Question 1: When should we eat? Answer: according to appetite
‘Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart’ (Jeremiah 15:16).
Young Jeremiah, as son of a priest, expected to devote his adult life to the priestly ministry of teaching the people of Judah the law of the Lord. But at least part of that law had gone missing for a long time. As a result, the people of God had lost their spiritual bearings – seriously. Then the godly king Josiah authorised a cleansing programme for the house of God in Jerusalem, in the course of which – hallelujah! – a missing scroll of Scripture was found (see 2 Kings 22:0). Jeremiah then ‘found’ it for himself, and devoured its contents enthusiastically. How often we too lose the Word, even though we still read it, because of a lack of such hunger.
Some forty or so times in Jeremiah’s writings we are told that ‘the word of the Lord came to him.’ We will find that the Word will come to us also when we read the Good Book with that same sharpness of appetite.
Question 2: What should we eat? Answer: a balanced diet.
Professional athletes not only employ a coach and a physiotherapist, they also engage a nutritionist to advise them on a suitable diet. The recommended menu will include carbohydrates that will release energy slowly, proteins to replace burned up muscle tissue, living seeds to supply enzymes, and fibre to prevent congestion of the gut.
We also need a full and varied content in our Bible intake: not just promises and praise and prayers, but also commands, warnings, probing questions and exhortations.
Question 3: How should we eat? Answer: by chewing the cud.
When the psalmist vowed, ‘I will meditate on your statutes’ (Psalm 119:48), he meant that he intended to masticate what he found recorded in the word of God. The two verbs masticate and meditate convey a similar sense of activity.
A young man, awaiting his girlfriend’s arrival at a rural bus stop, occupied his leisure by timing how long a cow gave to chewing each morsel of cud. He found that each swallow and regurgitation took a mere ten seconds, but the chewing lasted all of fifty seconds. Never bolt your spiritual food; enjoy it by ruminating (= meditating; the rumen is one of the cow’s four stomachs). And remember: a cow stands to eat grass, but sits down to chew cud!
Question 4: Why must we eat? Answer: to develop character.
Since God isn’t just ‘telling us something’ in his Word, but revealing himself, we should not read it for mere information, but for the formation of Christ in us (compare Galatians 4:19). When a word repeatedly returns to your thoughts, stay with it. And be prepared to share your food with others (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; it’s ‘the bread that we break’), and watch it multiply (John 6:1-14; 1 Kings 17:8-16).