If I could stand before you and speak of the things of God, what should I tell you? What would be on my heart, as it is upon my mind now, is this one question: “Why are you here?”
There could be many answers to that question, ranging from the flattering “We are here to hear what you have to say” to the more mundane “I love the food that appears at Church potlucks” (assuming that there would be one for the occasion).
OK, lets talk about food, then. For that is the best reason of all for gathering together. Jesus told the Jews, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” (John 6:53)
George Fox commented on this passage, writing:
…but in the new covenant Christ tells you, ‘Except ye do eat my flesh, and drink my blood, ye have no part in me:’ for as by Adam and Eve, their eating that which God forbad, came death; so if Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters have life again, it is by eating of that which Christ commands; and as by eating came death, so by eating cometh life, and not by talking; no, not by talking of the son of God… (Works of Fox, VIII:155)
Much of Christendom claims that in partaking of bread and wine they are eating Christ’s body and drinking his blood. But this is not what I am talking about, and neither was Jesus. He was talking about something drastically different from such rituals.
Do you know the first commandment? If you grabbed your Bibles and looked in Exodus 20, you see the list of the 10 commandments, the first of which says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” However, that is not the first commandment. Look in Exodus 19 and again in Jeremiah 7.
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6)
For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. (Jer. 7:22-23)
This word “obey” used in the two passages above can also be rendered “hear,” but there are connotations that must come along, which ever word you choose. “Hear” carries with it the absolute necessity to respond in obedience. “Obey” comes with the understanding that we are obeying a word from God, which we have heard. There is no room for a blind obedience to an inherited legal code. This is a command for a continual, dynamic relationship with the Creator who speaks to his people and demands a response.
“[S]o if Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters have life again, it is by eating of that which Christ commands;…” What does Christ command?
Jesus, commenting on the John 6:53 statement, told his disciples:
The flesh profits nothing. It is the [breath] that gives life. The words which I speak/have spoken to you, these are [breath], these are life. (John 6:63)
Why is this important? Food is one of the major contributors to sustaining life, whether we are speaking biologically or of our life in God. Jesus’ statement in John 6:63 puts it succinctly: hearing his voice is the food that gives us life. (Again, “hear” comes with the understanding that we respond in obedience.)
So, you see, this question of “Why are you here?” is a matter of life and death, one that must take precedence over all other questions. Without this food, you cannot live. There is no substitute. There is no second course on the menu.
Isaiah 54 speaks of those who are taught by the Lord giving these details:
- their peace will be great
- they will be established in righteousness
- they will be free from oppression because they will not fear
- they will be free from terror because it will not come near them
- all who rise against them will fall because the Lord, who is their teacher, controls all
Isaiah sums up this portion saying:
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 54:17)
Then comes the turning point. Isaiah, in effect, asks, “Are you hungry for this?” and invites those who are hungry and thirsty for this experience of being taught by the Lord to a feast of fatness of hearing the voice of God.
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. (Isaiah 55:1-4)
When I was in grade school, maybe 3rd or 4th grade, a visiting missionary was speaking to the church about Africa. To impress us about the conditions there, he asked for a show of hands of all present who were starving. It had been a long time since breakfast and there was food waiting in the basement, and I was starving!
There was more truth to that story than indicated by the amusement rippling through the congregation. In the midst of all religion can offer, there is not one shred of food. Religion is about stimulating and manipulating emotion, which is not the same thing as hearing and obeying the voice of Christ. Many people raise the objection, “But we hear Christ through the ritual, the sermon, the hymns….” But, I tell you, “No, you hear Christ within you. He IS the mediator between God and man and needs no other intermediary.” Yes, God can speak through other people or through circumstances, but if you do not receive that speaking within yourself it does you no good. It is that encounter with the living Christ within you that brings about the resurrection from death to his life that you must feed upon.
Hear again Isaiah’s question, “Why do you spend yourself for that which is not food, for that which does not satisfy?” Hear again his prescription, “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.” Christ is the covenant God has made with His people. He is the leader and commander God has given. God’s command is “Hear him!”
Are you hungry? Come to the light of Christ within you. There, waiting and watching in that light, is your heavenly food. Are you starving? Turn from all that which is not food, from all that which does not satisfy. Such is but the husks fed to swine. In Christ’s house there is bread aplenty.