For the week of August 23, 2008 / 22 Av 5768
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:12 - 11:25
Haftarah: Isaiah 49:14 - 51:3
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:3; ESV)
I think this is one of the most important verses in the entire Bible. The principle expressed here is fundamental to the kind of life God calls us to live. God purposely allowed the Israelites to experience great hunger in the wilderness in order for them to learn this lesson. Having gone days without eating, God began to provide a miraculous food called "manna." For the next forty years manna would appear on the ground every day of the week, except on Shabbat (English: Sabbath). The people were only to take as much as they needed, but no more, lest it go bad. It was also miraculous that on the sixth day they were able to take twice as much to provide for Shabbat. Once the people entered the Promised Land, the provision of manna stopped.
Food is one of our most basic needs. Without it we die. Those who have little of it, know what it means to be obsessed with eating. What is interesting, though, is how much those of us who live in affluent societies think about eating. It would be instructive to realize how much of our life motivation is driven by our stomachs. My guess is that it is much more than we might be willing to admit.
In order for the people of Israel to be the people God wanted them to be, this issue had to be addressed. This lesson had to be learned.
What is the lesson? "Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."
In order for the Chosen People to live like the Chosen People they required a perspective shift. They (as do we) needed to learn that even though the human drive for food is so strong, that it was not to be the thing which drove their lives. Instead God's Word was to lead them.
The real shift that God was calling for was a shift from a self focus to a God focus. Instead of arranging our lives based on our personal needs and desires, whether they be legitimate or not, life should be based on God's directives.
What may be difficult to grasp is that this is the way we were all designed to live. Adam and Eve should have lived that way, but didn't. Now that we are on this side of Eden, it is much more difficult, but still, as human beings we were designed to live on earth as children of our Heavenly Father. We are not animals who were designed to live life based on their drives. We were intended to be children of the King of the Universe, children who trust their Father's care and are attentive to his words of guidance and direction.
But due to the chasm that exists between us and God, we think we are alone in this world. We think we need to care for our own needs. We live as if are abandoned children, as if we don't have a caring Father at all.
The Hebrew Bible tells us that this is how the ancient people of Israel actually lived. They never learned this basic lesson. It would take another kind of miracle to learn it - a miracle of a changed heart.
When we come to know Yeshua the Messiah, God begins to teach us this lesson from the inside out. Because of what Yeshua has done for us, our sin - the cause of our separation from God - is forgiven and through his Spirit he heals our sense of abandonment. Still, we don't learn this lesson automatically. We need to stop imitating those around us who live life based on their desires and, instead, learn to trust God. As we learn to live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD, we will discover what living really is.
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