Summary: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.
The Mouth of Christ
March 19, 2006
One of the things that I have learned over the years of being a pastor is that some of the most important committee work of the church doesn’t occur in meetings. Sometimes, some of the most important decisions we make, some of the most significant insights we have, some of the most valuable lessons we learn, come from the meeting after the meeting.
The meeting after the meeting is informal and usually takes place in the parking lot as folks are making their way to their cars. More questions are asked, alternative options are discussed, or further information is offered.
I would like to ask you today to think about the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament as the meeting after the meeting. The original meeting has been comprised of history up to this point. It includes the creation stories, the flood, the lives of the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the enslavement of the Children of Israel in Egypt, the Exodus from slavery led by Moses, and the forty year wandering in the desert.
These events and stories are recounted in the first four books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
The book of Deuteronomy finds the Children of Israel at the very end of their wandering as they are preparing for an attack across the Jordan from the east side of the river. It is sort of the farewell address of Moses to the people. He reminds them of what they had been through and how God has been with them through it all. Then he reinterprets their history for their contemporary times by telling them how it all fits together to make sense.
Deuteronomy is the meeting after the meeting. Moses is telling the people what they need to remember, what was important of their history, and what God desires as they go forward to carve out a new homeland. They are standing in the parking lot and Moses climbs up on a tree stump to take one last opportunity to help them understand all that has happened, just in case there has been some misunderstanding.
In the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people to remember that God led them in the wilderness for forty years, fed them with manna from heaven, provided them with clothing that did not wear out, and prevented their feet from becoming lame. More important than all of those things, is the teaching that, as dependent as they have become on the physical sustenance provided by God, it is the Word of God which provides real and lasting life. “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3). Just a short time before this, Moses recited for them what was to become their confession of faith. To this day, Jews still recite this.
Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deut. 6:4-9).
It is the Word of God which provides life. These are people of the Word. Without the Word, they would have nothing. Without the Word, they could accomplish nothing. Without the Word, they could be nothing. It was the Word of God that spelled out for them what it meant to be God’s people. It was the Word that formed them, corrected them, counseled them, empowered them, protected them, taught them, and set them on right paths. They were people of the Word. And they would remain people of the Word.
Skip ahead now a couple of thousand years or so in history. Jesus has come on the scene. He was born in Bethlehem, spent his boyhood in Nazareth, learned the craft of his earthly father, and was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Following that baptism, he was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit for a time of trial and preparation for his ministry and mission.
He was fasting during those days in the mountainous desert in order to clear his mind and help him focus on God. When he was most vulnerable, the Devil appeared to him and offered him a deal. The Devil acknowledged his hunger, but said not to worry about it because he could fix it. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”