But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” – Matthew 4:4 (NLT)
In the life of first century Palestine, bread was an important part of the daily diet. Wages were paid daily so workers could buy bread to feed their family on the same day. In addition to the broad background of this verse, the immediate context of what Jesus said was part of a series of dialogue with the tempter in the desert, a setting that resembles the natural environment in which the same message was first announced.
In fact, Jesus was quoting an Old Testament verse from Deuteronomy 8:3. The book of Deuteronomy, by definition, was a reiteration of what had been said before. Apparently, God wants to remind us of a very important message. By saying ‘people do not live by bread alone’ (NLT), Jesus was validating human physical needs.
The triune God had provided foods to His people throughout history. At the same time, Jesus was pointing out that there is spiritual food that is more important than natural food. God sometimes humbles us, causing us to hunger and then feeds us with manna (Deut 8:3), just like He did with the exodus nation and His son. Ironically, when natural food is no longer the focus of our survival, it doesn’t free our energy up to crave for spiritual food.
Such a dilemma was well captured in Proverbs 30:9, in times of wants, scarcity leads people to steal or misuse God-appointed power for our own benefits; in times of abundance, we start boasting about our own ability to generate resources. Even the heavenly descended manna couldn’t prevent the Israelites growing tired of it due to its very nature of consistency over the years, a reflection of God’ faithfulness.
During both seasons of scarcity and plenty, eras of recession and booming, this message has its timeless lesson for us to hold on to.
May we crave for the Word as we crave for the essentials at all times.
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THIS DEVOTIONAL IS WRITTEN BY Sylvia Yuan BIBLE SOCIETY NEW ZEALAND
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