Former university professor of marketing and communications, Sallie is an independent publisher and marketing communications consultant.
As Christians, we are engaged in a struggle between physical temptations and spiritual contentment—all the time. This article takes a metaphorical look at the spiritual food groups of the Bible, including fish, bread, milk and honey, and fruit.
Even though all of God's children must eat to live, there is something we need for spiritual nourishment that is more important than food. The Word of God, including both the Old and New Testaments, is sprinkled liberally with references to what I am referring to in this Hub as the basic four spiritual food groups:
- Milk and honey
Don't worry, I'm not going to repeat every biblical reference to these concepts, but I am going to present many as I look at various recurring challenges you and I face in life that call for all the spiritual nourishment we can find.
Fish and/or the act of fishing is mentioned either directly or indirectly as a recurring theme in the Bible, especially in the New Testament. In Jeremiah 16:16, God’s Word says, “I will send many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them.” Jesus says, in Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17, to Simon (Peter) and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
When Jesus lived on earth, fishing was a main source of food and income. Since many of Jesus' followers were fishermen, He was able to communicate with them, effectively, using fishing as a metaphor as He recruited them to help Him reach and win souls (Luke 5:10) for God.
In Matthew 13:47, the Kingdom of Heaven is described as being similar to a net being cast into the sea, gathering all. But, when full, we're told the net will be drawn up on the beach where the good of the catch will be gathered into vessels, and the bad cast away.
As Christians, shouldn't we find joy in "casting our nets"? Shouldn't we gladly share our knowledge of and love for God, ministering and/or teaching others who want to discover and understand Holy Scripture through the ways of Christ? In our own ways, aren't we all fishers of people? Even though our nets come in empty often, shouldn't our hearts remain hopeful? Don't we cast our nets because we've all been there, needing to be fished? Now that God has fished us, and the Word has captured and convicted us, isn't it our duty and—most of all—our joy, to offer to others any help we can provide as they seek needed and/or longed for spiritual nurture?
Bread is the staff of life throughout the Old and the New Testaments. After disobeying God in the Garden of Eden, Adam (and thus all mankind) was made to need the physical nourishment of bread. God said to him in Genesis 3:19, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, til thou return unto the ground.” During times of famine, had it not been for the nourishment of bread, more people would have died. In Genesis 47:15, the Egyptians said to Joseph, “Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence?”
In fact, throughout the Bible, bread is presented as the difference between physical life and physical death. Still, God uses our hunger to teach us that even in the physical world, we cannot live by bread alone.
In Deuteronomy 8:3, we learn that, as human beings, we need more nourishment than the physical world can provide. Moses says, “and he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know, that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.”
Jesus has compassion for mankind, and is concerned about our physical hunger. When teaching His disciples how to pray, Jesus began with, "Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed by thy Name . . . Give us this day our daily bread." And not once, but twice, He fed the multitudes with bread and fish. He fed a crowd of 5,000 with five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15), and a crowd of 4,000 with seven loaves and a few small fish (Mark 8:1-9 and Matthew 15:32-39).
But, doesn't the Bible also teach that Jesus knows our spiritual hunger cannot be nourished or satisfied with bread that is found in the physical world? And, even though Moses fed the Children of Israel with manna (food) from heaven, don't we, as Christians, know that even that food was not the true "bread of life"? In John 6:22-40, doesn't Jesus tell us that He is "the bread of life," that only He can give eternal life, and that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life? Is it not the living Word of God that nourishes and sustains us? And isn't that the real reason why, as Christians, we have to continue to spread the news on earth that man cannot live by bread alone? Do we not all hunger and thirst, in our minds, bodies, and spirits, after righteousness that can only be satisfied by God, through Jesus Christ?
Milk and Honey
The combination of milk and honey is used often in the Bible to inspire people to desire, to dream, to strive and to work harder, to achieve and to produce more. Exodus 3:8 speaks of going “Unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” Numbers 13:27 promises “and surely it floweth with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it.”
Milk, by itself, is often used figuratively as a form of doctrinal nourishment. In 1 Peter 2:2, we're taught that, like newborn infants, we are to "long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation." In 1 Corinthians 3:2, we're shown how much more we have to learn. It says, "I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready." This is echoed in Hebrews 5:12, where it is written, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food." And, in Hebrews 5:13, "For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe."
Honey was a food staple, in the Bible, as was milk. John the Baptist lived on honey and locust (Mark 1: 6, Matt. 3: 4). After Christ rose from the dead, when He asked his disciples for food, they gave him fish and a honeycomb (Luke 24: 42), which He ate to show them he was real, and not a figment of their imagination. In many, many passages of the Bible, honey is spoken of as something of value to possess. It is shown as wholesome and nutritious, medicinal, as well as something that is sweet and delicious to taste.
Is it no wonder, then, that milk and honey together represent God's goodness, as well as physical and spiritual abundance? And doesn't God want us to understand, through His promises that a life lived more righteously, more "abundantly," is something we must strive for continually, and never take for granted? Isn't the Bible simply expressions of God's desire for us to become better and stronger spiritually, through His Word--as we are taught in 1 Peter 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby. If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious”? Aren't we born to learn, to love, to strive, and to live by His Word--to drink of His milk, and enjoy the sweetness of His authority over us as our Heavenly Father, so that we can grow and develop, ultimately, into spiritual adulthood?
Fruit is the last of the spiritual food groups that I'm going to discuss in this Hub. The Bible presents the concept of fruit, often, to demonstrate the positive yield that results from heeding the Word of God. Scripture teaches that God’s goodness can only yield good fruit. In Genesis 1:11-12, we're told, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth, and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
Genesis 1:28 teaches, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” In Deuteronomy 7:13, it is written, “And he will love thee and bless thee and multiply thee; he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.” And in Galatians 5:22, we're told, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
The Bible also teaches that disobedience to God’s Word causes good fruit to go bad. In Deuteronomy 11:17, God warns us “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods and worship them; and then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit, and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.” And, in Proverbs 1:29, it is written, “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore, shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them."
Wasn't our table set in Genesis 1 and 2, when God created our world and gave mankind our greatest purpose? And wasn't mankind's first act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden simply the fruit of unbelief? Wouldn't Adam and Eve's obedience have demonstrated the fruitfulness of faith? Finally, isn't it wonderful to know that because Jesus lived and died for our sins, we can cultivate and tend our own "fruit of the spirit" garden, knowing that from it will result goodness and understanding that will nourish our lives, forever?
© 2013 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD