God deliberately made difficulties for the Israelites to face. This is why a test never comes at a convenient time. The more difficult choices seem to come in times of hardship, when our loyalty is really in question and when it is much easier to serve ourselves. However, God wants us to sacrifice ourselves instead.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)
God must work with great wisdom to expose our weaknesses, our spiritual poverty, to us, which is what He is explaining here. It took Him forty years to expose the weaknesses of the children of Israel so that they would begin to cry out to Him to fill the vacuum in their lives. What God does He does to break pride's power over us and destroy our continual focus on ourselves, allowing us to compare ourselves with the true standard, Him. Pride's power gives us perverted judgment of what reality is, making us unable to give true praise and thanksgiving except in a general way. Pride's power makes us think that we did it ourselves.
John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part 3)
This is one of the earliest references to the parallel between physical and spiritual eating. It is not directly stated but implied. God intended Israel's experiences in the wilderness to instruct the Israelites that all of life, both physical and spiritual aspects, depends upon God's providence. These verses also confirm that leading a good life, an abundant life, is dependent upon one's spiritual, mental, and emotional base. These elements of the mind determine one's outlook, goals, and reactions to the myriad vicissitudes of life. These verses confirm that God directly leads us into many of them, as a means of instructing us, producing dual results: first, to experience them and develop certain characteristics; second, to test us so both He and we can see where we stand and how we cope.
A major problem is that human nature compels us to focus almost totally upon the physical. God provides us "wilderness experiences" to let us know that there is a spiritual aspect to life that requires feeding and maintenance just as surely as the physical. Prayer, study, meditation, and obedience are the assimilation process in this parallel. Within this feeding/assimilation process, our relationship with God, worship, and religion should be enhanced to play an effective, positive role in life. Worship is more than adoration and reverence; it is the response of the whole person to the entirety of God's will in all aspects of life. In the church, at home, on the job, and in the community, our direction must always be whatever God wills.
Starvation of the spirit is less obvious on the outside than physical hunger because the spirit starves much more slowly and it resides within. Spiritual malnutrition may go unrecognized for long periods because the body and life goes right on. Yet just as surely as one's body gives signs that it needs nourishment, so does the spirit, and it, too, will eventually be recognized on the outside by its symptoms.
When the body cries out for food, one feels emptiness in the stomach, weakness in the muscles, and even sleepiness. If it goes on long enough, a faintness and headache may arise. But when the spirit is malnourished either from deprivation or a harmful diet, the gradual reaction in life is different.
Spiritual weakness appears, as does sin. With sin comes anger, irritability, exasperation, depression, discouragement, melancholy, despondency, gloominess, bitterness, hatred, resentment, self-pity, hopelessness, despair, paranoia, envy, jealousy, family conflict, arguing, divorce, drunkenness or other addictions, and competitiveness as self-centeredness deepens.
A purpose of Deuteronomy 8:2-3 is to emphasize to Israel and now to us that the source of spiritual nourishment is more important than the nourishment itself. If we have the right source, the nourishment will be good. Otherwise, the situation is hopeless. Our source of nourishment must, of course, be God.
When tempted by Satan, Jesus quotes this verse (Matthew 4:4). He suggests in His answer that, unlike Esau, He received a vitality that sustained Him even though He had not physically eaten. Therefore, He had no need to succumb to Satan's temptation. Israel also demanded bread in the wilderness. They ate and proceeded to die there. Jesus denied Himself bread, instead trusting God in submission to Him, retained His righteousness, and lived.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)
Israel endured many discomforts during those forty years, and they sinned a great deal too. However, God reminds them that He was with them during both good and bad times. He also makes it very clear that He Himself inflicted a great deal of pain on them, and that He did this for three specific reasons: to humble them, to know what was in their hearts, and to teach them that man does not live by bread alone.
If He did these things to humble them, then the flip side is that He did it to knock the pride from them. Pride motivated many of their sins. As a recurring theme in Scripture, God's work to humble us is something to keep at the forefront of our minds. The author of Hebrews warns us, "Do not despise the chastening of the Lord" (Hebrews 12:5). He is deeply involved in our lives, and because He loves us dearly, He will correct us painfully when necessary (verse 6).
Deuteronomy 8 teaches that God humbles us to drive the pride of self-sufficiency far from us. When things go well, it is easy to forget God and ascribe success to natural abilities, learned skills, or even good luck. But when the body is not fed, it begins to weaken noticeably, and it soon begins to feel pain. The spirit, though, seems to weaken and "die" so slowly that it is almost imperceptible. As we spiritually deteriorate, we may even feel blessed and prospered by God! So He disciplines us with pain to warn us that all is not as well as our vanity is leading us to think.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement
By means of trials, God seeks to help us see our need and our dependence on Him. We absolutely must learn that life—both physical and spiritual—depends on what God supplies. Our reaction to the trials reveals what is in our heart, that is, what really motivates us. Humiliation proves what is really there. He puts us into distress to make us become aware of our needs. He wants to see whether we will live by faith, depending upon Him to supply those needs. He needs to see whether we will keep His commands, even when a need might be supplied by disobeying them.
Things happen to those of faith so that we might possess qualities of mind, character, and heart that would otherwise not be available to us. We can take these qualities through the grave and into the Kingdom of God. Jesus says in John 15:5, "Without Me you can do nothing." The fruits of God's Spirit can be produced through faith only in cooperation with God in His purpose as we proceed on our pilgrimage.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing for the Feast
Some time ago, in his "A Moment of Hope" radio commentary, a local preacher spoke of the power of words and how, if we want our lives to be hopeful, we need to keep our speech positive. He then quoted Proverbs 18:21 as wisdom on the subject: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit."
So far, everything was fine—and then he went and spoiled it by saying (paraphrasing), "You can find that in the Jewish Testament of your Bible."
The Jewish Testament? What is that? There is no such thing! We could call the Old Testament "the Hebrew Testament" with some legitimacy because it was written in Hebrew, but what would make it Jewish? Was he trying to say that, if we read only the Old Testament, we would become followers of Judaism? Or, that the Jews somehow own the Old Testament? Or, that because the Old Testament is revered by Jews as their holy book, it is somehow inferior to "the Christian Testament?"
Certainly, the Bible never calls the Old Testament "the Jewish Testament." Paul calls it "the Holy Scriptures" in II Timothy 3:15. Jesus calls it "the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms" in Luke 24:44. In many places, the writers simply refer to it as "the word [of God or of the Lord]" or "the Scripture(s)." The only hint that the Old Testament "belongs" to the Jews is a misinterpretation of Romans 3:2, "to them were committed the oracles of God." This means only that the Jews are responsible for their accurate transmission throughout history, not that they apply only to Jews or that Jews exclusively possess them in some way.
No, this all stems from the mistaken idea that the Old Testament is the Old Covenant, "becoming obsolete and growing old . . . ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:13), while the New Testament is the New Covenant. Thus, to a "Christian" under the New Covenant, anything that appears in the Old Testament is of lesser value than what appears in the New Testament. This error has led to countless misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the message Jesus brought to mankind.
In fact, the New Testament cannot be understood without the foundation of the Old Testament—and not just in historical terms. Paul is not overstating things when he says the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20). After His resurrection, Jesus "beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, . . . expounded to [the disciples] in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). Later, "He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures" (verse 45). Which Scriptures? The Old Testament, of course, the only ones written at the time!
Just these few verses say that we New Covenant Christians cannot understand Jesus Christ, His doctrine, His church, and God's plan without the Old Testament. We can see this by how frequently the apostles quote from the writings of Moses, David, and the prophets to support and fill out their doctrinal teachings. There is hardly a page in the New Testament that does not have a quotation or allusion to the Old Testament on it. It is a vital part of New Covenant—New Testament—Christianity!
Lack of space does not permit an explanation of the differences between the Old Covenant and the New. However, let it suffice to say that the major problem in the Old Covenant was the people with whom God made it (see Hebrews 8:7-12; Romans 8:3). The New Covenant is modeled after the Old with its basic law, the Ten Commandments, retained in all its force and wisdom. In fact, Jesus makes it plain that He added intent to the law's scope so that it is now stricter under the New Covenant (Matthew 5:17-48)!
In the end, we must conclude that the Bible is a whole with two parts, which came as a result of the ministry of Jesus Christ and the languages in which the two parts were penned. The theology and the goal of the instruction in the two are the same. The same God who never changes rules, acts, and speaks in both. Those who believed and lived by faith in both eras will receive the same gift of eternal life (I Thessalonians 4:14-17; Hebrews 11:40).
Please be aware of this false notion of the Old Testament's inferiority to the New, as it colors a great deal of "Christian" biblical commentary. The Word of God is God's Word, whether spoken in 1400 BC or AD 60. Above all, remember our Savior's instruction, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Essays on Bible Study
God's Word is just as essential to spiritual life as food is to physical life. Just as one must discipline himself to provide and eat physical food, so must one exercise discipline to seek and ingest spiritual food. If one will not do this, then, just as physical health will decline without adequate food, a person's inadequate spiritual diet will lead to spiritual disease. At the very least, one's quality of life will be severely compromised.
In Deuteronomy 8, God merely states that life has psychological aspects and does not indicate whether bread or God's Word is more important. It only states that God's Word is needed for life. By drawing attention to everlasting life in John 6:26-27, Jesus clarifies that what goes into the mind for processing and assimilation is far more important than what goes into the stomach.
The quality of what enters the mind will be the major factor that determines the quality of life. Jesus first emphasizes, using the imperative tense, that we should strive for the food that endures, that is, satisfies forever. He wants us to recognize its potential. Merely reading God's Word and putting it into the mind is just the beginning of its usefulness. We must combine further actions to our reading because the Word's ultimate effect does not magically happen. Principally, we must also believe it and put it into action.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Four)
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 16 contains a vital lesson regarding humility, our relationship with God and our ultimate destiny. Here God explains why we have our experiences on our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. He specifically mentions humbling and testing three times. They are ultimately the means by which He will achieve our birth into His Kingdom. Humility is essential to our character and the out-working of His purpose because humility motivates us to bow before God's sovereignty. Those who submit to God's will have their prayers answered and receive additional blessings from Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Deuteronomy 8:3:
1 Thessalonians 5:21
2 Timothy 3:16-17