Bread from Heaven
We will now briefly look at the symbol of the bread in Scripture, before we look more specifically where Bethlehem is mentioned.
The word Lechem is literally something that is eaten (food), and the verb can be used to describe fighting-where the armies eat each other up. Lechem is only the common word for bread because bread was the staple of the diet in the Middle East at the time. Lechem is also used in a wider sense to describe fruit of a tree (in Jer 11:19), and the entire contents of a meal (in Nehemiah 5:18). Nevertheless it is generally used to describe wheat and barley-based bread.
Please come with me to John 6, where our Lord and Master expounds to us the symbol of bread in Scripture. These few words summarise the meaning of Bethlehem.
John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.
37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
As an aside: the words raise up in verses 39 and 40, are a reference to the resurrection of the dead. But also an allusion, I believe, to the wave offering at the inauguration of Aaron as high priest (Exod 29:23). We don’t have time to look at the details here, but if your interested there is a good section in Eureka on the three feasts of the law of Moses-more details can be found in there.
He continues in verse 49
John 6:49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
:50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Christ is that bread from Heaven, and he has given his symbolic body for nutrition. We must become part of his body:
Col 1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the Ecclesia:
And in becoming part of his body, we become bread for those around us. We eat and digest the words of scripture, and then share what we have learnt with others. We see this enacted in glorious type in Matthew 14, where our beloved lord feeds the five thousand.
Matt 14:19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven (from where the symbolic bread came from, nothing in scripture is our own-it matters not who says the words, they are of the father), he blessed , and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples …and the disciples to the multitude.
do we give thanks for the words of scripture?
20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. (twelve symbolic tribes)
This pattern is repeated in 1 John 1, where
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
This is the same as the feeding of the five thousand, but stated in the reverse. The apostles had fellowship with Christ and the Father and ate at his hand, we can now eat that same bread, through their witness of Christ. This is the symbol of the Emblems which we memorialise each Sunday: looking back to the time of Christ’s ministry, and looking forward to the millenium. When, if we are prepared now, we will be sent forth as Christ’s body to bring to fruition the promises to Abraham; feeding the nations with our flesh.
Christ, talking of this parable in Mat 16:9-12, explains that the bread is his Doctrine and leaven was “the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees”. We too must beware of the leaven of doctrine, and purge it out of us!
And immediately Feast of unleavened bread