Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eating Words

There is something really special going on in the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4. As I was reading this passage this week, I couldn’t get past the first temptation, especially Jesus response found in the 4th verse:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Jesus, defending the tempter’s challenge, retorts with the impervious Scriptures found in Deut. 8:3.  However, there is much more going on here than just a simple quote from the Torah.  The two stories seem to be inexorably linked. 
Jesus is in the wilderness for 40 days.           
Israel was in the wilderness 40 years.
Jesus is hungry.                                            
Israel was hungry.
Jesus is tempted to make bread.                  
Israel was complaining they needed bread. 
Jesus is being tested.                                   
Israel was being tested.

The hunger that Jesus and Israel was experiencing was very real.  Their stomachs were growling, they are growing physically weak from lack of food.  Both Jesus and Israel need physical food to survive.  Israel had the added weight of mothers and fathers hearing their little children cry out for food.  Cries of inconsolable toddlers echo across the camp that translate to nagging wives and agitated fathers.  Discontentment and grumbling is about to erupt. 

The solution is simple, provide bread.  FEED MY CHILDREN and the cries will be silenced, the mothers will calm and fathers will have peace.  Unfortunately, Israel’s shortsightedness would only lead to more outcries and unhappy families if God doesn’t provide a permanent solution to their physical and spiritual needs.  

Jesus has the insurmountable weight of all of mankind, both living, dead and yet to live, resting on the outcome of this temptation.  In both cases, God is called upon to make bread but a something larger is looming.  For Jesus, this becomes a definitive victory against his foe. 

For Israel, and for us, it becomes a resounding life lesson in faith and obedience.  Will we be willing to patiently wait on God’s timing to provide?  Do I have the faith to believe that when God promises to provide, I can take Him at his word?  Am I willing to accept that bread alone will not satisfy.  The children of Israel first began complaining only 3 days after seeing the astounding miracle of the Red Sea.  How long can you last?  Jesus was 40 days in the wilderness without the very edge of maximum time a human body can deprive oneself of food before death ensues. 

Jesus provides us with more than bread, but a life lesson that obedience and dependence on God is better than temporary satisfaction.  He is the bread of Life.  God wanted to bless Israel but He needed to know what was in their heart, whether they would keep His commandments or not (Deut. 8:2).  God wants to know what is in our hearts.  Our call is to trust in God who promises to provide and satisfy, resulting in glory to our God.

“My God shall supply all your needs” (Phil 4:19).
“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:25-34).
“God knows what we need even before we ask for it” (Matt. 6:8).
“To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22).

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