If the write of Ecclesiastes were writing today, he'd probably be more tempted to say not that everything is meaningless, but that everything is senseless. We're living in a world where our senses are overwhelmed, yet we're experiencing less and less of our real world every day.
I once heard or read or saw somewhere (and that pretty much means it was, of course, reliable information, since I can so readily recall) that the most shared photographs on social media are the pictures people take of their food. We love plastering our walls, feeds, chats, and boards with the delicious-looking. Sometimes, it's a meal we're about to sit down to enjoy. Sometimes, it's a recipe we came across that looks fantastic (even though we all know we're never actually going to prepare this recipe). Sometimes, it's just good-looking food that makes our mouth water.
What's funny is that for all the attractive pictures we're posting, most of us aren't really eating like that. We're eating...cheap substitutes, if we're eating at all. And I'm not one of those people, and I'm not pretending to be. I have friends who fill up their Facebook feeds with articles about all the engineered ingredients in all our food, all the chemicals we're eating, all the bad stuff we're putting into our bodies because the fake stuff is cheaper and easier than the real thing. I'll leave it to you to consider what you think about all that.
But here's what I do know: our current relationship with food, as a people, is not much different than the attitude of Israel in the wilderness. And that....that's hard to swallow.
The people of Israel came out of Egypt with whatever ingredients they could carry. They'd been promised a land flowing with milk and honey, but that was still quite a travel's distance away. Out here, there wasn't a whole lot to choose from. In fact, there wasn't anything to choose from. The provisions they'd come with had long since been exhausted, and they were hungry.
I think this happens to us when we start to grow up a little bit. When our breakfast isn't made when we hop out of bed in the mornings. When our lunch isn't provided as a well-rounded meal by the school cafeteria, or by a thoughtful parent who has packed such a lunch in anticipation of our hunger. It's like we grow up and all of a sudden, we are struck by our hunger in a new way. You mean...we have to feed ourselves?? When did this happen? And then we're driven by that hunger. Driven to poor choices.
Israel probably couldn't get thoughts of milk and honey out of their heads. They probably salivated over the very idea the way we do over the pictures on our Internet. They probably kept the promise of what was to come in the forefront of their minds. And yet, when faced with hunger - real hunger - they didn't ask God for a taste of milk and honey; they asked Him for anything. Anything at all to eat. They were hungry!
God provided, of course, in manna and quail, and thus began people's animosity toward food. Oh, sure, for the first day or two, it's fine. But manna and quail day after day after day starts to wear on a person until the hunger burns inside of you but it doesn't much matter any more what you eat. You can't even remember the milk and honey; you've got quail coming out your nostrils. (And that, by the way, is Biblical. It's really in there.)
I think that's what has happened to us. We've been so driven by our hunger that we've come to eat anything, anything at all, and we're stuffing ourselves with manna and quail even in a land of milk and honey. We're there, friends. We're living in the promised land. We're living in the place to which God has brought us, to which He has been leading us. We're here. Milk and honey abound! And we're not tasting it.
I've made this about real food, about the way things really taste, and that much is certainly true about our society. I don't think man has ever had as much of a love-hate relationship with food as we do today, not since the time of the Exodus and Israel's wanderings. But the truth is, it doesn't have to be about food. It can be about anything. It can be about anything that God has given us to enjoy, to nourish us, that is meant to be both pleasure and provision. We're driven by our hunger, but we're satisfied with less than the promised. We're surrounded by milk and honey, but we're stuffing ourselves with manna and quail to the point it's coming out of our nostrils.
And there's nothing wrong with being hungry. We're all hungry. We just have to be careful about what we're doing to satisfy that hunger. For all the good-looking things that surround you, for all the milk and honey, are you even tasting it? Or does this senseless world taste a little more like quail?