Man shall not live by bread alone
What are we living by? What is sustaining us? What is giving us strength for today?
What men live by
Somehow I managed to find some of Solzhenitsyn's books as an adolescent. They are usually set in bleak situations such as prisons or hospitals, but they appealed to my teenage angst.
In one of these novels, Cancer Ward, the main character reads and ponders a short story by Tolstoy, What men live by. The theme is universally relevant, but has a special poignancy in these troubled times. We all know we need strength for the day. We need nourishment for our souls, otherwise how will this new way of living be sustainable?
Jesus has the answer.
He knew where to find the strength he needed.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Bread is the staple food in The Middle East – essential, daily nourishment.
It sustains and strengthens us, giving us health, but is this all we are living by?
Are we hearing the words that come from God’s mouth?
Are we only looking after our physical bodies, but neglecting to nourish our spiritual side?
Reading, studying, listening to and meditating on the Word of God is our daily bread,
and it nourishes and sustains our souls.
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Matthew 4 v 1-11
If you are the Son of God
The devil’s ‘If you are the Son of God’ is interesting: It’s a way of testing Jesus’ identity and how certain he was of the relationship he had with his Heavenly Father.
But Jesus already knew his father well enough to realise that this was not God’s way. He was confident of his own identity and he knew that there are things which are as vital as daily food, or even more so.
You can find out about a person’s character by seeing how they are tempted. Jesus had been fasting for forty days, presumably drinking water. Understandably he was hungry. Most people would be tempted by bread in these circumstances, but not necessarily by stones!
The other temptations just emphasise to me how different Jesus really is. These are not temptations that I have ever experienced.
When you read the passage you probably had all sorts of thoughts about it, or maybe it sparked ideas about your life. That is why I am writing this – for you to hear from God himself, for yourself. I see my contribution as a springboard, and I don’t know how high or how far you will jump.
Why not find an old book to use as a journal, or use your phone or iPad?
Write down your own thoughts about the passages of
scripture that we are looking at.
If you hear from God today, write it down.
This is a way to remember our thoughts and to value the Lord's words. In this way the Word of God can sink into our hearts as well as our minds. Bread of heaven, feed me, now and evermore.
Guide me O thou Great Redeemer
The words to this wonderful hymn were originally written in Welsh by William Williams in 1745. This well-known tune, Cwm Rhondda, was composed in 1905 by John Hughes. Fittingly sung by a traditional male voice choir from the Welsh valleys.
Uplifting, inspiring and full of hope.