(An Excerpt from The Carpenter and the Cradle, a Bible Study by Connie Cook)
(From Exodus 25:23-30: the Table of Shewbread; and Matthew 6:7-8, 11: the Lord’s Prayer)
“Give us our daily bread today” (Matthew 6:11).
It’s an interesting thing: All of us, at one time or another in our lives, have weighed in on the question, “Who’s in control?” (the first and most basic decision of our lives), with a solid, “I’m in control of ME! ME, ME, ME!”
As little people, haven’t we all said it? “You’re not the boss of me!” We may or may not have said it to a parent or teacher or older sibling, but we all, consciously or subconsciously, have said it to God. Some say it to God by disbelieving in Him. (It certainly follows logically that if He doesn’t exist He can hardly be in control of me!) Others of us would deny that we’ve ever told God He can’t tell us what to do. But our actions say otherwise.
Now, that’s not the interesting thing. In fact, it’s such old news, no one should be surprised by such a statement of the obvious: every one of us wants to be the boss. At least of ourselves. Even those of us who have willingly turned over the controls of our lives to God—even we fight a daily fight with the little, inner voice crying, “I’m in control of ME! ME, ME, ME!”
No, what I find interesting is this: while God gives us freedom and does allow us to refuse His sovereignty in our lives, none of us can entirely manage self-sovereignty. He has set up His world in such a way that none of us can be completely self-sovereign, self-sustaining, and self-satisfied. We all have far too many needs that cannot be met within ourselves and our own resources.
Think of the needs that must be met for us to get through a minute, an hour, a day, or a month: air, water, warmth, food.
At least three times a day when our internal stomach-alarm-clocks begin ringing, most of us are made aware of a very pressing dependency we all have. Most of us think so much about food that obesity has become the new pandemic in some countries. Health experts wring their hands and wail about our modern, out-of-control appetites. But the abundance of food is the only change in the human condition. Humanity has always been obsessed with food. In times of scarcity, the obsession is how to get enough. We have to be obsessed. We can’t survive without it.
But have you ever asked yourself why? Have you ever taken a philosophical look at food? I mean, why must we be dependent? What are the deeper life-lessons to be learned from food?
Trying to see the thing from God’s point of view, I do see a very good reason He made us as helplessly dependent creatures. And that reason ties in to yesterday’s question on sovereignty. “Who’s in control?” Yes, God gives us freedom. Yes, we can refuse His sovereignty in our lives. But we simply cannot maintain our own. And He installed many pointed reminders of that fact within our very natures. And so, today’s question: “Who or what do I depend on?”
We think we can be our own personal gods in our own personal universes. Kinda funny, then, that we still have to borrow all the air and water and sunshine and seeds and soil and chlorophyll and nutrients and gravity and electromagnetic fields from the one He created. We’ve said to God, “I’m in the driver’s seat. This is my car, and you can get out. Or take a backseat. We’re going where I want to go. Oh, and by the way, I’m broke. Can I have a fifty for gas?” It would be laughable if it weren’t so exact.
Those who would like to do away with the fact of a Creator have run across a fact that won’t be done away with. It’s called, “the anthropic principle,” and it’s the admission that our universe had to be incredibly finely-tuned to support life, particularly human life. And yet it does support life, even human life. And we didn’t do the fine-tuning.
On whom or what do we depend? What satisfies our hungers? What sustains our needs? Only God and what He’s created.
It’s as though God has graciously said to us through our physical (and other) dependencies, “Yes, you can choose against my rule in your life. But I’m creating you with built-in warnings that to do so is cutting off your very life-source. Dependence on Me is life. Independence from Me is death.” This principle is exemplified in the Bible through that dependency, one of the most obvious, that I keep coming back to over and over again this lesson—our need for food. And here’s where the table of Exodus 25 comes in.
First, you must understand that the table and the bread on it in Exodus 25 were not for the purpose of feeding God as some cultures may have viewed their offerings to their gods. The table in His tent was God reminding His people that He fed them. The bread on it was for the satisfaction of the needs of the members of His household, the priests who served in the tent and later the temple (Leviticus 24:5-9). In a larger sense, however, the table was meant to remind all God’s nation—all His house—that it was He who fed them. And satisfaction could be found only in Him and in His house.
I’ve referenced the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of this post, and here’s a question for you: Why do you think Jesus told us to ask our Father for our daily bread immediately after telling us God already knows what we need? The answer I can see is that we tell God about our needs not for His sake but for ours. We ask for our daily bread not because He’s forgetful and may need reminding to provide for us but because we are forgetful and do need reminding who provides for us. Several times a day, my stomach sends me urgent reminders of my dependence on God. Nevertheless, it’s still too easy to forget that most basic fact of life.