“…his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.” Song 5:14
No one enjoys a stomach ache. Just as a meal can leave you with a contented belly or a sore belly, the Bible uses the belly as a reminder of a number of positive and negative spiritual truths:
- The belly is a picture or type of the soul. Being the center of our body mass and figuratively picturing our innermost part, the belly is often used interchangeably with the soul in such passages as Psalm 31:9 and 44:25. When the belly is content, all is well. When the belly is sick, the whole body suffers. Similarly, a soul right with God is the key to all else in life running properly.
- The belly is not our master. Hunger is an incredibly strong motivator and doing physical work to earn enough to feed ourselves is a key reality of human life – but hunger should not control us. By the same token it is a sin to allow any physical desire (the flesh!) to control us. Paul rebuked those “whose God is their belly” (Phil. 3:19) and carnal Christians who, “serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly.” (Rom. 16:18) We are to walk in the Spirit and to be led by the Spirit – not the flesh!
- Words can affect our belly just as food can. This principle of course has in mind that the belly refers to the soul. Just as food can satisfy or upset the stomach, words can soothe or disturb our innermost being. “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” (Prov. 26:22)
- Our focus should not be on what goes into, but what comes out of the belly. Much of our life is consumed with food – growing it, harvesting it, buying it, cooking it, eating it and enjoying it. Jesus instead encourages us to turn from the physical and to focus on the spiritual – instead of feeding self, how are we being a blessing to others? On the last days of the feast of tabernacles Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)
Only Jesus pictures these principles perfectly. Thus he is the one who is recognized for his perfection and glory and said to have a belly that, “is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.” How does your belly look? Maybe it has been a blessing to you, but how have you been a blessing to someone else?