Spiritual Hunger Comes in the Wilderness

“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness.” Isaiah 55:2

When reading through the Old Testament we realize that many of the characters, places, things and events have dual meaning.  Some of them are not only a historical record of the people and events, but are also a type of something spiritual, or have spiritual meaning.  This is supported by the New Testament writers.  For example, Paul notes that the veil that Moses had over his face typifies the “veil” that covers the minds of the Israelites, blocking them from seeing the truth.

“But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.”  2 Cor. 3:14

Another example is Melchizedek as a type of Jesus as High Priest of a new Covenant, confirming His eternal priesthood outside of the Levitical priesthood, as explained in the book of Hebrews (chapters 5 thru 7).

These physical things from the Old Testament help us to understand spiritual things.  The Lord in His wisdom knows how to teach us and communicate truth using this method.  Similarly, Jesus taught in parables, using physical examples where the underlying principles represented spiritual truths.

I would like to look at an Old Testament event and the surrounding people and things and relate them to spiritual truths.  I want to look at the exodus of the people of Israel out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses.

I believe it is clear that the physical bondage of the Israelites under Egyptian slavery is a “type” of the people who are in spiritual bondage under the world system and Satan.  Egypt is a type of the world and Pharaoh is a type of the devil.  God delivered the Israelites from this bondage, passing them through the Red Sea, and destroying the Egyptian army and Pharaoh while in pursuit; this event typifies our deliverance from the world and the passage from the world system of death to the heavenly system of life as new spiritual creatures.

Our journey in this world on the way to heaven is typified by the Israelites journey through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.  It is this journey through the wilderness that I want to look at more closely.

When the Israelites reached the wilderness they became hungry:

“And the whole congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” Exodus 16:2-3.

When the Lord led the people into the wilderness under the direction of Moses, He knew that they would be hungry and He made provisions for this.  The people, though, immediately looked back to Egypt when they grew hungry.  I believe that many Christians today make this same error, looking back to the world system to satisfy their hunger, rather than looking to the Lord’s provision.

But what does this mean to be hungry, in a spiritual sense?  Hunger is equated to dissatisfaction; our spiritual “bread” satisfies us.  Doesn’t this happen to us in our journey though the “wilderness” of this life on our way as Christians?  We become dissatisfied, empty, looking for real meaning a purpose even as Christians.  Actually, I think that it is okay to have this hunger; God expects it to happen, but He has made a provision for it. Many of us as Christians have come to realize that this hunger is satisfied by the truths of God’s Word and our exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The problem arises when we look to the world for “food” to satisfy this hunger. Even after being satisfied by God’s spiritual provision, we are still tempted to look back to Egypt.

So ask yourself, what makes you feel dissatisfied, and how do you feed this dissatisfaction?  The answer to this may vary for each individual, but I think if we are honest, at the root of our dissatisfaction is something that has to do with our future hope, and where we are headed in this life.  Here are some statements that I have heard over the years that I think reflect dissatisfaction in a person’s life tied to their future hope:

“I have been married for 25 years and still have this old furniture”, or “My spouse will never change and I expected so much when we got married”, or “I’m stuck in this dead end job with no hope of getting a new career at this point in my life”, or “I thought retirement would be better than this; I think I’ll to back to work”, and I’m sure you have heard similar statements like this.

I’ll cut to the chase.  I see the root of our dissatisfaction coming from having a misplaced hope.  When our hope is focused on something that is offered in this world, in this lifetime, it will always bring disappointment and dissatisfaction.

Thus the Lord asked the question to His people through the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago (as quoted at the start of this message):

“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and you labor for that which does not satisfy? “ Isaiah 55:2a

I believe that the Lord is using an analogy here also, not about physical money and bread, but what we put our efforts towards and spend our time or direct our emotions towards to find satisfaction.

Having our hope focused totally and purely on the promise of heaven is what establishes us as being on the journey in the wilderness, as a pilgrim, alien, or sojourner just passing through this land on the way to another promised place.

“Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13

Now, here’s another way of looking at this.  If you are not hungry for the food from God, that is, His word and the truths that He has revealed regarding His Messiah, Jesus Christ and the promises that have been offered to us through His life and death, than it is likely that you have gone back to Egypt in your heart and began to feed off of the fleshpots and bread of Egypt (the world), in the same way that you had in the past, before God delivered you.  Remember that there is slavery associated with the Egyptian food, and you can be sure that there are “strings attached” with any earth centered hope, no matter how noble or righteous it would appear to be.  Don’t “spend your money” for this “bread” that will not satisfy!

The answer to our dissatisfaction and hunger is to not allow our hearts to be set on these earthly things, but rather to go back to being a pilgrim in the wilderness.  Put those other worldly hopes to death.  You’ll find that you will become hungry, but it will be a good hunger.  It will be a hunger for the things of God in His word that encourage you in your walk as a pilgrim.  It will be for the truths that increase your faith in God’s faithfulness and give you a desire for His quick return.  It will be for the things that help you to remain strong in your well doing and pleasing the Lord, knowing that your reward is waiting at the end of your journey.

God’s provision for the Israelites in the wilderness was the manna He sent from heaven.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you.’” Exodus 16:4

This manna is a type of Jesus, who is the bread of life for us.

“Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.’” John 6:32-35.

We see that Jesus is the focus of our future hope.  We need to learn how to find this life giving source of satisfaction in Him.  All of the promises of God, especially the hope of eternal life in heaven, are “yes and amen” in Jesus.

“For all the promises of God in Him are yes, and in Him amen, to the glory of God through us.” 2 Cor. 1:20

When this deep need for our future hope to be satisfied is not met, we then turn back to the world and look for another earthly hope, and when this doesn’t satisfy either, we turn to immediate, short term gratification of our flesh that leads to sin and death.

I’ll say this again, only those who are in the wilderness are spiritually hungry for God’s word.  If you find that you are not hungry, you need to put your heart back in the wilderness.  Go back to being a sojourner, a temporary resident on earth, and pilgrim just passing through this world.  Set you affections on things above and not on the things of this earth.  Oh, and there are no strings attached to the sojourner in the wilderness; no slavery.  The manna is all that is needed.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Colossians 3: 2-3.

Make it a habit to often meditate on the reality of heaven and our future hope. Find joy and happiness in this reality.  Treasure the things of heaven and store up your riches there.  Have this blessed hope as an anchor to your soul and it will carry you through the most difficult times.

This from Hebrews regarding our journey and those who traveled it in faith before us:

“These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11:13-22

Let us be more like these.

  1. Jane Yeasted said:

    It is a constant battle to not look back to Egypt ; to crave more & grumble. Have to remember how Christ has fed us, kept us and is refining us.

  2. Remembering the work that Christ is doing in us is important. I think too that we have to put ourselves back in the wilderness by guarding our heart and the affections that we allow our hearts and minds to become attached to. Most times it is these things that take us back to the world’s food. By turning from those things and seeing ourselves as aliens and strangers, not at home here, we then are open to feed on God’s food, found in Jesus.

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