Unleavened bread and roasted grain. That was the first meal the Hebrew people ate in the promised land.
We in North America are used to embellishing our food with spices and sauces or condiments, anything that makes it more salty or sweet. It seems the goal is almost to disguise the real taste of the food. Take away the embellishments for a while and our taste buds begin to adjust. I realized this while canoeing on the Yukon River many years ago. We were paddling to Dawson City from Whitehorse, a trip that should have taken about ten days. It took us three weeks. We spent a lot of time sitting still, waiting for the wind and rain to stop, and we ran out of food.
Well, almost. We had some Red River cereal, which consists of a blend of cracked wheat, rye, and brown flaxseeds. More than a little bland for my North American pallet. But after a while, I started to notice that it did have a pleasing flavour, especially after a long cold day on the river.
The Hebrew people had been used to eating Manna. We don’t know what that tasted like, but I imagine it might have been a little like Red River cereal. Basic and bland. They grumbled about that manna. (see Numbers 11:5,6). It wasn’t at all what they had been used to in Egypt. And they had been promised milk and honey – a euphemism, I think, for rich foods of all kinds, spiced and made sweet and salty. I think the thought of it probably made the Israelites drool just a little as they ate their manna every morning, noon and night.
So why did they only eat unleavened bread and roasted grain on that first day in the promised land?
We have no way of knowing, but perhaps we can be allowed to speculate. Perhaps there was a lot left over after Passover. Perhaps they did not want to waste time and energy creating a lavish feast until they were more settled in the land. Perhaps they realized the time had not yet come for celebrating, for the promised land was not yet entirely theirs.
Or perhaps that meager meal was a wonderful feast to them, as that Red River cereal was to me after a long cold day on the Yukon River. Their feet were now on the land God had promised to them and soon, they would indeed feast upon its bounty. Soon, but not yet. First, there were wars to fight, barriers to overcome and much to learn about trusting their God.
I imagine that first meal was almost like the meal the apostles shared with Jesus just before He went to the cross. We call it the last supper, but perhaps it would be better to refer to it as the first supper. That too was a time of new beginnings, a time of a new relationship with their God, a time of promises being fulfilled.
But first, Jesus had to die. First, they had to remember all the things He had taught them. First, they had to trust and obey.
The Hebrews were, after all, no different than the disciples of Christ – a people promised much, not the least of which was an abundant life and a life lived forever with God. We, too, are no different. We too have been promised these same things.
For now, we are eating unleavened bread and roasted grain. But someday soon, perhaps very soon, we will feast.
Luke 14:15 says – “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”