The Right Kind of Hunger
Some Christians undergo a frantic struggle every Sunday to remember where they last saw their Bibles. They know they had it with them at church last week.
But they haven’t seen it since they got home and set it down. Inevitably, they’ll find it buried somewhere under the debris of the intervening week. And once the next Sunday rolls around, they will launch the same search to locate it again in time for its once-a-week use.
Describing the dangerous distance that sometimes exists between believers and their Bibles, Charles Spurgeon said,
Most people treat the Bible very politely. They have a small pocket volume, neatly bound; they put a white pocket-handkerchief around it, and carry it to their places of worship; when they get home, they lay it up in a drawer till next Sunday morning; then it comes out again for a little bit of a treat and goes to chapel; that is all the poor Bible gets in the way of an airing. That is your style of entertaining this heavenly messenger. There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write “damnation” with your fingers.
Spurgeon noted that trend more than 150 years ago. Today, in a culture that excels at distraction, shallow thought, and casual indifference, it’s even easier to neglect one’s Bible. Some don’t even bother to keep a physical copy of God’s Word. Instead it’s just another app on their phones or words projected on a screen. Christians cannot afford to have such a dismissive, lackadaisical approach to Scripture. As the only repository of God’s written revelation to us, Scripture demands our attention.
It sounds incongruous that believers would need to be reminded to faithfully study and hold fast to the Word. But in his first epistle, Peter exhorts his readers about the way God’s people ought to hunger for His truth:
Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:1–5)
Peter gives us a lot to unpack in that passage, but at its core is the imperative to “long for the pure milk of the word.” This is not a suggestion. It’s an unequivocal directive—one reinforced by everything else in the surrounding context. Peter’s primary emphasis here is the command to cultivate an abiding desire for Scripture.
A hunger for the truth is one of the defining characteristics of those who have been redeemed by God. Jesus indicated as much: “He who is of God hears the words of God” (John 8:47). Paul expressed a similar love for God’s Word in the believer’s heart: “I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man” (Romans 7:22). Job said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). Psalm 1 says that the godly man is blessed because “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). In Psalm 19, David describes his own affection for God’s truth, saying it is “more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). And in Psalm 40:8, he writes, “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”
But the magnum opus regarding love for God’s Word is undoubtedly Psalm 119. Over and over, the psalmist recounts the glories of Scripture, extolling its perfections and expressing the satisfaction found only therein. He rejoices in the truth, not from external compulsion, but from the overflow of his heart. He has seen firsthand the outworking of God’s Word in his life, and he can’t hold back his grateful adoration for all that it has already accomplished, and all that it will in the future. In verse 174, the psalmist’s praise for the truth culminates with the statement, “I long for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your law is my delight” (Psalm 119:174). The Word is his strongest desire and greatest delight. Psalm 42:1 communicates a similar longing: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.” In the Septuagint, both those verses are translated with the same Greek verb (epipotheō) Peter uses to describe how believers must “long for the pure milk of the word.” The term communicates an intense, compelling craving. In James 4:5, it is translated as “jealously desires.” Paul used the same word to describe his desire for heaven (2 Corinthians 5:2). Throughout Scripture, it is employed to reflect an intense, recurring passion and an insatiable longing.
Peter demands that his readers cultivate that kind of hunger for the Word. And he chooses a powerful analogy to illustrate his point. He says, “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:2). He reaches into the physical world to find the most apt and vivid illustration he can employ. And as we’ll see next time, he had good reason to use that analogy—our spiritual survival hinges on the nourishment that can only be found in God’s Word.