The bread of God.

“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut. 8:3b)

There is a Jewish blessing that is said at every meal that has bread. It is called the HaMatzi Blessing. In English it is:

“Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the Earth.”

Now, bread does not come from the Earth. Bread comes from wheat, which comes from the Earth. And it doesn’t just spring forth. It has to be planted by humans. It has to be tended by us. Then it has to be harvested, threshed, and milled. Only then it can be used to make bread.

Yes, we have to be thankful to God that the Earth produces food. We have to be thankful of the amazing process that makes a seed grow into a plant which grows into food. We should never take that for granted. But we also are part of the process. We have to do work too.

The blessing refers to the time when the Jews were wandering in the desert and had nothing to eat. It isn’t really about bread. It is about reminding us that God always provides for our needs. That we should take nothing for granted. That we owe our very existence to God.

We say there are no miracles anymore. We forget that every moment is a miracle. We forget that every beat of our heart is God saying that we are loved and we are needed.

The verse above is what we are familiar with, but it is only part of the verse. Here’s the full verse:

“He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (HCSB)

There is a Christian twist on this blessing that changes it to “Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe who brings forth the living bread from Heaven.”

This is a reference to Jesus’ words in John 6:35-40:

35 “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again. 36 But as I told you, you’ve seen Me, and yet you do not believe. 37 Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Jesus said this after feeding 5,000 people with five barley loaves and two fish, which were a donation. There were twelve baskets of food left over after everyone had been fed. In the Gospel according to Mark, book 8 we learn that Jesus also fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. There were seven large baskets of leftover pieces.

That miracle is the same miracle as the manna. God always provides for us. It rarely is in a way that we expect. Even Jesus’ disciples didn’t expect this. He did this miracle twice, and they still didn’t get it. They still didn’t understand that it isn’t about the bread at all.

God is bigger than we can imagine. God is always providing for us. Blessed be God, who provides bread – that the conditions are right for wheat to grow, and that we have the knowledge and skill to create it into something that will nourish us. Blessed be God, who feeds us in surprising ways.