Within the recesses of the human heart there is a gnawing hunger common to all humanity. Whether one is unschooled or highly educated, whether we live in the lap of luxury or in a grass hut, whether we feast at kings’ tables or scratch for roots and berries, the hunger in our souls is common to our race.
Human bodies were created to experience, enjoy and be satisfied by food (Gen. 1:29). Human souls were created to experience, enjoy and be satisfied by communion with God (Ps. 42:1-2). Before God created humanity He filled our environment with edible vegetation and fruitful trees, each containing their own seed so that humanity could reproduce and cultivate the life these plants held. All food that was needed for their physical survival and ongoing well-being was abundantly provided in readiness for the creation of the human race.
And in the midst of the garden He planted the Tree of Life to ensure that the hunger of the soul would also be continually satisfied (Gen 2:9). The Tree of Life was provided by God as spiritual food for the souls of the man and the woman. Its fruit included the nine fruit of the Spirit we read about in Galatians 5:22-23, which in one word can be summed up as ‘righteousness’.
But another Tree was also planted in the midst of the garden, because righteousness must be chosen but cannot be imposed. Righteousness imposed becomes Law, and Law can never produce Life, it can only imitate Life. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was provided so that humanity could choose the Tree of Life, a choice of righteousness and life over law and death. When Adam knowingly chose to side with the rebel angel Satan, he chose death over life. (Remember, Adam was not deceived, he understood what he was doing (1 Tim. 2:14). See also Romans 5:12, 15).
The result, as we know, was catastrophic both for humanity and for the earth.
Until it wasn’t.
Jesus Christ turned the greatest calamity in human history on its head. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness” He proclaimed, “for they shall be satisfied.” When challenged by those whose power resided in Law He made it clear He had come as the the spiritual food humanity was craving (John 6:33-35). He had not come to fill human bellies, but human souls. So they found a tree and hung Him on it, but He turned that tree into a Tree of Life too.
The only remedy for the deep hunger of the human soul is Christ. The story of the prodigal son is not simply a parable about rebellious teenagers. It is about each and every one of us. What drove the prodigal home? Hunger (Luke 15:17). His soul grew weary of the unsatisfying dregs of the world and longed for the feast at his father’s table.
Is there anything human beings haven’t tasted to try and satisfy the soul-hunger that drives us? For some it’s the pursuit of money, career and a comfortable lifestyle, for others it’s the temporary thrill of dangerous lifestyle choices. Some find solace in the haze of substance abuse. Others pursue all kinds of physical pleasures. For some it’s the approval and applause of fellow humans. Some believe a life spent in charitable service or a worthy cause will appease the hunger. And so the list grows endlessly. “To a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet” Pro. 27:7
Jesus Christ, both divine and human, is the only person who lived without being subject to human soul-hunger. “I have food to eat that you don’t know about” He once told His disciples when they urged Him to eat (Jn. 4:32). When He spent forty days and nights in the wilderness fasting, it was not until afterward that He felt physically hungry (Luke 4:2). His communion with the Father was so perfect and so satisfying at times it over-rode the physical needs of His human body. But it was at the Cross, as He bore the full weight of humanity’s separation from God, that He experienced the depth of human soul-hunger. “I thirst” was not just a cry for physical sustenance but the cry of God Himself tasting what it is like to be eternally separated from God.
On this earth there is just one group of people who hold the key to remedy this human soul-hunger. Jesus, our Tree of Life, has entrusted His church with His message to every human soul: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” There will always be those who will reject Life and continue to choose the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but each soul inherits the right to choose, because righteousness must be chosen.
Why then are so many churches able to run food programs for the physically hungry and homeless, but unable to deliver a living, satisfying Christ to the human soul? Why are so many hungry, thirsty people pouring out of organized Christianity (aka as ‘Church’) in desperate need of the only thing that can satisfy them: Christ? People are dying of spiritual hunger in the middle of the largest storehouse on earth. As I’ve shared elsewhere, it is just too easy to label them all as “rebellious church hoppers”. Something is drastically wrong.
Not long ago I had a dream in which a friend I was travelling with said she was hungry and was going to find some ‘fast food’. We discussed the wisdom of this and despite her hunger she agreed to go with me instead to the town library. On the way we passed three memorials to renowned Christian teachers, now all deceased, and stopped in front of each memorial to consider their legacy. Reflecting on this I realized each of these teachers, who lived in different parts of the world at different times and were vastly different in culture and personality, had an intensely deep knowledge of Christ and His Cross. We know this because each has left us his teachings in books and articles that are still widely available. By the time we arrived at the Library (symbolic for God’s Word) we were no longer seeking ‘fast food’ but something far more satisfying: more of Christ.
Jesus literally handed out fast food once when He turned a few fish and loaves into a meal for thousands. When the people wanted more He said they would never be satisfied unless they ate from Him, the Living Bread. Sadly, most of them turned away in search of the nearest McDonalds (Jn. 6:1-66).
The mixed fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was good for food and pleasant to the eyes, as God had ordained all the trees in the Garden to be, but it had another ingredient that delivered death, not Life (Gen. 3:6). And it created within humanity a gnawing spiritual hunger that can be satisfied by nothing and no-one except communion with Christ Jesus.
The fast food gospel of entertainment, prosperity, law and Cross-less Christianity now so prevalent across the Church landscape promises hungry souls an end to hunger, but can only deliver a clever imitation that cannot sustain them. Sooner or later people hungering and thirsting after Christ and His Kingdom must settle for the imitation or go in search of the real thing, even if that search leads them outside the comfort and familiarity of traditional Church settings.
Like a bride stirring to the Bridegroom’s call after a long and restless sleep many believers are now awakening, hungry, thirsty and restless of spirit. This hungry Bridal company will leave the apparent safety of her chambers to pursue the Bridegroom through the dangerous ‘streets and squares’ crying “Have you seen the One I love?” until she finds Him. And when she finds Him, she will not let Him go (Song of Songs 3:1-4)
Choosing the wrong tree has cost humanity dearly. Its mixed, bitter fruit has produced a soul-destroying hunger which in turn is the cause of all violence, injustice, and every kind of human misery.
But the Tree of Life still stands in the midst of the Garden. The way back has been provided – no flaming sword can keep us from the Love of God in Christ. Death and hunger are defeated. Wandering can cease, souls can be satisfied, rest is at hand.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2017. All right reserved. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.