Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
—Solomon, Ecclesiastes 9:7
Food from Trees
God planted a Garden in the land of Eden. In it He put every tree that was “good for food” (Gen. 2:9). The Hebrew word for “good” is as broad in meaning as our own. In this context it refers to taste, nutritional value or both. But later, when the serpent tempts Eve, this phrase appears again: She saw that the fruit of the forbidden tree was “good for food” (3:6). Here the emphasis seems to be on the taste, on a bite or two rather than on a prolonged diet of forbidden tree fruit.
In other words, God deliberately gave Adam and Eve all kinds of good-tasting fruits to eat. He withheld only one … and that only for a time. In the Dominion Mandate, God told our first parents that He had given them every fruit tree for food (1:29). Once they passed their probation period in the Garden, even the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would be theirs to eat (Lev. 19:23-25). Of course, there was another special Tree in the Garden whose fruit was freely available to Adam and Eve until they fell into sin … the Tree of Life.
It is no accident that God chose fruit of trees as a type of sacrament of His original covenant with man. As every child knows, trees are, in a sense, ladders to heaven. We take hold of them to climb up toward the sky … what God Himself named “heaven” because it represents the highest heavens where God dwells (Gen. 1:1, 8). Trees are also cloud-like, shade from sun and heat. Clouds present images of the Shekinah glory, the glory cloud that represents God’s presence with His people. And finally, many trees bear fruit, food that is both nourishing and great tasting. But the fruit can only serve these purposes if folks actually eat it. We must taste, chew, and digest the fruit so that it becomes part of us before the fruit can be all that God intends. The first fruit trees came to us freely as a divine gift and went a long way toward sustaining our physical life, at least in the short term. Fruit trees were then, “snapshots” of God’s covenant presence with and His gracious provision for His people.
Food in the Shadow of Death
Before our fall into sin, there was no death. This means that animals and humans, creatures that Scripture calls “living souls,” did not die. Scripture doesn’t count plants as living, accept in a metaphorical sense: They aren’t “living souls,” but only complex chemical and biological creations. So, before the Fall, neither man nor beast ate flesh (Gen. 1:29-30). All living things shared a diet of fruit and herbs. God saw this and said it was “very good” (1:31).
But the Fall changed this. By Adam’s sin, death entered the world and radically altered the physiological nature of man and animal (Rom. 5:12; Gen. 3:17-19). God used “thorns and thistles” to describe the change in landscape that the curse would generate. “The creation was made subject to vanity,” Paul says, so that “the whole creation groans and travails together until now” (Rom. 8:19-22). The wolf would no longer lie down with the lamb, except to devour the creature.
Food Since the Promise
In the first gospel promise, God promised to undo all the evil that the serpent, by his lies, had brought into the world. God would send a Savior, the “Seed of the Woman,” to crush the serpent’s head and restore life and blessing (Gen. 3:15). God took 4,000 years to fulfill that promise. In the meantime, God showed His grace to His people in ways that, with increasing clarity and detail, revealed the Person and work of the coming Seed. This grace He structured in the concept of covenant. These were legal and spiritual bonds of communion and friendship.
By covenant, God confirmed fallen Adam in his stewardship of the planet. Man was to “till the ground” and “eat of the herb of the field” until his body returned to the dust from which it was taken (3:17-19, 29). But the ground would resist his efforts, so that he would labor by the sweat of his brow (v. 19). Right here, for the first time we hear the word “bread” (v. 19): God uses it to describe our basic and necessary food (the Lord’s Prayer). The seal of this covenant was a slaughtered and sacrificed lamb (3:21; 4:4). But God’s fires consumed the whole lamb, leaving nothing. God didn’t allow him “flesh” to eat just yet.
So, by covenant God rescued Noah and his family from the Flood (Gen. 6:18; 9:1-17). At the same time God saved representatives of every kind of beast and fowl (6:19-20). He specifically told Noah to bring food aboard the ark, food for both his family and the animals (v. 21). God didn’t withdraw the need for food or require some sort of miraculous fast. After the ark landed, God renewed His covenant. Within its stipulations were a promise of predictable planting and harvest times (8:22) and permission to eat flesh: “Every moving thing shall be food for you; as the green herb have I given you all things” (9:3). God excepted only blood (no vampires). Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean animals, but he applied it only to sacrifice (Gen. 8:20). God did not tell him to apply it to food.
Ten generations later, God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and established His covenant with him (Gen. 12; 15; 17). Abraham was a shepherd and cattleman (13:2; 21:7). These animals provided food for Abraham’s large sheikdom (Gen. 14:14). We have one example of Abraham providing three guests with bread and butter, milk and the flesh of a dressed calf (Gen. 18:1-8). The text says simply, “They did eat” (v. 8). As it turned out, these three “men” were the Angel of the LORD and two attendant angels. God and His angels ate (in some fashion) butter, milk and beef without complaint or criticism.
Four hundred and 30 years more bring us to the first Passover and the Exodus that followed (Ex. 12). God commanded His people, family by family, to kill and eat a lamb or a kid of the goats. They were to eat its flesh with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. This is the first instance in Scripture of a peace offering, a sacrifice that God shared with His people.
When the destroying angel had finished his work, God brought His people out of Egypt and led them to Mt. Sinai. He gave them manna from heaven and water from a great rock (Ex. 16; 17). And then, after providing His law from Sinai and writing it on tables of stone, God ordained a system of sacrifices and festivals for Israel. Peace offerings had a permanent place in that system. There were also purification offerings. Of these the priests ate the largest portion. Every sabbath was a day for feasting (Lev. 23:1-3). Then there were the harvest festivals, Pentecost and Tabernacles (vv. 15-21, 33-44). These, too, were times for feasting and celebration. God encouraged His people to celebrate His goodness and grace with rich food (Deut. 12:10-28; 14:22-29).
We could also talk about the rich tables of Solomon and Nehemiah (1 Kings 4:22-23; Neh. 5:18), of the flesh-rich Passovers sponsored by Hezekiah and Josiah (2 Chron. 30:22-26; 35:7-8), or the Feast of Purim instituted by Esther and Mordecai after the return from Captivity (Est. 9). And then there are the prophecies of Messiah! The promises that Messiah’s Kingdom would flow with milk and wine (Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13; Isa. 25:6; 55:1). That in this kingdom … vineyards and garden would flourish (Amos 9:14; Isa. 65:21; Ezek. 34:27).
It’s pretty clear that God wants us to enjoy good food. The Bible mentions such things as barbequed beef, lamb, and goat; grapes, raisins, and wines; fruit and nuts; partridge and pigeon; bread, butter, and cheese; eggs and fish; olive oil and honey. All these and more. He gives us these things richly to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17).
Listen: Anything can be abused. This, of course, means food. We’re told gluttony is a sin. However, God gives us food to celebrate His goodness. It would be a pathetically sad thing if, during this holiday season, we turned up our noses at His gracious gifts because we have believed the lies of a gnostic pietists, leftist foodies, or pseudo-science masquerading as nutritional wisdom. This Thanksgiving, we need to believe God when He tells us to not just be thankful for our food… but to enjoy it as well.
“God is great, God is good, we will thank him for our food”