Give us this day our daily bread
There’s a (hopefully) obvious double meaning to the word bread. Also a specific reason for the word daily.
But what’s not said – but certainly implied?
As in the previous verses, there’s much more to the Lord’s Prayer than just a bunch of words. There’s meaning behind those words. A meaning that we need to understand to really do what Jesus said before giving us these words – use this prayer as a guideline – not simply for what we must pray – but rather for understanding how we should pray.
Bread as bread – food that all humans need to survive
I Googled “how long can a person live without food?” The first answer that came back is this one, from www.businessinsider.com –
A human can go for more than three weeks without food (Mahatma Gandhi survived 21 days of complete starvation), but water is a different story.
Three weeks. That’s a lot long time.
That begs another question – how long can a person live eating only bread? Given that no one’s actually done a study on this – as far as I could find – the answer is somewhat vague. Apparently, eating only bread – with no water – will likely lead to death within 2 years. This is based on sailors in the “old” days, when they would eventually die of scurvy. The problem comes with the high salt content and low moisture content in the bread. Various issues coming from too much sodium in the body would eventually lead to a most unpleasant death.
Adding water to “diet” along with the bread could prolong life, as long as one drank enough water to flush out the sodium from the salt. Eventually a lack of needed nutrients would still lead to death.
This sets up one final question – how did the Israelites live so long on manna (something like bread) and water (and let’s not forget about the quail) when they were wandering in the desert? While there are differences of opinion as to exactly how long – it’s something the neighborhood of forty years. Certainly, this is well beyond the several years that could be expected on the bread and water diet. Clearly, there was something special in this manna.
As far as what it really was, people have come up with all sorts of theories as to what natural ingredients manna was made from. They range from insect scales to plant lice to plants. However – no matter what gets tossed out there as to the “source” of this manna, the one thing that would always cause an issue for “natural” phenomenon would be its appearance exactly when it was needed – and its disappearance when it was no longer needed. Add that to the fact that it apparently satisfied all nutritional requirements and we’ve got one heck of a mystery to solve, even by today’s standards. What single thing could you eat that wouldn’t cause some sort of problem with your metabolism?
Apparently, only special “bread” from God can be life sustaining on a long term basis.
Bread as spiritual food – all that we need to live forever
Some of you may think that Jesus was the first to talk about man not living by bread alone. Actually – here’s the first time it appears, from the NIV –
Do Not Forget the LORD
Dt 8:1 Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. 2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
Yes – that’s Moses talking. Sounds interesting. Even though the people lived in manna – they do not live on bread alone –
but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
And their clothes didn’t wear out after 40 years.
And their feet didn’t swell after all that walking.
Let’s look at part of that –
While this sounds really good – and seems grammatically correct in the English translation – looking at each word individually shows that there are several Hebrew words that didn’t get translated into English, and several English words that have no matching Hebrew words.
So let’s look at a literal translation –
Dt 3 ‘And He doth humble thee, and cause thee to hunger and doth cause thee to eat the manna (which thou hast not known, even thy fathers have not known), in order to cause thee to know that not by bread alone doth man live, but by every produce of the mouth of Jehovah man doth live. Young, R. (1997). Young’s Literal Translation (Dt 8:3). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
by every produce of the mouth of Jehovah man doth live.
Not quite the same. And when we look deeper in the meaning of some of the individual words, it gets more interesting.
Let’s start with the word mouth. We tend to think of mouth as a means of speaking. This makes sense in light of the use of word in the NIV. But the Young’s Literal Translation has “every produce of the mouth of Jehovah”. That could be anything from every single creation of God (remember from Genesis – God said, and creation happened). As Christians, we believe the Bible is the Word of God. And if we look at the Gospel of John, we see –
The Word Became Flesh
Jn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
Jn 1:3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
from Young’s Literal Translation –
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; 2 this one was in the beginning with God; 3 all things through him did happen, and without him happened not even one thing that hath happened. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light in the darkness did shine, and the darkness did not perceive it.
Note that both of them have –
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
What we have now is The Word of God – which can be “translated” as Jesus. We also have a life (Jesus’) that was the light of men.
Now – let’s add another word – “word“. Then we see –
4161 מֹוצָא [mowtsaʾ, motsaʾ /mo·tsaw/] n m. From 3318; TWOT 893c; GK 4604; 27 occurrences; AV translates as “go out” seven times, “go forth” five times, “spring” three times, “brought” twice, “watersprings + 4325” twice, “bud” once, “east” once, “outgoings” once, “proceeded” once, “proceedeth” once, “vein” once, “come out” once, and “watercourse” once. 1 act or place of going out or forth, issue, export, source, spring. 1A a going forth. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Going out – going forth – isn’t that what Jesus did during His short ministry here on earth?
The implication seems to be that Jesus is the spiritual bread of life. And why shouldn’t it say that? after all, Jesus Himself said no less than that.
First of all, is Matthew 4:4, Jesus echoes the words of Moses when He was tempted by the devil. –
Mt 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Mt 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’”
Near the very end of His ministry, Jesus said this at The Last Supper –
Mt :26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
closing the loop on the implications of the importance of “bread” that started way back in Exodus, when the actual Passover took place – which Jesus and the disciples were celebrating at The Last Supper.
Ex 12:1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire—head, legs and inner parts. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’S Passover.
Ex 12:12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
While we aren’t talking about the word “daily” yet, it’s worth nothing that even here in Exodus, the people were given instructions about having only the amount of lamb that was needed. And that the lamb had to be perfect. And remember how Jesus talked about being wary of the yeast of the Pharisees. This isn’t really part of “our daily bread” – but I bring it up just to show that thousands of years before Jesus was born – all the details were already known – by God.
But, is spiritual bread alone going to be enough?
This is sort of a trick question. Jesus alone is enough. The question might be more properly asked – is the “bread” of Jesus enough?
The answer to that would be the same as whether or not our physical bodies can survive on bread alone. Of course not.
Had Jesus lived – and been taken up to Heaven as Enoch or Elijah – that would not have been enough. Justice is required. Someone had to pay the price for our sins. That was Jesus. As we saw at The Last Supper, after breaking bread and saying “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Mt 26:27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
Mt 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
And so we have “bread” and “wine”. Just as the Israelites had unleavened bread and blood from the sacrificed lamb. Is that enough?
Still, the answer is no. There’s more.
Going back to Exodus, the people grumbled about many things, One of them was lack of water. We read –
Ex 17:1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”
Ex 17:3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
Ex 17:4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
Ex 17:5 The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
In the same way, “water” is important in the New Testament as well.
We see this scene, with the Samaritan woman at the well, where Jesus asks her for a drink of water –
Jn 4:7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
Jn 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. )
Jn 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
Jn 4:11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”
Jn 4:13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Jn 4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jn 4:16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
Jn 4:17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
Jn 4:19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jn 4:21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Jn 4:25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Jn 4:26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”
And so now we have bread and water – both for our physical bodies, and for eternal life. And we have the blood, enabling us to have that eternal life.
We have “our daily bread”.
Why “Daily” Bread
Daily. What does “daily” mean in this context?
Daily. We already saw at the Passover the command to only have the meat that was needed for that night.
Not daily. Only once.
Daily. Later, we see this for the manna from Heaven – which was provided when (again) the people grumbled –
Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. 16 This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ”
Ex 16:17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 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.
Ex 16:19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”
Ex 16:20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.
But even here, daily wasn’t every day. It was six days. And somehow the manna that was ruined overnight during the 1st five days someone survived the night and into the next day on the 6th day.
Daily. We saw how the Lord provided water earlier. Later, the people grumbled again when they were running out of water.
Nu 20:2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’S community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
Nu 20:6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
Again, not daily. Actually, only twice in 40 years.
Maybe you remember what happened next. Maybe not. But the next part gives us the meaning of the word “daily” in the context we’re reading. Moses was supposed to speak to the rock. But look what happened –
Nu 20:9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’S presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
Moses struck the rock, just like the previous time. Not only that, he struck it twice!
There’s always the possibility that the Israelites might have thought that Moses striking the rock was the real cause of the water gushing out. Not likely – given a staff hitting a stone. If anything, the staff would have broken. But this moment – the second time – was to give glory to The Lord. But Moses made it about himself. About his anger at the people. And maybe his anger at God for having this same situation come up a second time. But that wasn’t what God wanted.
And so we read –
Nu 20:12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
And there we have the meaning of the word “daily” in the context we’re using it.
It’s about “trust” It’s about honoring God. It’s about acknowledging that God is Holy. And it’s about doing all these things in sight of others. It’s about taking what we know about God – and showing it to others. It’s not about us. It’s about God.
It’s about trusting Him to honor His promises. When He tells us He will provide for us – we need to trust Him.
Moving to the New Testament, Jesus said –
Mt 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?
Mt 6:28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
This is what daily bread is about.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
The first verse in The Lord’s Prayer talk about His righteousness.
Mt 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“ ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
The next one talks about His kingdom –
Mt 6:10 your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
The next one – the one we’re looking at now – reconfirms our commitment to the first two verses –
Mt 6:11 Give us today our daily bread.
This one says “give us the things that we need to find Your Kingdom and Your Righteousness. You are our goal. We know that you will take care of us on our journey. And we know that reaching You is our top priority.”
I haven’t included it yet, but the verses before “this, then, is how you should pray” is –
Mt 6:8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for things. But there is something wrong when we don’t like the answer. There is something wrong when we don’t honor God after receiving His answer. Witness what happened to Moses after he struck the rock instead of speaking to it, as instructed by The Lord.
Look at this request from Jesus –
Mt 26:36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Mt 26:39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Jesus is asking if there’s any way to avoid the crucifixion. The answer, of course, is no. It must be done.
But what if Jesus had been upset at the answer. What if He fled from the garden, and managed to escape capture. It’s not like that have security cameras, facial recognition, credit card tracking, or any of our modern ways to catch fugitives. What if Jesus lived out His life and dies of natural causes?
It won’t be on the same scale – but what if God’s plan calls for something we don’t like – don’t want to do. What if we say No Way!
Do we really trust God enough to be happy with “our daily bread”?
I’m still learning.
How about you?
image from soulation.org