Hunger drove the multitude to wilderness and there, in the presence of Jesus, they were satisfied. In the beginning, food was not the object of their quest—they wanted more of what this man Jesus seemed to have. They were the children of Abraham in covenant with Jehovah God yet the lives they led were markedly different from the lives their religious heroes had led. God’s record was wonderful—He:
- freed their forefathers from Egyptian bondage and opened the sea for them with Moses,
- made the Jordan pile up in a heap for the people with Joshua, and He
- made the walls of a hostile city crumble at the sound of trumpets.
Why weren’t these Romans added to this list of nations subdued by the hand of God?
It is true the fathers had failed to live up to the covenant, chasing the nasty little gods of the nations and neglecting the True Worship of the One True God. It is also true that God had punished them with captivity. But He had then restored them to the land. Things were different now. Unbroken worship in the second Temple and now in this new one Herod had built was their record now—so why were they still in bondage?
God had promised a Messiah to be their deliverer—was this man Jesus, the One? He worked miracles and taught of a higher Kingdom, just beyond the reach of their minds. This deep, spiritual hunger preceded their need for food and sent them deep into the wilderness and late into the day.
As if descending from a mountain of hope to a valley of hunger the multitude (by count, five thousand men along with women and children) realized that they were in trouble. To me, they were a metaphor for the nation of Israel—hungry for God yet surrounded by a hostile wilderness populated by enemies and corrupt in the heart.
Jesus is the master of the crisis; feeding a multitude was no challenge for Him. He did not need help or advice but he asked His disciples what to do. The best they could produce was a little 1st Century Boy Scout who came prepared with lunch for one. Five lumps of bread and two fresh(?) fish were enough for Jesus.
When all was done,
“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls
broken pieces that were left over.”
Today this miracle still feeds our hopes, as if those baskets of leftover bread and fish were still being passed among us. Life does not have to be an endless hunger. Satisfaction eludes us only when we follow the wrong crowds to the wrong meetings to the wrong source. When we follow Jesus, our hunger can be assuaged and our thirst can be slaked—He is the One who satisfies.
The Poet provides us with two items on the menu:
“The beauty of Your house,” and, “the holiness of Your Temple.”
The human heart hungers for beauty as much as for meat and drink.
- When we see the world as God’s Creation, His “House,” we have a constant source of context for the beauty around us.
- The human spirit hungers for holiness—the nearness of God, the purity of His character, the safety of His name.
Hunger drives the multitudes today and of wildernesses there are many. Those who follow Jesus and linger in His presence—where beauty and holiness abound—are those who are satisfied.
You are to be praised, O God, in Zion; to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem. To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come, because of their transgressions. Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out. Happy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there! they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house, by the holiness of your temple. Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness, O God of our salvation, O Hope of all the ends of the earth and of the seas that are far away. You make fast the mountains by your power; they are girded about with might. You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the clamor of the peoples. Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs; you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy. You visit the earth and water it abundantly; you make it very plenteous; the river of God is full of water. You prepare the grain, for so you provide for the earth. You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges; with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase. You crown the year with your goodness, and your paths overflow with plenty. May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing, and the hills be clothed with joy. May the meadows cover themselves with flocks, and the valleys cloak themselves with grain; let them shout for joy and sing.
Matthew 14:15-21 NIV
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Matthew 5:6 NIV
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Lord Jesus, there is a hollowness in me, a void so large only You can fill it. Forgive me for all the times when I have turned away from the table You have spread for me in the presence of my enemies. Sometimes a little taste of Your provision is so sweet that I fail to take in all that You are giving out. The little boy’s lunch is multiplied in Your hands and under the power of Your blessing to become all that I need today. But this day will consume all of this day’s repast so that tonight, and certainly tomorrow, I will be empty again. Only when I turn to you with my hand outstretched will I be satisfied on this wilderness journey. Thank You, Jesus! Amen.
Come and Dine
Words and Music C.B. Widmeyer and S.H. Bolton
1. Jesus has a table spread where the saints of God is fed,
He invites His chosen people, “Come and dine;”
With His manna He doth feed, And supplies our every need:
O ‘tis sweet to sup with Jesus all the time!
“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “Come and dine;”
You may feast at Jesus’s table all the time;
He who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine,
To the hungry calleth now, “Come and dine!”
2. The disciples came to land, thus obeying Christ’s command,
For the Master called to them, “Come and dine;”
There they found their hearts’ desire, bread and fish upon the fire,
Thus He satisfies the hungry every time.
3. Soon the Lamb will take His bride to be ever at His side;
All the hosts of heaven will assembled be;
O, ‘Twill be a glorious sight, all the saints in spotless white;
And with Jesus they will feast eternally.
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved