Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
As noted on here before, the Bible talks a lot about bread. With all this bread talk, surely there must be some meaning – and indeed there is. Bread has several connotations in the Word of God; from Gideon being compared to a round loaf of barley bread to Solomon saying that prostitutes will turn you into bread. Today though, the Holy Spirit wants you to know the greatest meaning of this staple food: Jesus. Let’s check out what the handling of bread in Scripture teaches us about our life in Christ.
I was reading through the (somewhat boring) opening of the book of Numbers when the Holy Spirit pointed out something curious. While listing the roles that the varied Levite clans had in the Tent of Meeting’s transport, the Lord instructed the Kohathites,
Over the table of the Presence they are to spread a blue cloth and put it on the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings; the bread that is continually there is to remain on it. Over these they are to spread a scarlet cloth, cover that with hides of sea cows and put its poles in place (Numbers 4:7-8).
These seem like innocuous enough instructions, but notice that even during times of moving the bread is supposed to stay on the table. Alright, before we open up all the meanings, let’s get some background going into this. The Tent of Meeting was the mobile precursor to the Temple. Along with this, our bodies are said to represent the Temple. We can read that in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20;
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Our bodies are mobile, so theoretically they are even closer to the Tent of Meeting than they are to the actual temple. Now, when we come to Christ, he enters into us and lives in us and through us; as it is written, “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). The Lord living within believers is found all over the New Testament; Paul mentions it also in Philippians 2:12-13,
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Jesus also taught about this concept. Scripture records,
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17).
And a few verses later he explains it again by saying, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). Just as the bread is to remain in the Tent even when it is not in service, we should keep Christ in our hearts even when we’re not in church. God isn’t looking for Sunday-only Christians, but people who follow Christ every day of their lives; no matter what the situation might be.
There’s more to be learned from the bread of Presence though. To understand this one, we go to the time right before David became king. David and his crew were on the run from King Saul and they were hungry. So David went to the priest and said,
“Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”
But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here – provided the men have kept themselves from women” (1 Samuel 21:3-4).
David’s men were hungry, so the priest gave them the bread. History records,
So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away (1 Samuel 21:6).
This story has two messages in it. The first is that the priests were supposed to keep the bread of the Presence fresh. That means we need to keep our relationship with Christ fresh (as he is living in us). This can be done in different ways. Of course the most obvious one is going to church. Hebrews 10:25 reminds us, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” At church you can hear the Word of God, which is important because the Bible tells us “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Aside from church though, you can also keep refreshing your relationship with Christ by reading the Bible. You’d think reading the Bible every day would get boring, but after years of doing it I can tell you that it is never the same twice- sure, some stuff you’ll remember from read through to read through; but most of the time the Scriptures seem to change and you see them in different ways because the Bible isn’t just some book but God’s word. And according to the Bible,
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
What that means is that as you grow and have new life experiences, the Bible grows with you; so passages you may have passed over before take on new significance as you continue in your walk with Christ. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, both infusing the words of the Bible and living in you and helping you as you read those words. I highly recommend keeping your faith fresh through daily Bible reading- it doesn’t have to be much, just a chapter or two a day (or however much you feel the Lord wants you cover). Also, to keep your bread fresh you should pray all the time – literally; Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” The Lord made humanity to have a relationship with him, and no relationship stays fresh if its members aren’t talking to each other- so pray about anything and everything.
In the passage, the priest gave David and his crew some old bread. This would be the equivalent of you telling someone something you heard in last week’s sermon because you feel it applies to their life; which leads us into the second lesson. The priest gladly gave the bread to David and his crew. Jesus noted,
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread – which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests (Matthew 12:3-4).
You see, that bread was only for the priests. Likewise, God only gives his word to his servants; as it is written,
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir to all things, and through whom he made the universe (Hebrews 1:1-2).
However, at the same time we are tasked with spreading the Word to others; after all, it is written, “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation’” (Mark 16:15). And again, in Matthew 28:19-20 it says,
Therefore go and made disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).
So just as the priest gave the sacred word to David and his team we are to give the sacred word to those around us.
As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:7-8).
Not all of us share God’s glory to others the same way. It’s not just preaching; as the passage above shows, Jesus gives many ideas for how we can help people. Paul expands on this by writing,
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully (Romans 12:6-8).
The Lord gives gifts to those who trust in him and he also tasks those people to use said gifts in the service of others. Or, as it is written, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). And the Lord knows how much we need in order to serve others; for it is written, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (Ephesians 4:7). Now this is where it gets really cool, because you never have to worry about your gift running out. The Bible says of the manna in the desert, “And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed” (Exodus 16:18). The more you need, the more you’ll get. And we are ok picking out a manna reference from the Old Testament because Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). Manna was the bread from heaven, so both the bread of the Presence and the manna represent the Lord.
Keep your bread fresh and be willing to give to all who are hungry, spiritually or otherwise (depending on how you’ve been gifted). Paul also wrote,
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
And now I will show you the most excellent way.
If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 12:29-13:1).
We are to seek out new ways to help people (and pray for more gifts from the Lord to do so); and on all of that we should slather everything we do in love- because that is the greatest gift and the most important one of all. And through it all never, ever, let your bread leave the table of your heart. As it is written, “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (Psalms 105:4).