Man does not live by bread alone
At the end of 40 years in the wilderness, the people come to the brink of the Promised Land. This is the setting for the book of Deuteronomy. Moses will not be going with the people into the land of milk and honey. He is the leader of the old Israel and the bringer of law. He will fall short of God’s “holy habitation.” It will be Joshua (whose name means Jesus) who will bring a new Israel to the promised rest.
But before he dies, Moses preaches to the people. The book of Deuteronomy consists of his sermons. He tells the new generation where they have come from and what God has called them to.
In this famous passage we get a wonderful insight into the reasons for the wilderness years. As we’ve seen before, we too are a wilderness people. We too have been saved out of slavery and await entrance to the promised rest. So what is the LORD doing? As Moses looks back on Israel’s experience, he will tell us the reasons behind it:
And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)
These are such precious words. Let’s consider the verbs here:
Led – We must remember that the LORD is still guiding His people. Though He judged them for their unbelief, He did not abandon them. Even under the LORD’s chastening the people have His presence.
Humbled – this verb is repeated in verse 2 and 3.
It’s not pleasant to be humbled. It’s a word that can sometimes be translated “afflicted.” It’s sometimes associated with bruising, with violation, with oppression, with bringing calamity upon someone. And here the Bible says that the LORD leads us through the wilderness to humble us! This will be painful. So why will He put us through this?
Proved – the LORD wants to know “what’s in their hearts”. As we saw yesterday, He wants a heart-to-heart with us. And a wilderness is a place where our hearts are revealed. Of course, what comes out is not very nice. But, as they say, ‘Better out than in.’
Suffered to hunger – this is a fearful truth. The LORD ‘suffers His people to hunger’. This is what wilderness times are for. We naturally crave certain satisfactions. We demand to be full of certain joys. We refuse to feel empty. But we have a LORD who causes us to hunger. Sometimes He starves us – even of necessities! Bread is a necessity. Nonetheless, sometimes He will starve us. Why? The final two verbs provide the answer:
Fed – the LORD’s ultimate will is not to famish but to feed. He only starves us in order to provide us with something even better. In this case it’s manna – bread not baked with human hands; the bread of angels! This bread finds its fulfilment in Jesus – the true Bread of life. When we are weaned off the junk food of this world, Christ will satisfy our souls all the more.
To make thee know – here is the original ‘school of hard knocks’. But it’s a deep knowledge – the kind of knowledge you only get in a howling wilderness. The people are to know that there’s a more basic necessity than bread for the starving. We need the LORD more than we need food.
In the wilderness, humbled and hungry, every word from the mouth of the LORD becomes precious, because we don’t have anything else. We’re not in Egypt anymore – we don’t have those securities. Everything is now about dependence. We depend on daily bread, daily water, daily guidance. All we have is the LORD Jesus who is with us and His promise of the future.
Every word from Him is precious. His words assure us of His love and promise us a better hope. We eat those words like the starving eat bread.
And so Moses concludes this section:
Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee. (Deuteronomy 8:5)
In our wilderness time we must realize that God is our Father. He has not abandoned us. The wilderness is not the sign He doesn’t love us. It’s the sign He does love us. And it’s the opportunity to discover just how precious His Son, the living Bread, really is.
Today, meditate on these verbs, and consider how they apply to your own wilderness time:
Suffered to hunger…
Made to know the true Bread…
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