Lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice. (Exodus 34:15)
I have always found it interesting that so many missteps and failures on the part of God’s people have been associated with food. In the beginning, it was Adam and Eve’s failure to abstain from the forbidden food that grew on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that led to their expulsion from the Garden and the curse of death. It was a desire for food that compelled Esau to sell his birthright and, consequently, provoke the anger of God against him.
Later on, Israel fell into a deadly trap set by the seer Balaam and engaged in forbidden practices and ate forbidden food. The Bible says that they “began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab” and ate of the sacrifices made to their gods (Numbers 25:1-2). This great sin was followed by a plague that swept through the camp destroying many because, as the Psalmist put it, “They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices made to the dead” (Psalm 106:28).
So why is it that food plays such an integral role in these tragic situations? Perhaps, at least on one level, it is because there are few things in this physical world that are more intimate than what we eat. We spend a good part of our life growing or shopping for food, preparing it and then consuming it. And while it is true that there are those who “eat to live,” there are those who “live to eat.” In other words, food and our consumption of it is connected to our physical desires and appetites, and sometimes, that desire can overwhelm our inclination to do good.
So it is important to remember that we don’t live by bread alone but by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD God.” When we learn to curb and control our physical appetite it teaches us how to curb our appetite for things that are far more deadly than a plate of fatty foods. Granted, there are things people eat that aren’t really food and should be avoided but, more importantly, we must realize the importance of leading disciplined lives that are governed by the Word of God. So the next time your eyes have a tendency to overload your stomach, remember that appetite and desire is what led to some pretty bad choices in the past. Let’s not allow our desires to overcome our commitment to do what is right in the eyes of our Father.
Blessings and Shalom,