Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
I love the smell of fresh baked bread! I love making bread. There is a big reason that this occurrence happens often in my home now that I am retired from teaching full time. It is the aroma that prompts pleasant memories of waking up on the farm to that fresh baked smell while spending nights with Grandpa and Grandma Lacquement. She was a great bread maker. Because they had milk cows, she also made her own butter to go on that bread. Being a devout believer, she gave thanks for that bread.
She also gave away much of her bread to family members and others who loved to remember what “homemade” tastes like. It is the good memories of our childhood that make us smile when we are older as we miss the ones who loved us unconditionally pass from this life to the next.
What if you are an orphan whose only memory is hunger? During the bomb raids of World War 2, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. Some were rescued and placed in refugee camps. But, even though they now had food and care, many of these children could not sleep at night.
They were afraid of waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally someone hit upon the idea of
giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime.
Holding their bread, these children could finally rest. The bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow”. Holding the bread they could say, “Today I ate,
and I will eat again tomorrow.”
Most of us do not need to hold a piece of bread in our hands at night, to rest assured that we will be able to eat tomorrow. Most of us cannot fathom what it’s like to be a refugee in the time of war.
In our world there are people desperate for food, who go to bed hungry each night…There are also people who have plenty of food on their tables, but who feel just as hungry;
they feel empty in a different way.
Sometimes these groups don’t understand each other…
The rich say to the poor, “How can you still be hungry? There is more than enough food for everyone in the world!”
The poor say to the rich “How can you still be hungry?
You have so much already.” The Israelites are refugees in the wilderness. They know what it is to be hungry. They start to complain…all of them at once. The reading from Exodus says that the “whole congregation” begins to complain that there is no bread.
God hears their cries and promises them bread – manna raining down from heaven – every night. All they need to do is gather up enough for one day, one day only, and wait for God to provide the next day. But they can’t do it.
Like the children in WWII they are afraid that there won’t be enough so they hold onto the bread – more than they need for the day, just in case, just so they can sleep.
When Jesus crosses over the Sea of Galilee into Capernaum, the crowds who follow him shouldn’t have been hungry. He’d just fed over 5000 of them with the bread and fish and there had been leftovers!
But they too are afraid. They want more – more physical food, just in case, just so they can sleep. Jesus looks at them with their hands out for bread, and I think he’s disappointed. There’s no doubt that Jesus wants those who are hungry to be fed. For those who are physically hungry, he wants their stomachs to be filled. But now he’s confronted by people who aren’t hungry for physical food, their needs are spiritual – and he wants them filled too.
“Don’t you understand?” he says.
Yesterday’s bread goes stale; it gets moldy. Don’t set yourselves on that kind of food. Now that your basic needs are met, now that there is physical food in your body, here’s your chance to search for soul food. Look for the food that can satisfy that inner part of you which you know is longing for something more, something deeper, something more meaningful.
The people ask Jesus, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
And Jesus responds, “I am that bread. I am the bread of life.”
We eat some of that Jesus bread every time we come to the Lord’s Table “in remembrance” of what He did for us to save us all from our own sins. But as it disappears into our bellies and becomes part of us, sometimes we forget that it’s there.
Jesus’ bread can satisfy. Forever. We can be assured that we can daily go to Him and hear Him speak to us through His Holy Spirit and God’s Word. We will never go “hungry” spiritually unless we decide we don’t need Him. I can’t imagine not getting my fill of Jesus bread each morning before I begin my journey living on this earth.
The Psalmist brings to mind all of the benefits of God “I took the world off your shoulders, freed you from a life of hard labor. You called to me in your pain; I got you out of a bad place. I answered you from where the thunder hides, I proved you at Meribah Fountain.”
He ends with foretelling the Bread of Life, Jesus, who will come and fill us. “You’ll feast on my fresh-baked bread spread with butter and rock-pure honey.” (See God like home-made bread, too!) God knows what we need. We need a Savior.
Psalm 81, The Message
An Asaph Psalm
1-5 A song to our strong God!
a shout to the God of Jacob!
Anthems from the choir, music from the band,
sweet sounds from lute and harp,
Trumpets and trombones and horns:
it’s festival day, a feast to God!
A day decreed by God,
solemnly ordered by the God of Jacob.
He commanded Joseph to keep this day
so we’d never forget what he did in Egypt.
I hear this most gentle whisper from One
I never guessed would speak to me:
6-7 “I took the world off your shoulders,
freed you from a life of hard labor.
You called to me in your pain;
I got you out of a bad place.
I answered you from where the thunder hides,
I proved you at Meribah Fountain.
8-10 “Listen, dear ones—get this straight;
O Israel, don’t take this lightly.
Don’t take up with strange gods,
don’t worship the latest in gods.
I’m God, your God, the very God
who rescued you from doom in Egypt,
Then fed you all you could eat,
filled your hungry stomachs.
11-12 “But my people didn’t listen,
Israel paid no attention;
So I let go of the reins and told them, ‘Run!
Do it your own way!’
13-16 “Oh, dear people, will you listen to me now?
Israel, will you follow my map?
I’ll make short work of your enemies,
give your foes the back of my hand.
I’ll send the God-haters cringing like dogs,
never to be heard from again.
You’ll feast on my fresh-baked bread
spread with butter and rock-pure honey.”
SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT…
Think about how you might “hold onto Bread” as you go out into the world this week. Just as the fragrance of my grandma’s bread catapults my memories of love, may the memories of the love of Christ and our behavior be a fragrant offering back to God and others!
May even the sight as well as the smell of bread, gluten free or not, be a strong reminder of the “Bread of Life”, Jesus, that fills our hungry spiritual souls to the brim.
HEART CHECK: What difference might it make in you?
Maybe like the children in the WW2 refugee camp, you’ll find that holding on to this Bread makes you less fearful.
Maybe you’ll find that holding this Bread helps you be more forgiving to others. Maybe you’ll find that holding this Bread makes you more thankful for what you have. Maybe you’ll find that holding onto the Bread of Life helps you to be more generous.
Jesus feeds us with His bread. The bread of life brings peace, forgiveness, gratitude, generosity…soul food.
“Take and eat; this is my Body…given for you. –Jesus
So these are the thoughts that come to mind as we read our next prayer of honest and praise to One and Only who longs for us to remember all that He as done, is doing and will do in our lives. He is the great I AM. He is God and we are not.
“I’m Yahweh, your God, the very God who rescued you from doom in Egypt, Then fed you all you could eat, filled your hungry stomachs.”
God provides our Daily Manna, Jesus. Jesus is our Bread of Life who forever fills us. We will never go hungry in our souls.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for saving our souls. Thank for a daily filling from You, our Savior and Lord. Thank you for physical provisions that remind us of your love, care and blessings. Thank you for all you have done, are doing, and will do in our lives with your daily manna. Continue to feed our souls, make us whole and holy and send us to tell others about you. I will cling to You, dear Jesus, my Bread of Life! But I will also share You with others.
In Jesus Name, Amen