Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that people do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
Author and radio personality Tom Bodett points out a difference between school and life: “In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson”. Today’s text reflects on 40 years of testing in the Wilderness and on lessons to be learned. This is Moses’ retrospective on the Wilderness. Poised ready to enter the Promised Land, Moses calls on the Israelites to “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years”.
Today’s text explains that God purposefully used hunger to humble and test the Children of Israel. Through the testing He wanted them to learn humility and daily reliance on Him. That will prove essential if they are to possess the Promised Land. True humility knows reliance on God at all times and in all things. We learn through life’s tests that when the times are tough God comes through.
Bible commentator Adam Clarke comments on the privation-provision principle running through life:
God never permits any tribulation to befall his followers, which he does not design to turn to their advantage. When he permits hunger, it is that mercy may be the more observable in providing us with the necessaries of life. Privations, in the way of providence, are the forerunners of mercy and goodness abundant.” (Commentary on the Bible)
The years in the Wilderness proved to be a blessing to the Children of Israel. They were tested and taught lessons of humble reliance on God. They saw God respond with resources they never could have imagined. The unknown ‘what is it’ manna taught lessons in daily reliant living.
Through the testing and learning God wanted them to understand “that people do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD”. By the word of His mouth God commands and cares for His people. The promise coming from God’s mouth means more, much more, than physical bread. It is on God’s promise that we rely. So when we come to a test we learn to say: “This is a test. Let’s see if I can apply God’s promise to my problem.”
This is what Jesus did when He was hungry in the Wilderness and tempted by the devil to take matters in His own hands. Jesus relied on the promise of God, quoting from today’s text: “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
- When are some times you have most seen God’s hand at work in your life?
- We looked at the testing-learning dynamic in today’s text; are you in a testing time right now? If so, what is it?
- What promises of God are you relying on right now?