For the week of August 8, 2009 / 18 Av 5769
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:12 - 11:25
Haftarah: Isaiah 49:14 - 51:3

God's Words

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)

As Moses recaps the forty-year journey of the people of Israel through the wilderness, he explains the purpose of the provision of manna. Manna was the food that miraculously appeared on the ground each day, except on the Sabbath. Through this God was teaching the people to rely solely upon him. The statement "man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD" is sometimes taken to mean that our lives depend on not just physical substance, but also upon God. But that is not what this says. What we have here is actually two ways of living. One is "by bread alone"; the other is "by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD". Either we live life dependent on the fulfilling of our basic physical needs or upon God. The people of Israel needed to learn that for life to be lived the way God intended, we need to be dependent upon him alone.

Note that relying upon God is not described in vague terms, but with reference to his words. Moses didn't say that man lives by depending or trusting in God, which would be true, but that "man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD". Living life the way God intends requires strict attention to his every word.

What Moses says is of great importance with regard to our understanding of the inspiration of the Bible. If the Scriptures (Old and New Covenant writings) are inspired by God, then to what extent are the words themselves inspired? Are the Scriptures only inspired in some general sense or did God intend the words themselves to be written the way they were? The New Covenant writings state the latter:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

There has been a growing tendency among Bible believers to think that it is only the meaning of the words and not the words themselves that are inspired by God. Failing to accept that words determine meaning, opens us up to all sorts of concepts that God never intended.

Some Bible scholars belittle the words of Scripture by asserting that these words are only truly relevant to the time and culture in which they were written. They claim that in order for us to effectively understand and apply the teachings of the Bible to our day, it is necessary to separate the words from their intended meaning. Because the Bible writers saw the world so differently from how we do, it's only the eternal truths, which are somehow contained within or behind the words they wrote, that are relevant to us today.

This approach rejects the fact that it is God's words, not just his Word in some general sense, which are inspired. It rejects what Moses said (God through Moses actually) that we are to live by every word that comes from God's mouth. God inspired the writers of Scripture to write the very words through which he has revealed both himself and his will to us.

It is true that there are many differences between the way the writers of Scripture and we today view the world. But perhaps if we lived by every word that came from God's mouth, we would once again view the world the way God does.

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