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. 3 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. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (NLT)
When I started reading the Bible for myself, like many new students, I began in the gospels and worked through the rest of the New Testament. It didn’t take many chapters to realize that not everything I was reading was easy. Jesus said some pretty tough things, like “Take up your cross and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) Jesus warned me that being His disciple was about sacrifice (Matthew 8:20).
Now before I go any farther, let me repeat an important principle of Bible study I have learned: Be careful of taking a verse of Scripture out of context. Look at the passage and how it relates to the book it was in and in relationship to the whole Bible.
This passage in Deuteronomy is a teaching given the setting of Moses’ teachings. The Israelites, like me, not only need to learn the LORD’s principles and precepts but also need to be reminded of Who God is.
God’s commandments say that I shall have NO other god, nothing else to take my allegiance (including a spouse or child or money or career) before Him. God is my King and my LORD. And – He is my loving Father.
And there was the tough point for me to learn. God is my Father. And like an earthly father, He loves His children and He disciplines His children. But – and here is another important principle – God is a perfect father. His discipline always comes from love, not from out-of-control rage or manipulation. His discipline is about teaching me to turn to Him first for wisdom, love, and comfort and follow Him in obedience through the plan He has destined me to fulfill.
“Man does not live by bread alone.” Did you know that phrase is from the Bible? It is a well-known saying, but it isn’t the complete principle, is it? God said that what I can grow or work to achieve is not what makes me successful. I am successful when I: follow His teachings, believe His promises, count on His love, and give Him all my praise and thanksgiving.
Another tough part in this Scripture is the teaching that God used discipline that would humble the Israelites. It can be hard to accept that God would do things to humble me. He would leave me in “want” in order to get my attention and turn to Him.
Remember John 6 where Jesus taught in the synagogue “eat My flesh and drink My blood or you cannot abide in Me”? John said that many stopped following Jesus because this teaching was too hard. I have had a crisis of faith when I heard God’s teaching and it was just more than I was willing to “pay” as His disciple. I told God, “Look, I still believe You exist but I am not going to be Your disciple any more. You ask too much of me. How can You love me and allow this to happen in my life?
I remember my parents telling me that I could not watch TV until my homework was done. And another time, I could not go to a dance with a senior when I was a freshman. And one night when I did sneak out of the house and got caught coming back in, I was grounded for four weeks – and it was during the summer! I thought my parents were too harsh and too old! But – I did learn.
Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Proverbs 19:20 (NIV)
Our human fathers correct us for a short time, and they do it as they think best. But God corrects us for our own good, because he wants us to be holy, as he is. It is never fun to be corrected. In fact, at the time it is always painful. But if we learn to obey by being corrected, we will do right and live at peace. Hebrews 12:10-11 (CEV)
Would God really discipline me in a way that will cause me frustration, even pain? Yes, He would – because He loves me and wants me to be holy, just like Him.
Praise the LORD written by Brown Bannister & Mike Hudson & sung by The Imperials