Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart. For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.
Modern Ethiopia owes much to the great African leader Menelik II. Thought to be a descendant of the legendary Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, Menelik II of Ethiopia maintained his country's independence against Italian aggression. A man of unswerving passion and purpose, he escaped enemy clutches after 10 years of imprisonment and declared himself head of the province of Shewa. Following a series of battles, he conquered neighboring territories, and crowned himself their emperor. At one point Italy tried to overrun Ethiopia, but were sent packing in a humiliating defeat at the battle of Aduwa. Menelik II was not only a man of fortitude and fight, but also foresight. He proceeded to develop and modernize Ethiopia through the building of schools, telephone communication, and railroads. This gave him notoriety in Africa, and fame throughout the world. Known for all of these things he is perhaps remembered today for one eccentricity. The Emperor had such reverence for the Bible that he would often remove pages from the Holy Scriptures and reverently eat them either as a source of inspiration or as cure for illness. One day in December of 1913 while recovering from a stroke and feeling extremely ill, he tore pages from an Egyptian edition of the Book of Kings, ate them and died.
While wrong in his application, Emperor Menelik II dramatically illustrates for us the need to ingest and digest God's Word (Job 23:12; Jer. 15:16). What food is to the body the Bible is to the soul. The Bible is bread (Matt. 4:4); milk (1 Pet. 2:2); meat (1 Cor. 3:2); and honey (Psa. 119:103). The "eating" metaphor is employed throughout Scripture to remind us that the Bible is soul food (Heb. 6:5). It is spiritual manna and nourishment that sustains the inner man, and our life in Christ (John 6:63). An appetite for the Bible is a sure sign of spiritual health, and vitality. Christians who delight in God delight in His word (Psa. 119:16, 24, 35, 47-48, 72, 92, 127, 159, 162).
In thinking out this call to "eat" the Word of God the correlation between food and Scripture is instructive. Firstly, like food, the Bible is something absolutely necessary. Without food we will die, and that is why Jesus told us to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). Secondly, like food, the Bible is something we grow in and by. Healthy and growing babies require milk and maturing Christians require the Word (1 Pet. 2:2). And just as a baby graduates from milk to meat so the growing Christian will move into an ever deepening and widening knowledge of biblical doctrine (Heb. 5:12-14). Thirdly, like food, our biblical intake requires balance. We must seek a balanced and comprehensive understanding of the Bible (Acts 20:27). We must avoid pet doctrines, an over emphasis on the New Testament, and a devotional style of reading that cheery picks verses out of their context. Jesus chastised the Pharisees for their imbalance (Matt. 23:23-24). Fourthly, like food, the Bible is something we should be grateful for (Neh. 8:1-12). Our gratitude should be shown to God, and those who teach His word (Neh. 8:5-6; 1 Tim. 5:17). Fifthly, like food, the Bible is something to delight in, and enjoy (Jer. 15:16). Americans love to eat, and so do Christians their Bibles!