Bread baking requires precise and accurate measurements. Watching an accomplished baker, like my grandmother (The proof was in the delicious aroma, texture, and taste of her bread rolls slathered with butter!), makes bread making look easy. She would dump what looked like a gallon of flour on the kitchen table, make a well in the middle, and start adding liquid as she swirled the flour inward. Then the kneading, an artist’s movement with practiced hands, turned the dough folding it over itself for a length of time until finally a silky-smooth ball was formed. Then the dough rested, or so it seemed. However, the dough lightened and then rose.
Bread is often depicted on the Table of Showbread described in Exodus and Leviticus, as two rows of six flat, round loaves topped with what looks like a decorative cup. The Scriptures explain that these twelve loaves represented the twelve tribes of Israel and were to always be in God’s presence as a reminder of His provision and covenant. Frankincense was added as a pleasing aroma and offering. Interestingly, the bread stayed on the Table of Showbread for six days, and then on the Sabbath, a new dozen loaves replaced the previous week’s bread offering. And even more intriguing is that Aaron and his sons, the priests, were then allowed to eat the removed week-old bread. My first thought reading this was of eating stale, hardened, and moldy bread. Not the same expectation of warm, yeasty rolls from Grandma’s kitchen!
However, I watched a YouTube video on making this ancient bread using Biblical weights and measures and the instructions. This video showed loaves that were not round, but more rectangular in shape with horns on the corners. The frankincense sprinkled on the horns had the purpose of warding off insects and preventing mold for up to four weeks! The modern baker said that some of the showbread utensils listed in the Old Testament instructions may have been used as covers for the bread, which would have preserved the moisture. All this is to say that after burning the week’s end frankincense for an offering and setting the new loaves in place, the priests may still have had tasty bread to eat for a whole week. Think artisan breads with crusty outsides and moist, chewy insides.
Thus, the bread that was daily before the face of God also sustained the priests daily need for bread. This story reminds me of when manna fell from heaven to sustain the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt and wandering in the desert. God’s provision daily. And another even more importantly Gospel story, is the comparison of daily bread to the One who called Himself, the Bread of Life, Jesus. In John 6, Jesus takes pains to teach people that heavenly bread was not merely sent to feed their physical bodies for a day (as He had done in the miracle of the ‘loaves and fish’ when He fed the five thousand), but that true bread could give eternal life. He professed that He, Jesus Christ, was and is that bread which satisfies our spiritual need forever.
How often I have prayed for my daily bread, as instructed by Jesus to do so. How often have I focused on my physical needs – housing, transportation, clothing, and food as though God was not aware. How often I have mistaken the supplying of my needs as proof of God’s love for me. How often has my faith wavered when I thought I was not getting my needs met?
Am I, like the lame beggar in Acts, just pleading for alms – money to buy bread and to meet my basic needs? Or do I recognize the real miracle awaiting me – to rise and walk? Jesus stated, “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 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.”
Jesus did give His life for my life. My belief in Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, has given me eternal life. I adore Him for His pleasure in being my God. I benefit from His care for me. Yet, I will remind myself in my prayer for daily bread that yes, this my physical body has need of the essentials for life, but that even if lacking sustenance, God has provided a way home to His eternal banquet table.
Lord, God, may I never take your blessings of provision for granted. May I remember that you care for all that I need and that You are a good Father, not giving a stone for a loaf of bread. And may I never forget that I will leave this earth and sit at Your heavenly table and soak in Your beautiful face as Your welcome me home. What a delightful feast we will have then!