We have a pantry in our home that has some squeaky bi-fold doors in front of it. And throughout the day – especially during the pandemic – I can periodically hear those doors opening. Kids are seeking food.
I suppose I can fix those doors so they won’t squeak. But why would I do that? It is good to know when the kids are raiding the pantry and, if the mood strikes me, to shoo them away. “Wait for dinner,” I might say.
We are drawn to food. We can’t help it. And teenagers and pre-teens are even more this way. They are a hungry bunch, and there’s not much you can do to satisfy them.
When Mary and I worked in youth ministry, we occasionally would have special gatherings for the youth group, and we’d order pizza. Pizza is the universal youth group food – fast and easy, and there is very little clean-up involved. Upon delivery, it always amazed us how fast the food disappeared. In a blur, it was gone, and nothing was left but empty pizza boxes strewn about the room.
Adults seem to be able to moderate their eating habits a bit better. And some adults are almost religious in the way they abstain from certain types of food. Prosperity affords people the luxury of being picky.
But everybody must eat. And so we are drawn to food. At some point during day, we will feel hungry, and we will want to eat. It is a need we must satisfy. If we don’t, our bodies will suffer.
“So when the famine spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth” (Genesis 41:56-57).
Joseph almost seemed to fulfill the prophecy that God gave to Abraham – “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Surely, you can see how this might be so. Here was a great-grandson of Abraham throwing open the storehouses of Egypt so the world might come to buy grain and to survive the global famine.
And it wasn’t just that the people were coming to Egypt for grain. They were coming specifically “to Joseph.”Certainly, the families of the earth were blessed by the family of Abraham.
Followers of Jesus should be paying attention here. From the very beginning, God had a plan for his people. They were the carriers of the promise. It was a promise for Israel, yes, but it also was a promise for the whole world.
And so when we read the people of Egypt were famished and crying out to Pharaoh “for bread” – and Pharaoh then sent them to Joseph, saying, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do” – we ought to be on high alert as Christians.
We also want “bread.” Let’s go to the One who has it. Whatever he says to us, we ought to do it!
We know Joseph’s bread monopoly was not the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to be a blessing to the families of the earth. In reality, Jesus was that fulfillment. But Joseph gives us an early pointer to what Jesus would come to do.
Jesus told a crowd of people, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). And we recognize Jesus as the one who gives not just food for our bellies but food for our souls.
There is a monumental difference between the two, but the two are connected. And this makes the story of Joseph important. Through Joseph and the offspring of Abraham, God was blessing the world with life. God continued to sustain his creation. Humans can’t continue to exist without food in their stomachs, and God provided for that. We need food, too.
But physical food is not all we need for fullness of life. We need something more, and this is what the world fails sometimes to see.
Just before Jesus declared himself to be the bread of life, he said this: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” (John 6:27).
And this is how we know God wasn’t bringing his promises to their final fulfillment in Joseph. All Joseph had to offer at that moment was grain for bread – for “food that perishes.” The food that endures to eternal life was still to come in the form of Jesus Christ. We are to put our trust in him.
Of course, it wasn’t just “all the earth” who came to Joseph for grain. It also was the family of God. The most important part of this story is the fact that God was preserving the nation of Israel through the actions of Joseph (Genesis 42:1-2).
The nation of Israel was going to survive. It would carry on. Along the way, it would receive more bread, of course (John 6:31-32). Our stomachs are always crying out to us when they are hungry.
But the end game is eternal life. Everything pointed to that.
The question we must ask ourselves is whether we are seeking this bread from heaven. Perhaps we only are seeking food that perishes. And by this, we might think of anything that is physical and temporary – things that satisfy our five senses. This is what the world seeks, and rightly so.
But there is more to life than mere “bread.” If all we do is raid the pantry, looking to satisfy our stomachs, we will miss out on eternal life.
In a lot of ways, we are like those teenagers yanking open those squeaky pantry doors. It may not be food we are after. Prosperity can free us to be picky, after all. And so we may be chasing after money or sex or things related to our pride, like revenge or reputation. That may be all we ever chase after in life.
In what ways are you pursuing bread from heaven?