“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:2,3).
IN THE WILDERNESS, GOD KEPT ISRAEL FROM STARVING TO DEATH, BUT NOT WITHOUT LETTING THEM FEEL THE EXPERIENCE OF HUNGER. The purpose of this was to teach Israel their need for Him, especially their need for His truth. Moses said that God “humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna . . . that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
It is a fact that we need our Creator. He created us to need not only Him but a right relationship with Him. Yet we forget this, living most of the time as if no notice need be taken of the God who made us. On Thanksgiving Day we may say grace before we eat, but more often we live as if what we need is going to come from marrying well and making smart career moves — matters that “we control.”
So if it was said to Israel that “he humbled you and let you hunger,” the same might be said of us. Food might not be the thing we have to do without, but there will be some deprivation, some unmet needs. God will see that this happens. He will grant us the gift of “need” — to teach us that we are not self-sufficient.
The fact is, we have to be taught what our greatest needs are. We think we know what these are, but our priorities can become dangerously disordered. We have to be taught (sometimes the hard way) that it is by God’s word that we live, not by bread alone.
All of this relates to the gospel in a powerful way. There is no greater barrier to a person’s reception of the gospel than the sense of not needing what the gospel offers. If we don’t need God at all, we certainly don’t need His forgiveness, least of all by yielding ourselves to some plan that He might have for our “salvation.” But there is coming a day of reckoning. If our doom ends up being that of those who have disregarded God, it won’t be because He did not try to break through our hard shell of self-sufficiency.
“God’s restrictions were given to show us more keenly our need of him” (Erwin W. Lutzer).