There are many references to food in the Bible and many accounts of food being prepared for a number of reasons: for special guests (Gen. 18:1-8; Est. 5: 4, 7-8; Lk. 10:40), by Jesus (Jn. 21:9-13), to celebrate holiday meals (Lk. 22:7-8) and even to revive a weary traveler (1 Ki. 19:1-8). However the kinds of “recipes” listed in Scripture are not often about food prep. Instead they are recipes for living. Perhaps the grandest of these is the passage which in Jewish circles has become known as the “Shema”. The title is based on the first word of the passage in which it is found, Dt. 6:4-9. The command to hear (shemah) not only involves using one’s auditory organs (the ears), but obeying what is heard (the will). Spiros Zodhiates wrote, “The most famous usage of this verb is Dt. 6:4, “Hear Oh Israel” which is then followed by the content of what the Israelites are to understand about their God and how they are to respond to Him”. In short, the Shema is a recipe for living.
What are the ingredients then? The ingredients are a list of action verbs- love, teach, talk, sit, walk, lie down, rise up, bind and write. The first verb, love, can be directed toward a number of things: an object such as money (Is. 1:23), wisdom (Prov. 4:6), wine (Prov. 21:17), peace and truth (Zech. 8:19), tasty food (Gen. 27:32; Ruth 4:15; 1 Ki. 11:1) or God (Ex. 20:6; Ps. 116:1) as well as God directing His love toward people (Dt. 4:37; 1 Ki. 10:9; 2 Chron. 15:15). The remaining verbs cover the activities a person would perform throughout the course of a day: teaching children about God through His commandments so that they obey Him (v. 7), talking about those commands while sitting at home or walking along the way (v. 7), having them in your heart and mind whether going to sleep or waking in the morning (v. 7), making them the force behind the work of one’s hands and thoughts- that is binding them to the hand and placing them on the forehead (v. 8), and “writing” them on the gate in the yard and on the doorposts of the home (v.8) meaning they are a part of the home both inside and out. According to the Bible when stirred into one’s life, these ingredients are a recipe for success. In fact Jesus’ opinion concerning this passage was that it was “the greatest and foremost commandment” (Mt. 22: 36-38).
Recipes for successful living are not limited to the Old Testament. The New Testament has its share too. Consider this short list (and search the Scriptures to find your own!): Mt. 6:25-34; 7:24-27; Rom. 12:9-21; Eph. 5:15-21; Tit. 3:1-11; 1 Pet. 2:16-17; 3: 8-9; 1 Jn. 1: 5-7; 2:15-17. In every list, the ingredients emphasize either following God’s commandments or turning away from worldly standards. There is a reason why most recipes do not advise you to add motor oil to the mix. It’s not edible! In the same way, staying close to God’s recipes keeps you “faith” healthy and away from harmful “life” ingredients. As for worldly things, they may look enticing and even sound beneficial but in the long run they may be as harmful as consuming seven pounds of fat or sugar every day. Sure fats and sugars make for some great tasting foods, but over-consuming either of them leads to numerous health issues, not to mention the weight you will gain. Just like sticking to a recipe in your real-life kitchen leads to a good meal, sticking to God’s recipe leads to a good life. The psalmist said it this way, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does he prospers.” (Ps. 1:1-3). The person who sticks to God’s recipe has found the ingredients to a successful life. What’s cooking in your kitchen?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre