Friday, March 13, 2015

Topical Bible Study: Manna, Bread of Life, and Communion

Mind Supernovae

Wednesday afternoon and evening into Thursday morning was a day of several "aha" moments that came in rapid succession, making connections in my mind between things I hadn't experienced contemplating together, yet.

Number One: The Justification for Divorce

1 Corinthians 7
"12 If a brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with him, she must not divorce him....15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or sister is not bound in such circumstances, for God has called us to live in peace."
Matthew 19 gives the justification for divorce as being adultery, in pretty strong terms: "I tell you that any man who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman, commits adultery." (Matthew 19:9).

I have good reason to believe, based on my understanding of the character of God, that He would not call it sin to separate from someone who was physically abusive, especially to the point of putting your life in danger. But I had not been able to find any explicit Biblical justification for it outside of Matthew 19. So I had reasoned that the desire to murder your spouse would fall under the category of infidelity, since you'd be blatantly breaking your spousal commitment to honor them and protect them and pursue their best interest. But since Matthew 19:9 didn't directly address violence, it was a bit of a stretch, even if I supposed that Jesus took it for granted that His audience would agree that violence was impermissible in marriage.

I think now that I misread the passage. Assuming for now that the English renders the grammar equivalent to the original Greek, then Jesus isn't saying that sexual immorality is the only permissible reason to divorce. It's more grammatically appropriate to understand Him as saying that sexual immorality is the only permissible reason to remarry. But once again, since His audience is all Jews, it seems to be in the context of divorcing a woman who is of the faith.

So now, the synergy:

* 1 Cor 7 says that divorcing an unbeliever is permissible (not required), on the basis of whether the unbeliever wants to divorce.
* 1 Corinthians 7:11 says that if you divorce a fellow believer, you may not remarry
* Matthew 19 gives the only condition where remarriage is permissible as being if your believing spouse committed sexual immorality against you -- infidelity.

And the application:

* If you're a believer yoked to an unbeliever, you can divorce them if they want to divorce
* If you're a believer who divorces a believer for any reason other than that they committed adultery against you, you may not marry someone else. You must either reconcile with them and remarry them, or (my interpretation) if they marry someone else, you're no longer bound to them because the consequence of remarrying them would require an additional divorce, compounding the sin.
* If your spouse commits a pattern of abuse toward you and/or threatens to murder you, that person is not a believer. I'll stand up and say that anyone who wants to harm their spouse -- let alone murder them -- does not have the Spirit of God in them. And as we saw above, you are free to divorce an unbeliever who clearly doesn't want to live with you as a husband or wife.

So we see then that the Bible justifies divorce in the case of infidelity, physical abuse and terrorization, and attempted murder. You are free to remarry in each of those cases.

What the Bible does not justify is "no-fault divorce." If you separate because you dislike each other's personality, don't enjoy sex any more, are feeling bored or tied down, don't find your spouse attractive, etc, those are not valid reasons to divorce or remarry. Considering that since your divorced spouse is still your spouse, if you marry someone else, the act of consummating that marriage constitutes sexual immorality, which then justifies your first spouse's right to marry someone else.

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Number Three: Bucket Lists Are Borne of the Fear of Death

This one's shorter (gotta get to the Bible Study topic). I got the idea here:

The major premise of having a "Bucket List" is to accomplish a certain amount of things before you die, because after you die you won't have any more opportunities to check off the things you wanted to experience -- be it skydiving, surfing, riding an elephant, climbing a mountain, etc. The problem with this belief is that it's totally contrary to Biblical Christianity. For us, this life doesn't end at death. We have continuity of experience between this life and the future glorified state we'll exist in in eternity. If you don't get the chance to climb Everest or dive to the bottom of the Marianas Trench or orbit the earth or walk on the moon or ride a dolphin or glide over the Alps or any number of exciting adventures, you won't miss anything because the future holds even greater adventures. "Eye has not seen, nor ear has heard, the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him." I don't have to get all the adventure in before earthly death, because I'll have an infinity of adventure to look forward to. What does it matter if I see the Andes through a PBS broadcast and never walk it myself? We can't overlook the adventure that we're a part of in Christ. Just being owned by Him is an adventure all its own, because there are new things to be discovered every day (look at what I'm writing about!). I not only look forward to flying and trekking all over His New Creation after death, but I'm not overlooking the adventure I'm in the midst of right now! I'm free from the fear of death, to pursue things other people might consider mundane, but which are important in the grand scheme of things, if only because it pleases God and is part of His master plan.

And now, for an explanation of how a David Jeremiah Turning Point broadcast led to an epiphany for me about the significance of the bread in the Lord's Supper. I've said before that I'm a lover of symbolism in God's Word. You likely already know that the bread symbolizes Christ. But we're about to go even deeper.

Number Two: What Manna and "Bread from Heaven" do to illuminate the sacrament of communion

As mentioned, credit for the realization goes to David Jeremiah, an SBC pastor, through his radio broadcast ministry called 'Turning Point.' I've come across a couple of different 'talk radio' (nevertheless FM) stations in my region, and depending on which one I'm flipping by, sometimes Turning Point comes on around 10 in the morning, sometimes 6 in the evening, sometimes 10 at night. Focus on the Family, John MacArthur, and a guy named Michael Yousef (whom I'll tentatively say I think is on of the 'good guys') also have variable broadcast hours, so it's frequent that I'll come across their messages when I'm driving, no matter when I happen to be out and about. This message was aired late Wednesday night; ultimate credit of course goes to the Holy Spirit for inspiring the Scriptures, for orchestrating the coincidence of events, and for illuminating the text for me to receive and understand it.

Manna -- What is it?

Exodus 16Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”
31 And the house of Israel called its name Manna.[a] And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

Sounds delicious, but wait---

"7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium. 8 The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil." Numbers 11:7-8 

 Oh but this is just another Bible contradiction, isn't it? Hah, not in the slightest. Look who's eating it, and what they're doing with it.
Numbers 114
Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!”7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium. 8 The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil. 9 And when the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it. 
David Jeremiah took this to mean that when you ate Manna the way it fell, it taste like honey wafers. But when you tried to cook it your way, instead of eating it the way God had provided it, then its taste was like hard-tack and olive oil mixed together (if you've ever had it, you can appreciate the difference). Further, Dr. Jeremiah's interpretation was that it was largely the 'mixed multitude' that are being emphasized in this passage that tried to mutilate the manna through various cooking procedures, because the mixed multitude is a group of people that do not belong to the Children of Israel. They were tag-alongs, Egyptians and people from other groups who had joined up and mixed in with the Assembly as the Hebrews left Egypt and journeyed around in the desert. A commentator's note on the Mixed Multitude is here.

Even if it wasn't only the mixed multitude who ground, beat and cooked the manna, the point Dr. Jeremiah made in the application remains a valid insight. Consider:

The manna, as bread from heaven, is taken to be symbolic of divine guidance. It is God's sustenance. The manna was daily sustenance for the Israelites' physical nourishment, just as the "Daily Bread" of the Lord's prayer is a petition for God to give us daily spiritual nourishment.

Note two things:

1. You had to make use of it or it gave you no nourishment. If the Israelites kept it overnight without eating it, it became useless.

Exodus 16
19 And Moses said, “Let no one leave any of it till morning.” 20 Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.
2. If you tried to make use of it in a way other than it was intended, it ceased to be sweet. This is taken to be indicative of wrongful interpretation of the Scriptures, both of heresies and of all different degrees of doctrinal error. If you try to make God's Word say something it doesn't say, the Bread of Life loses its sweetness, and you will be put off / put others off by it.

Jesus' teaching on Manna and the Bread from Heaven / Bread of Life

John 622 On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered,[c] and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone— 23 however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks— 24 when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 
25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?”26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” 
28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”30 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”[d]32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” 
Rejected by His Own
41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 
43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’[e] Therefore everyone who has heard and learned[f] from the Father comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me[g] has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” 
52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”53

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed,[h] and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. 

  I chose to post the whole passage for one very good reason: to show how IMPORTANT it is because of how much space is devoted to the teaching! There are roughly two other places where Jesus is recorded as talking as much as this in one stretch, off the top of my head, and they are the Sermon on the Mount and His address to the disciples at the time of the Lord's Supper. Highly significant. Totally unambiguous--Jesus reasserts again and again that He = the Bread from Heaven, and that "you must eat this bread" or you will not live forever.

Note the language in the purple. It is reminiscent of the passage where Jesus washes Peter's feet, and Peter tries to refuse, and Jesus replies by saying "if I do not wash your feet, you have no part in Me." This is not just coincidence. I already knew that the footwashing was symbolic of forgiveness of sin and repentance -- and not of salvation, because when Peter asks Jesus to wash his whole body, Jesus replies that there is no need to wash your whole body if you have already been washed and are clean, when it is only your feet that have gotten dirty and need to be washed. I've understood this as symbolic of the fact that salvation makes you clean in the sight of God, but sins you commit afterward dirty your feet (they don't make you lose your salvation), and require continual repentance to be subsequently cleansed from. A person who doesn't repent indicates that they were not truly saved, which brings to mind the passage "a pig, after it is washed, returns to the mud."

I believe that the footwashing, the bread and the wine, as the final three acts of Jesus with His disciples before going to Gethsemane, are representative of three theological aspects of salvation. The footwashing refers to walking in obedience by demonstrating repentance and remaining in fellowship with God, after salvation. So it does not represent salvation. I believe that's what the wine represents. Since the wine is said to represent the blood of Christ, "which is poured out for you, for the remission of sins," therefore the wine represents Jesus' substitutionary atonement on the Cross (what I would consider the central core of the Gospel, because it is the effectual mechanism that made our salvation possible). And then the bread represents something that is neither salvation and justification, nor repentance and perseverance in faith and holiness, but something else. And in light of the passages on Manna where Jesus explains the role of bread in theological symbolism, I believe it represents the nourishment of right doctrine. Swallowing the truths of God's Word--not accidentally a reference both to Jesus and the Bible--rather than swallowing lies, or for that matter, not ingesting God's truths in the first place.

Matthew 22
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed[b] and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new[c] covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Matthew 6:11 "Give us this day our daily bread." -- a line from the Lord's Prayer. Daily bread. Who ever ate bread daily? Oh yeah, the Israelites wandering in the desert! It's another reference to manna! But not just manna.

After all, it's quite possible for people to eat bread daily even if it's not manna. The manna is not the main point, as I've been saying, it's what it represents! Nourishment for our souls directly from God!

Who would eat a meal once a week and then fast for 6 days until they ate again? That would be preposterous! It is similarly preposterous only to "go to church" once a week for an hour or so, and then live the next 6 days and 23 hours without thinking about God, praying to God, reading God's Word, spending time in fellowship with God's people, studying God's Word, learning how to apply God's Word and submit to living your life in accordance with God's Word.....Are you getting the idea?

Psalm 34:8 "Taste and see that the Lord is good!"

Now I have a much greater understanding of that verse! It's referring to the fact that God is the Bread of Life, the real Bread from Heaven. Not the manna. The manna was a type of Jesus Christ -- it represented that He had a heavenly origin (not to mean He was created, but that He wasn't a mere man), that He is the source of our nourishment, that He gives us life, and that He can't be taken any way you want Him, but you have to submit to how He says you are to come and eat, so that you may taste of His sweetness.


Jesus makes it very clear that He is the bread of life -- not His physical body, but He the spiritual being, the everlasting God who created this universe and sustains us alive. Eating of His body means allowing Him to enter you, and nourish you from the inside -- recall the promise that He "lives in you?" Eating the bread of communion then is symbolic of the recognition that you need His spirit within you in order to have eternal life, just as drinking the wine of communion is symbolic of the recognition that you need Him to take your punishment of death for your sins so that you can be washed guiltless thereof. And since the Church is the Body of Christ, the reference to eating of His body could have a secondary interpretation of meaning that you need to be in fellowship with other believers and to take in wisdom from church leaders -- e.g. actually listen and learn from sermons. Further, since Jesus is the Word, and the Bible is the Word of God, it's understood that reading the Bible is how we can receive our daily bread from the Lord. And if we take it the way He gives it to us, it nourishes our souls -- but if we grind it, beat it, cook it and make cakes of it, we destroy its meaning from what it was intended to be, and eating it will give us stomachache and it won't taste sweet, and (to revisit the Exodus/Numbers passages that I might not have cited) it will not make our cravings go away.

So bread is symbolic in so many ways.

Bread symbolizes nourishment from God -- physical, in the case of Manna, and spiritual, in the case of Jesus Christ's spirit and the Word of God imparting spiritual wisdom to us.

The manna symbolized that receiving Christ simply is sweetness to the soul.

The manna symbolized that trying to get to heaven some other way besides the simplicity of the Gospel produces unpalatable results.

The manna symbolized that rejecting the corollary simplicity of God's Word by trying to twist it to make it mean something different is also an act of faithlessness that does not satisfy.

The fact that some communion wafers are just that - wafers - is exquisitely poignant in underscoring the connection between manna (which tasted like honey wafers) and Jesus the Bread from Heaven.

Now that I see this old-new testament connection, I wonder if and how the communion wine might be elucidated by studying drink offerings?

Footwashing: symbolic of repentance and eternal security, perseverance

Bread: symbolic of taking in the knowledge of right doctrine about God through Bible study/sermons
Wine: symbolic of Jesus' shed blood, that represents His death on our behalf for our sin.

I hope this will be insightful to anyone who reads it.

~ Rak Chazak

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