2015 Lent 5


Deuteronomy 8

Probably all of us are familiar with this saying: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  I often misquote this to my son: “Boys shall not live by peanut butter sandwiches alone . . .”; so he’s familiar with it, even at six years old.  But that’s beside the point.  Rather, this saying appears in today’s reading; and the context places a different spin on it than perhaps you’d expect.

The passage begins by calling on the Israelites to remember the past forty years, during which they wandered through the wilderness, an arid waste with poisonous snakes and scorpions.  I cannot help but picture the Arizona desert here: saguaro cacti and oppressive heat, rattlesnakes and sand dunes.  The only way they lasted, Moses reminds them all, was by the mouth of the Lord.  Their God, the same God who spoke all creation into existence, also gave word and they were delivered from slavery in Egypt.  God gave word and their sandals didn’t wear out in the wilderness; nor did their clothes need patching–for forty years!  God gave word and manna fell from heaven.

Then Moses reminds that they shall not live by bread alone (which fell from heaven by God’s word), but by every word from God’s mouth.

Well, okay, that seems pretty obvious after what the Israelites have just come through.

But then Moses goes on, pointing to a time when it will not seem so obvious.

Some day, Moses predicts, you will come into your own.  You will build houses, plant fields, grow flocks, and come into a time of gold and silver, of wealth, of prosperity.  And when you do, you will be tempted to say something like, “Look at all this prosperity I have made for myself.  I worked hard for many years.  I planned, scrimped, saved, and I’ve earned it.  Now I can retire with plenty.  Ahhhhhh.”  Don’t forget God’s word then, Moses reminds.

Sort of puts a new spin on our material world today, doesn’t it?  Who isn’t tempted to think that what I have I’ve earned by my own hard work, diligence, and discipline, dangit!

We say people cannot live by bread alone, and so we conclude we also need meat and vegetables.  Or maybe we take the Atkins Diet route and throw out bread altogether.

But this saying runs so much deeper.

It’s not about the material world at all, or at least not much.  The only reason we know any goodness at all–whether that goodness looks like prosperity or something else, like a family that loves each other–is because of the word of God, who is sovereign and governs all things.

Not a bad reminder from Moses this morning, eh?


One Response to “2015 Lent 5”

  1. Not bad at all. Thank you Moses, and you, Tim. May the Lord preserve this confession as our own, “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”

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