I am a huge fan of garlic. No matter the amount of garlic a recipe calls for, I always double it. Sometimes I just take a big spoonful of it (we buy it in bulk jars) and don’t even bother measuring. Sometimes I add it even when my recipe doesn’t call for it (I’m looking at you, chicken noodle soup!). Likewise with onions. No matter what the recipe says, I normally use a full onion because I love the rich flavor it adds!
And it turns out, I’m not the only one who really loves garlic and onion. As I’ve been reading through the Bible with a few friends, I resonated with the Israelites in Numbers 11 when they daydream about the garlic and onion they savored in Egypt:
“We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic…”
But the context of this passage is not a wishlist of a few foods the Israelites might have enjoyed for a Thanksgiving feast. In this portion of Numbers 11, the Israelites are actually not thankful at all. Their hearts are complaining and grumbling:
“The rabble who were among [the Israelites] had greedy desires;
and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘
Who will give us meat to eat?
We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,
but now our appetite is gone.
There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
The people had been living in a barren environment with little access to food. God provided for them through giving abundant manna from heaven, and they were free to collect all that they needed for their daily food. They had to trust God to provide their food, this manna, each day, and each day He was faithful to provide.
But the Israelites grew tired of having the same old food day in and day out, and they allowed their minds and hearts to begin wandering and longing for something else. They started to daydream about the food they had in Egypt (back when they were slaves) and desired it. Even though during those years they were treated harshly, doing backbreaking slave labor in the hot African sun, they grumbled about their current circumstances. They longed for “the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,” and continued to grumble saying “but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
When We Prefer Onions
Like the Israelites, I am certainly fond of garlic and onion. But there is no way you will ever see me eating a spoonful of garlic. Or biting into an onion for a snack. I tried it once because I heard it can help soothe a sore throat, and I instantly regretted the decision. It was very unpleasant and I would probably just prefer to endure a sore throat. While garlic and onion add a lot of flavor to a dish, they are not enjoyable to eat on their own and have little caloric value. Likewise, you cannot be sustained on cucumbers, melons, and leeks. They are made up primarily of water!
Manna, on the other hand, provided for all of the Israelites caloric and nutritional needs, and was specifically designed by God to sustain their lives. How foolish were the Israelites…to prefer a plate of cucumbers and onion over life-giving manna!
And yet, how similar to the Israelites we can be.
We are discontent.
We over-romanticize the past.
We don’t value the true bread of life.
Seeking True Substance
John 6:32-35 says:
“Jesus then said to them,
‘Truly, truly, I say to you,
it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven,
but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven,
and gives life to the world.’
Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
he who comes to Me will not hunger,
and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”
Jesus is the bread of life.
The everlasting manna sent by the Father who will always sustain us. He is our Heavenly Father and the only One who can nourish our bodies and souls.
He is the bread of life.
Yet sometimes we prefer leeks and garlic.
Christ and His Word provide our souls with life and nourishment. We are rebelling and looking to things that cannot sustain us when we run to anything else to satisfy our needs and desires. Seeking out and pursuing things of the world like money, success, and self-care may provide temporary happiness but, like a cucumber, the satisfaction quickly fades and leaves us wanting more. Even things that really are helpful and beneficial to our spiritual walks like Christian living books or worship music cannot alone sustain us. Relying solely on spiritual foods like podcasts or worship music without also pursuing God’s Word is like consuming a big plate of melons- it tastes good, is enjoyable, and is even healthy, but melons alone won’t keep us nourished for long.
Over the past two years I have been trusting God to help me rely on Him and His Word as my primary source of spiritual nourishment. With a few other women to help keep me accountable, I have made it a goal to read God’s Word daily. At times it has been challenging. Listening to music and podcasts or reading Christian articles can feel easier and more attainable than reading in my Bible every day. But I have come to see that even good things like music and articles are just leeks compared to the life-giving nourishment that comes from reading the Bible daily. There are days that I don’t finish my reading, and there are days where I feel like I don’t understand what I’m reading. But by persevering and trusting God to be my sustainer, He has never failed to provide manna for me through His Word. And, over time, reading daily has become an enjoyable habit I look forward to each day. He has developed within me a love for His Word, and is continuously helping me understand its richness.
How has your time in God’s Word been lately?
Is it consistent?
Are you giving time to read?
Or do you prefer leeks and onions?
Building the discipline of reading the Bible consistently is challenging, but praise God that His Spirit can help us! His Word gives us life! How amazing that we have free, unlimited access to the true bread of life that will nourish and sustain us for eternity- Christ and His Word. May the Spirit help us pursue lives that are filled with His life-giving truth.