I have been editing (aka rewriting) my book, I Once Was Fat But Now I am Found. As I reached this section in Chapter 12, shared below, I caught an unflattering glimpse of myself. Lately, as the Lord allows me to confront new areas in my life that call for His pruning shears, I can’t help but observe how much the tone of my internal dialogue sometimes sounds like the Israelites as they grappled with life in the wilderness.
A snippet from Chapter 12….
One in every crowd gets it started. “I am sick of this stuff. If I eat another bite of manna I will puke.” Another chimes in, “I thought it was just me.” Then others, “Don’t you miss the food we had in Egypt? We had all we could eat, every day, pots of meat and bread.” And another, “Why didn’t the Lord just kill us while we were back there?” The complaints of the people spread like gangrene.
They were completely missing God’s perspective and consumed with their own. Things did not go well for the complainers. Not because they were complaining, but because the complaints were springing from hearts that were rejecting God, all He had done and was doing, all He was teaching and worst of all, who He was. They wanted their own way.
In Deuteronomy 8:2-3, Moses later reminded the remaining Israelites what God had intended to do in the wilderness, “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
God was loving Israel and He was testing Israel. Would they follow Him and keep His commandments? Would they fully trust Him to provide for them and care for them? Would they be grateful and satisfied in Him alone, or would they act out and complain? Does God test us in similar ways? How do we fare compared to Israel?
God knew what Israel would face when they entered the Promised Land. They would have to fight to take possession of it. They would need to be well trained in staying in step with God. God wanted to give them the richness of relationship with Him, and to be with them as they faced every new challenge. He had a plan for them, but they would need to work together with Him and fully trust Him to reach it. An entire generation died in the wilderness because they had missed what He was offering them, unable to see past the demands that rose up from within them.
Just as in the garden with Eve, food was the object of a test of what was in the Israelites’ hearts. What does it reveal about our hearts when the cry of our flesh for food clouds out our vision of God and the ability to see the bigger picture for our lives? Our relationship with food can reveal our own heart and disposition toward God, betraying the powerful hold our flesh has on us.
This story reveals another important mystery. It is not just about how food can reveal what is in our hearts, but it points to the answer for what is able to give us life. The answer is here, “Rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” In my journey of faith, I have experienced God’s life giving words in scripture and in Jesus Christ Himself. God showed me that the inner longing I tried for years to satisfy with food could be more deeply satisfied in Him. We see Jesus demonstrate His dependence on His Father’s words in the next story.
Satan knew Jesus was hungry from 40 days of prayer and fasting. He tempted Jesus to prove His identity as the Son and to satisfy his hunger by turning the stones into bread. Jesus responds to Satan by quoting the same passage in Deuteronomy, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Jesus was with the Father in prayer for a purpose. He allowed a physical desire to go unmet in order to allow a deeper spiritual need to be met in His fellowship with the Father. This was a test that both Eve and the Israelites had failed and a demonstration of what Christ has now made possible in us.
Not only is the word of God essential for life, it is life. Jesus is the living word. He is the way the truth and the life. Have you experienced that deep satisfaction for yourself? That’s where your power to say no to lesser things begins.
John 6:35: Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”