A Hungry Army


And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, so Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.” So none of the people had tasted food. Now when all the people came to the forest, behold, there was honey on the ground. And when the people entered the forest, behold, the honey was dropping, but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, so he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright. Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food this day.’” And the people were faint. Then Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have become bright because I tasted a little of this honey. How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies that they found. For now the defeat among the Philistines has not been great.” I Samuel 14:24-30 ESV

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 15:32-38 ESV


There’s a saying that says, “An army travels on its stomach.” That means that any army, if it is going to stay healthy and able to fight, needs to have enough food for each person in it. During the American Revolutionary War, the rations for the American army included beef, pork, or salt fish; bread or flour; peas or beans; milk; rice or Indian meal; and spruce beer or cider. This diet has changed through the years as different foods became available and fighting situations changed. For example, during World War II a combat lunch, meant for air crews on long missions, would include dry milk, chili powder or tomato paste, bouillon cubes, hard candy, gum, precooked rice, salt, tea tablets, and a can opener. These things could be cooked with water right on a plane.

Saul made an extremely foolish rule when he told his soldiers they couldn’t eat all day. It showed that he didn’t care about his men and had forgotten about their needs, and only wanted to use them to get as much glory and victory for himself that he could. Saul’s selfishness worked against him in the end, because his hungry men became weak and tired and didn’t fight as well as they could have otherwise.

Jesus is a different kind of king than Saul was. He cares about hungry people, and more than once he fed people who didn’t have food to eat. Once when thousands of people had been with him for three days without eating, he wasn’t willing to send them home without feeding them first because he was concerned that they might faint with weakness and hunger on the way home. This love and compassion Jesus showed is just a very small example of the love and concern he has for all people. He not only fed people who were hungry and healed people who were sick, but in the end he went all the way to the cross to die for all the people in the world. He died because our greatest need was to have our sins forgiven, and his death on the cross won that for us, now and forever. Because of that, we can go to Jesus with all our needs and know that he cares and will help us.


Dear Jesus, thank you for caring about us and our needs, and especially for dying on the cross to save us. Amen.