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August 05, 2012 주일(신현철 목사)

2012.08.23 01:56

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1.

During our last vacation, we visited Yellowstone National Park. One of the reasons why we chose to come to this place was that we wanted to spend some free time farther away. But Yellowstone actually has a very mysterious and fascinating aspect to it. The children would say to me, “Dad, you should talk about this place in your sermon.” It seemed that we could not forget about my position as a preacher.
 Anyways, I would recommend Yellowstone because of the scenery of course, but also because there is no place to buy food. We would just carry around rice bowls and make rice at hotels to eat. It’s such a big park, but there is not a single place that sells food. Even if the children would plead me for ice cream, we couldn’t buy any anywhere. In all, it was a little hard but ended up as a very frugal vacation.
 I never realized this at home, but when we were on the road, we started to notice how the food problem was so cumbersome. It would be easier to have one meal a day, or for that one meal to last us 2 or 3 days. But every time we eat, we become hungry again so quickly and once we finish a meal, we have to start worrying about the next. Sometimes I would get confused whether we were on vacation or we were in hunt for food.
 Strangely, this week’s sermon was about Exodus 16:3, “The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death," as well as John 6:27, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.” If I had known that this was to be the sermon, I would have used them for when the kids would complain to me about being hungry.
 Anyways, as I reflect on today’s words, it keeps reminding me of our vacation, bringing a smile on my face without my realizing it. The Israelites who started the great Exodus journey complained about the problem with food, and Jesus’ followers also seemed most confused about food.
 I started to think that we are also in the same situation. During our journey through life, the biggest complaint is the problem of providing ourselves with food. Not even just that, but we also don’t know the type of food we have obtained, whether it is food that spoils or food that endures to eternal life.
Thus, as we reflect on today’s sermon, let us think together of how we can live not for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.
2.
First of all, Exodus chapter 16, verse 1, “The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt.” The actual date the Israelites left Egypt was January 15, so this verse is dictating at about a month after the exodus.
So after about a month of hardship, the memories of their slave days seem to be better than the current situation they were placed in, where they were starved. So in verse 3 the Israelites started to complain: “The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted.’”
The occurance of the Exodus in the lives of Israelite is an event with an extortionate meaning. However, after a month the meaning disappeared and was replaced by hunger. So how did it end? In verse 4 it records that God gave them food from the skies as if it was raining; in verse 8 it records that they were given meat every night.
But, God did not give manna just to feed the Israelites miraculous food. If God wanted to give them miraculous food, he would have given them food that would allow them to not feed again for 40 years. However, that was not the case for manna. The Israelites were unable to last a week after eating manna, like any other food they had to reap manna. In other words, ‘manna’ was special food that was given by God, ‘manna’ itself was not very different from ordinary food, and the food manna itself was a value neutral food since people who ate manna had to eat again like eating any other food and the manna that was reaped on the Sabbath day deteriorate and insects would gather upon the food.
But really it is not just any typical food, Exodus chapter 16, verse 12, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, 'At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God’” He said that through manna they will get to know God. In verse 4, “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.’” Here it is recorded that manna was used as a test by God; therefore, it’s not food that one just throws away, it was a test to see how God’s law was being followed.
The verse ‘the people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day’ is really important, if the Israelites thought that manna was like any other food, when the time was right one would reap more to save themselves from the trouble. However, manna was not food that came from nature, and was not food that was harvested. No matter how hard they try to reap more manna, it was not possible. Sensibly it was given by God. So there is a reason to why one cannot gain more even if one tries hard to get more on the Sabbath day. Rationally it is because God gave them manna…
Thus, manna is a very special food, and at the same time a very ordinary food. Linking to the title of the sermon today, manna is a ‘deteriorating food and also food that gives eternal life.’ Just because the title includes ‘deteriorating food’ one should not think so pessimistic about it… ‘deteriorating’ has the meaning ‘destroy’ and ‘subvert’ but it also has the definition ‘disappear’ and ‘tendency to throw away.’ Therefore, old food becomes corrupted and needs to be thrown out, and even for those people who only eat food that is good for them they will die one day. Anyway, when ‘manna’ is viewed in this type of perspective it is no different from the normal food.
But manna is not the only item that has two characteristics, all food are similar… It might have been from the long car trip with the children bored, they had a conflict with one another and most of the time it was for food… They were told many times that if they negotiated that they would be given tastier food, but the conflict went on. The conflict was intensified if it was for ice cream. The food was a test given by their father was not known by the children.
While I was contemplating today’s verses, if there was a way to get God’s ‘blessing,’ I think it can be done by sharing the food that is going to deteriorate. Over time it will spoil, and disappear, so there is no meaning to selfishly holding to the food. No matter how well one eats, eternal life cannot be obtained so sharing will bring blessings to our lives. I hope that we all can share this blessing.
3.
There is another common point between food that spoils and food that endures to eternal life. To get either of two, we should pray, anyhow. Wouldn’t it be a real miracle if they did not have to eat any more with a bite of ‘Manna’ while crossing the wilderness? But God let them take and eat Manna every day continuously. Why? Manna in the Old Testament is similar to ‘daily bread’ in the Lord’s Prayer.
In fact, this is quite confusing because after this prayer, Matthew 6:31 reads “So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?” Yes, only the pagans worry these things. Version 34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”
 It sounds very strange. God orders us pray for daily bread while He says to us not to worry for food because He lets even wild flowers be clothed and birds be fed. These seem contradictory to each other.    
It is because there are different concepts of “daily bread”. Daily bread is ‘lachma’ in the Aram language, which means not only food and bread, but also wisdom, mother and support. Therefore, praying for daily bread does not mean for us to pray for food, but in fact to pray for the support and help of God in our lives, who is like our mother. ‘The bread of life’ in John 6:48 also means lachma.  So, it is telling us that we must pray daily for bread that endures to eternal life, not that which spoils.      
We need to think of another reason why we should pray for ‘lachma – daily bread.’ One is related to the words in the Lord’s Prayer, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).” That is, we have to pray not for food for physical needs, but for spiritual needs that we will let God’s will be done on earth. We want God to supply us spiritual energy with which we can live such a life.      
 As we constantly need food to keep our physical health, we constantly need spiritual energy to live for God’s will. This is why the Lord tells us to pray for lachma, our daily bread.   
4.
The thing for us to think about here is how we can distinguish between ‘food that spoils’ and the ‘food that endures to eternal life.’
John chapter 6 verses 26 and 27 talk about the reason why people have come across on the boat looking for Jesus, “You are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.”
The thing I wondered while reading these verses was, ‘why did Jesus refer to these people as those who are looking for food that spoils?’ They had come all the way to Capernaum on a boat to find Jesus. They even asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (6:28). Wouldn’t you say that these people were wise enough to be able to distinguish between the two ‘foods?’ And yet Jesus referred to them as people who have eaten the loaves, had their fills and were now looking for food that spoils.
The answer can be seen when we look at the passage more closely. In verse 28, we see that the people have asked what ‘works’ were required of them from God. However, when Jesus answers, he uses the word ‘work’ instead, meaning that there is only one thing that the people had to do, in contrast to their beliefs of it being multiple.
The Jews at the time thought that there were various things that God had required them to do and that if they practiced at least one of these ‘good willed deeds’ they’d be saved. However, Jesus is telling them that there is only one thing that is required of them, ‘to believe in the one God has sent.’ Just as the expression ‘food that spoils’ can be interpreted in two ways, so can ‘food that endures to eternal life’ – the food itself leads to eternal life, and by consuming the food, one can endure to eternal life.
In other words, what must we do in order to seek food that endures to eternal life? ‘Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”’ (6:29)
In order to examine whether we are seeking for food that spoils or food that endures, we have to see whether we are doing what has been required of us – to believe in the one he has sent, Jesus Christ.
In a church, there are numerous ‘God’s works’ – worship team, choir, teacher, members of various teams etc… And in order to prevent these works from becoming searches for foods that spoil, there must be faith in Jesus Christ at their cores. We must examine to see whether these works are renewing our spirits or are making us even more hungry and thirsty. Why? Because Jesus had declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (6:35).
This very thought was lurking around the back of my head during the last couple of weeks. I wondered whether although I seemed to be doing God’s work diligently, I was really in search for food that spoils. Whether I truly believed in Jesus Christ and whether this faith was really at the foundation of the things I did… I hope that we will all put some time into thinking about this issue. So that the members of our church aren’t working for the sake of working but work in search for food that endures to eternal life.
5.
To conclude… I visited the Montana Old Prison Museum in Yellowstone last week. Despite the fact that it has been over fifty years since it has last been used as a prison, I wasn’t able to visit the prison cells in the basement and the execution ground. Why? Because it was quite scary.
When someone is imprisoned, he is not starved to death. In fact, he is given three meals a day and the prison even has a convenience store. However, no one wants to be imprisoned? Why? Because living in a prison isn’t actually living. The same line of though can be applied to today’s sermon. Food that spoils is still food, but a life in search of food that spoils isn’t really life. It’s as though we are trapped in a bigger form of prison.
What must we do in order to escape this prison and truly become free? During the trip, Peter had said, “Dad, I think things are a little different with you on this trip. Last time, we went somewhere close but you were still dozing off and did everything you could to try and chase sleep away but this time, you don’t seem tired at all!” Although I hadn’t told him then, I wanted to recite John chapter 4 verse 32 to him, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Tell him that I have food that you don’t know about.
Of course, this ‘food’ doesn’t refer to Jesus’ secret stash of food but our daily bread. Rakhma that is filled through our prayers and gives us new strength. Doing what was required of him by God, completing what he was sent to do was Jesus’ strength and the source of his energy. That is how Jesus was able to walk down his path.
Beloved church members, I hope that you too, will be able to walk down your paths by believing in God, the food that endures to eternal life. So that you will gain new strength through food that others know nothing about.