Bread and Oil

Scripture Focus: Exodus 27.20-21
20 “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come. 

Exodus 25.23, 30
23 “Make a table of acacia wood—two cubits long, a cubit wide and a cubit and a half high. 24 Overlay it with pure gold and make a gold molding around it…30 Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times. 

John 6.57-58
57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Reflection: Bread and Oil
By John Tillman

Every ordinance and ornamentation in the Tabernacle, and in the Temples that followed it, were weighty not just with gold but with symbolism.

We will focus on two—oil and bread. The oil and the bread are both, in their own way, symbols of God’s presence.

The lampstands and the oil were instrumental in shining out the light of God’s presence into the courtyard. Isaiah and John both tell us that, eventually in Heaven, the Lord will be our “everlasting light” and no lamps will be needed for there will be no more night. (Isaiah 60.19-20; Revelation 22.5

Like Israel, we aren’t there yet. We live in the shadowy now, where night is always coming and shadows grow long. We live in a world that needs light.

The bread is symbolic of God as the source of life. Jesus was likely thinking of this bread when he said that he was the bread of life, the true manna from heaven. Many disciples left Jesus because of this difficult teaching, but Peter recognized and explained that it was Jesus’ teachings, the words that he gave them, that were life.

For the priests and the people, these lamps, faithfully tended and lit each evening, represented that God’s light was with them in the darkness. 

The bread represented that God’s words were the sustenance of life that the community needed. As Jesus would say to Satan in the desert, we live by words from the mouth of God.

The bread and the oil also were a reminder that they had a responsibility to shine in their dark world and to partake of the wisdom of God. 

In the Tabernacle, only the priests could eat this bread. Only the priests tended these lamps. But Jesus tore down the curtains and the barriers. We are each a temple of the Holy Spirit. We are all priests serving under Jesus, our high priest. 

We are both eligible to stand in the light and responsible to shine it.
We are eligible to partake in the bread and to waft its fragrance to others and invite them in.

We must keep our lamps lit, faithfully bringing the oil.
We must partake in the bread that is true life, the word of God.

We need to make Jesus’ words our food. He is the true bread of life. 

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6.68)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. — Psalm 70.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Exodus 27 (Listen – 2:52)
John 6 (Listen – 8:27)

Read more about Names of Jesus—Justice, Bread, and Doctor
He is called bread, because by his gospel he fed the hunger of our ignorance. — Nicetas of Remesiana

Read more about Cultivating Daily Bread
Daily bread refers to a daily need for God and purposely highlights the need for spiritual disciplines that are required for us to grow in faith.

Fasting as Freedom

John 4.34
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

Reflection: Fasting as Freedom
By John Tillman

Jesus had food that the disciples knew nothing about. Do we know about it today? Do we know the sustaining power of doing the will of God?

In our fasting during Lent, may we be reminded that our sustenance does not come from this world. In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster discusses how our fasting should remind us that we are sustained by our connection to Christ:

“Fasting reminds us that we are sustained “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4.4). Food does not sustain us; God sustains us. In Christ, ‘All things hold together” (Col 1.17) Therefore, in experiences of fasting we are not so much abstaining from food as we are feasting on the word of God. Fasting is feasting!

When the disciples brought lunch to Jesus, assuming that he would be starving, he declared, “I have food to eat of which you do not know…My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.’ (John 4.32-34) This was not a clever metaphor, but a genuine reality.

Jesus was, in fact being nourished and sustained by the power of God. That is the reason for his counsel on fasting in Matthew 6. We are told not to act miserable when fasting because, in point of fact, we are not miserable. We are feeding on God and, just like the Israelites who were sustained in the wilderness by the miraculous manna from Heaven, so we are sustained by the word of God.

Fasting helps us keep our balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them.”

Fasting is not a punishment, a penance, or a weight of duty to wear around our necks.
Fasting is cutting off the weights our broken world hangs on our balloon so that we remember to rise, filled with the Holy Spirit.
Fasting is washing off the caked-on sludge of the world’s oil spill, so that we can once again soar on wings as eagles.
Fasting is not entering a cave of somber darkness, but exiting a darkened cave into joy.

May our Lenten fasts, cut our weights, cleanse our wings, and acclimatize our eyes to the bright joy we anticipate in Christ’s resurrection.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
O God, when you went forth before your people, when you marched through the wilderness,

The earth shook, and the skies poured down rain at the presence of God, the God of Sinai, at the presence of God, the God of Israel.  — Psalm 68.7-8

Today’s Readings
Exodus 25 (Listen – 4:20)
John 4 (Listen – 6:37)

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Read more about Fasting as a Feast
As we observe Lent by abstaining, may we maintain a more constant connection and relationship to God through Scripture, prayer and meditation. May more frequent times of worship be feasts for our mind, our heart, and our souls.

Read more about Do We Know Him?
The woman went into town and brought out to Jesus the food he wanted—a harvest of souls ready to receive the gospel.

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