson of needing bread to live physically and needing Christ to live spiritually is reinforced by the lesson of the Passover.
Israel did not learn the lessons God had planned for them and were left to wander until God decided it was time to work with them again. For converted people, the precious and high cost of the spiritual bread does not give anyone the option of leaving salvation until later. We dare not turn away from the gift of Jesus Christ once we have accepted it. Christ will not die a second time for anyone (Hebrews 10:26-29). Paul noted the words of Jesus on the night of His betrayal. Jesus said: “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24).
I loved my mother’s bread. It tasted good, it was healthy and good for me and I have always been thankful for the good feeling of family that it gave. Jesus told a group of Jewish followers that they should never hunger or thirst if they took the bread that represented Him (John 6:32-35). We are spiritually nourished with Christ in us just as we are physically nourished with good bread in us. His offering leads us to becoming part of the family of God (Galatians 3:26-28). God’s gift satisfies and makes our life better (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus said His yoke was light and easy and we would find rest for our souls.
To be part of the family of God is something that our dreams and imagination cannot grasp completely. Jesus used the lesson about bread to drive home the way of God so we can understand it. We are to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Jesus said those who did yearn to be close to God would be blessed because they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6). Remember to take Christ into your life every day. We need Him dwelling in us continually in order to live eternally. If we do so, we will never be hungry or thirsty again.
If you want to learn more about how the “bread of life” really lived, read our Bible study aid booklet Jesus Christ: The Real Story . For more information on the symbolism of bread in God’s holy days, see the Bible study aid God’s Holy Day Plan .