************ Sermon on Deuteronomy 8:3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 20, 1998
"Man Does Not Live on Bread Alone"
I God Provides Food for Physical Life
A The sun was moments from setting, and its final rays illumined the knoll around which the people had set up their tents. Suddenly the sound of the numerous crackling fires gave way to the sigh of hundreds of human throats. For now, from behind a screen of towering palms, a grey-haired figure suddenly stepped into view and slowly climbed to the center of the knoll. He held out his hands for silence. He glanced around him. Even in the twilight the people had to flinch from his burning, hypnotic eyes.
It was their leader.
He spoke in slow, measured tones. Even the farthest off families could easily hear him.
"In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate, I want you to remember ..." His voice cut deep into their hearts, searing their consciences. He recounted everything, he forgot nothing, he did not gloss over their rebelliousness and disobedience.
His name was Moses. They were God's children, the Israelites. They were on the edge of the Promised Land, on the verge of entering in to take possession of it. But before this was going to happen Moses had some words from the Lord to say to the people.
B "Remember your complaining and belly-aching about food and water? Remember how you wanted to go back to Egypt?"
Moses paused for a moment to collect his thoughts and catch his breath. "Remember," he said, "how the Lord took care of you: manna on the ground six days of the week, water from a rock, a flight of quail? Remember how your clothes did not wear out and your feet did now swell during the forty years of wandering? Remember that by day the Lord went ahead of you in a pillar of cloud to guide you and at night He was in a pillar of fire to give you light?"
The children were long asleep, nestled in the laps of their parents, before Moses finished. Even the teenagers had long since settled down for the night.
C What was the point of this? To teach Israel an important lesson – a lesson that it is God Who gives life. It is God Who provides the food we eat, the clothing we wear, the fluids we drink, the houses we shelter in. He provides by the Word of His mouth; He commands and – as with the quail, the manna, the water – it appears. Nothing is possible without God and His blessing – even our food depends upon the good pleasure of the Lord.
The lesson Moses wanted to drive home is found in the words of our text: "... man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." Simply by the Word of His mouth God can make the rain and snow fall or withhold the showers of blessing so necessary for life. By the Word of His mouth God feeds us and clothes us. God commands and all the forces of nature and creation listen and hasten to obey.
II God Provides the Word for Spiritual Life
A There is a deeper lesson to be learned from our passage and our text. "Man does not live on bread alone." In other words, there is more to life than physical hunger and its satisfaction. There is more to life than the meeting of the body's needs. Our Lord has this in mind when He says,
(Matt 6:25) "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?The Lord tells us here that there is more to life than physical wants and needs.
B What is this extra dimension of life? Both Moses and the Lord are talking about the spiritual side of life. The physical body with its appetites and desires is not all there is to life. We have to remember we have not only a body but also a soul. When God created us, He created us a body and a soul. A man without a body is incomplete; but a man without a soul is also incomplete. To be human is to be body and soul. And, in this life both facets of our being need to be cared for and looked after.
Earlier, it was said that God gives us food for our body. Our text tells us that He also gives us the food for our soul. Look at our text: "man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." God provides bread for our body. And, He provides us His Word for our soul.
The Word is as necessary for the soul as bread is for our body. The Word is as necessary for our spiritual life as bread is for our physical life. After all, it is in the Word that we hear about Jesus Who died for our sins and was raised for our justification.
I am always amazed and dismayed by those people who never read or study Scripture, never attend worship, never hear the Word preached, yet claim to have a close relationship with the Lord. How can they so delude themselves, I wonder. How can they be so misguided? How can they, how dare they, claim a relationship with the Lord apart from the reading, studying, and preaching of the Word? They may be God's children, I can't say they aren't, but they most certainly cannot have a growing and vibrant relationship with the Lord.
C The summer of 1975 was the most difficult summer of my life. It was hard because Ruth and I were 8.5 hours apart – she in De Motte, Indiana and me in Aylmer, Ontario. It is hard for a relationship to grow when you are separated by an international boundary and some 430 miles. Yet, our relationship did grow and develop even that summer.
One of the ways we kept in touch was with love letters. Every day I would wait anxiously for the mail man. When I saw him coming I would tear off for the mail box. I would sort through the letters looking for an Indiana post-mark. In our letters we would share personal thoughts and feelings and tell the other person about our day or week. Our love letters played a good and necessary role in our relationship in the summer of 1975.
Holy Scripture is God's love letter to us and for us. It plays a good and necessary role in our relationship with God. For, it is in Scripture that we hear God's personal thoughts and plans. By means of Scripture we are bound close to God so that our relationship to Him grows and develops.
D My brothers and sisters, what I want you to realize is that life, real life, does not depend on bread. It depends on God's Word. Go back to the words of our text: "... man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."
Do you really believe this, congregation?
If we really believe this we will not spend every waking moment on the acquisition of earthly bread. If we really believe this we will not slave 14, 16, or 18 hours a day, every day, at our jobs. If we really believe this than physical security will not be our primary concern or first priority in life. So many look for security in good jobs, a secure marriage relationship, a healthy bank account. But in so doing they often neglect or put aside their eternal security.
If we really believe that "... man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" then we will set aside time each day for the Word of God in personal or family devotions.
If we really believe that "... man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" then we will be in church twice every Sunday – for it is in church that we can hear the Word proclaimed. Many of you realize that – that is why our second service attendance is probably the best in the area.
If we really believe that "... man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" then we will become part of a group that studies God's Word. We are at the start of another church year, that time of the year when such groups as Friday Night Fellowship, Morning and Evening Coffee Break, Evening Men's Life, Women's Bible Circle, Men's Society, and three different Adult Sunday School classes start up again. Every adult here should be able to find one study group they can join.
I have mentioned this before – across the North American church scene there is a real and serious problem with the few number of men who are involved in any systematic study of God's Word. Unfortunately, this is true for the Christian Reformed Church too – most of the men in our churches are not part of a Bible Study group. I realize you men are busy with your jobs, your recreation, the school board, consistory, various committees, and so on. Nevertheless, if you take to heart the words of our text then you will be involved in a group that studies the Word.
If we really believe the words of our text then our youth will be involved in Cadets, GEMS, Young Peoples. And, our singles will spend time with God's Word in Young Adults.
"... man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." It is because we know the centrality of the Word that our children are in Sunday School and Catechism. It is because we know the centrality of the Word that the Christian Reformed Church so strongly encourages that our children and youth get sent to Christian schools where every subject area is based upon or is taught from the perspective of the Word.
In the life of God's people the Word is central. In the education of their children the Word ought to be central. Our lifestyle, our priorities, our outlook ought all to reflect the centrality of the Word.
Subtopic: Food for the Soul
Title: Spiritual Food Comes First
A missionary in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, reports that recently an African pastor passed through on his way home to Chad, where civil war was raging.
"What would you like to take to complete your forty-four pounds of baggage allowance?" asked the missionary. "Sugar? Powdered milk? Medicine?"
"If I could have some Bibles." And then he quoted the words of our text, "man does not live on bread alone ..." This minister knew the real need of his flock in war-torn Chad. Sure, the people were hungry; yes, they lacked some of life's basic necessities; there was a shortage of medicinal supplies; yet, what they really needed was the Word of God.
David Stravers of The Bible League wrote a paper in June of 1998 entitled "The Need for the Bible among the Nations." In it he says:
*In China, the total number of Bible provided by all sources over the past twenty years is less than half of the current number of Christians (25 million Bibles for up to 100 million Chinese believers). Accounting for the many Bibles which have been worn out or destroyed by frequent use through the years, most Christians have a very slight chance of ever gaining access to their own Bible. In many rural locations, 10 believers or 50 believers, or even 100 or 200 believers must share a single copy of the Bible.In comparison, most of our homes have five, six or even more copies of the Bible and our churches have two copies of the Bible for every three members. But do we use them – that's the question!
*In Russia and other countries of the former Soviet bloc, many churches in rural areas have only a fraction of the Bibles needed for their members. In most towns and villages, there is no source of Bibles, neither commercial nor ministry sources. The total number of new Bibles being delivered from all sources to Russian and Eastern European churches each year is less than the total number of new members coming into the churches each year.
*The need for Bibles in Russia is so great that The Bible League could easily invest its entire annual budget and all of the Scriptures produced for one year in Russia alone, and still not meet the need. This is true not just for Russia, but also for Nigeria, India, Mexico, East Africa, and China.
E "... man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." If Israel truly believed this, if Israel only lived up to this, God gave the promise of life, descendants, and the promised land. If only they lived on the Word and not on bread alone many covenant blessings would be theirs to enjoy.
Yet, what happened? As you well know, Israel did not live by the Word of the Lord. As punishment they and their children were killed and the land was taken from them.
"... man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." Israel refused to live according to this and paid the consequence. If we also refuse to live according to this we also pay the consequence.
My brothers and sisters, to live, to really live, to live forever, none of us can look to bread alone. All of us must learn that we don't have life just because we have something to put in our mouths. "... man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."
I ask you, congregation, what this coming church year will be like for you? Will you try to live on bread alone? Or, will you live on what comes from the mouth of the Lord?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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