Several years ago, I was reading about the temptations of Christ as recorded in Matthew chapter 4 and Luke chapter 4. One of the verses He used to refute the devil was Deuteronomy 8:3. I was interested to read Jerry Bridges comments on this verse in one of his writings. His opinion was that “every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3) included more than just the scriptures. It embraced His creative decisions, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth, (Psalm 33:6) as well as His providential care of all of His creation. (Isaiah 55:11) I came across this same opinion from Dallas Willard in his book “Hearing God.” These thoughts began to widen my understanding about God’s care and directions for His people. They include bread, but also manna, which was supplied by the “word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
Bread is that with which we are familiar. We can see it. We watch it grow in the stalk, whether it be wheat, barley or oats. It is also a substance over which we have some control. We harvest it, (the wheat for example) and mix it together with yeast and other products to produce our bread. It is a process which we comprehend. We understand how our body processes the bread and provides the nutrients we need. Manna, on the other hand, was a substance with which the Israelites were unfamiliar. Daily by faith they picked it up from the ground. They had no control over when and how much appeared. They could not even control how long it lasted. (On the day before the Sabbath it lasted two days compared to one day the other days.) They had no ability to comprehend how it appeared and how it was used to supply their nutritional needs during the forty years in the wilderness.
From this example it is clear that the Lord will guide us in both the familiar and unfamiliar, in matters over which we have some control and that over which we have none, and in ventures which we may understand his leading as well as by paths that are inscrutable to us. It includes a walk by faith, not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7), taking risks, getting out of our comfort zone, and leaving the outcomes of what He calls us to do in His hands.
I was in the process of memorizing this verse (Deuteronomy 8:3) when I was admitted to the hospital for the fourth of five surgeries I have had in my life (so far!) for the removal of a cancerous growth. The surgery went well and I returned to my room later that afternoon. In the evening the pain from the incision significantly worsened despite the medication they were giving and I asked for more pain relief. At 9:00 PM they gave me four mgm. of Morphine which did not relieve the pain. I was given another eight mgm. of Morphine at 10:00 PM but again with no benefit. At 11:00 PM they tried an intravenous injection of Toradol (another strong pain reliever) with no benefit either. At midnight she went back to more Morphine with still no relief of the pain. I knew that Percocet had helped pain like this before from previous surgeries but they would not give me that drug because I was not to take anything by mouth until morning. My wife, Beverly, had stayed in my room overnight and would be available, should I awaken her, to leave the hospital and go to our home and bring back the Percocet I had on hand. As I considered this option, my mind turned to Deuteronomy 8:3 and I was reminded of the Lord’s opportunity to turn the stones into bread. There was a legitimate need before Him and he had the means to take care of it by saying the word, but He would have stepped out of the Father’s will for His life. I was reminded that to take my own medication against hospital advice, even though it would have relieved the pain, was not what the Lord wanted me to do. Having rejected this option I was given the thought that I should take both hands, and press them into the left aide of the abdomen next to the incision and roll over on my left side. Within a few minutes I was asleep and slept until the nurse came in at 6:00AM! By faith I responded to the thought the Lord had given. The control of the pain was up to Him, not me. It was beyond my understanding as to how He accomplished this! The pain relief itself was profound and I was exceedingly grateful for it. What was even more profound, however, was the lesson that the Lord taught me then and has been teaching me since.
We go along in our daily lives walking by sight, in control of most things that concern us and able to comprehend the path ahead of us. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are in the Lord’s hands, being sustained by His mighty hand of Grace. To walk by sight, however, is to live by bread alone. It is doing what we usually do each day with familiar surroundings and with people we know and with whom we are comfortable being around. The Lord, however, does not want us to live by bread alone. He desires that we also walk by faith. He asks us to take risks with the use of our time, our talents, and our resources. He desires that we leave our comfort zone of activities and trust Him to use our lives, leaving our future in His hands, or, as the title of John Ortberg’s book states, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat! He asks that we befriend others of different religions, cultures, races, lifestyles and that we spend time with them and minister to their needs. By faith, He asks that we accept them and seek their good. We have no control over whether they will respond to the Gospel but we are to love them just the same, uncertain of how the Lord will use our lives and uncertain of the outcome itself. We are unable to comprehend what He plans to develop in the lives of others by our simple steps of faith as we follow Him. This is living by His word, which supplied the manna, not just by bread alone.
His word, His providential care and direction of our lives leads us to a venture of faith, relinquishing control of outcomes, trusting His sovereign judgment to use our lives as He desires. Living by faith we are called to make a difference, not just a living. Our lives, lived by faith, will then make a mark, not a blur. It is my desire that His word will direct your lives into a life that is is not lived by bread alone, making a difference for eternity, not just for this life.
In Christ, Richard Spann