Originally Posted to martha_martha by Sarah Fullerton
“As creatures of God we are totally dependent upon him for everything. We are dependent not only on the continual rule or providence of God in nature for the production of food and other goods, but also for every moment of our existence. We draw the next breath, our hearts beat the next beat, we are conscious of the next moment of our existence only because God goes on sustaining the very substance of creation. There are no laws of nature that are self-sustaining. If God were to withdraw for a split second his powerful word, the universe would cease to exist in that same split second. That is why man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deut 8:3; see also Ps 104:24-30). So Christ, as the creative Word of God, sustains ‘all things by his powerful word’ (Heb 1:3), and ‘in him all things hold together’ (Col 1:17).”
-Graeme Goldworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
These thoughts gave me a new insight into Jesus’ quoting of Deuteronomy 8:3 when the Devil tempts him to turn stones into bread after 40 days of fasting (and serious hunger!). I’ve always thought of this response as meaning that man can’t just survive on physical sustenance, but also needs the spiritual food of meditation on God’s written word to grant him life. That is certainly a true biblical idea, but what Jesus is saying here is, in the words of William Hendriksen, “Tempter, you are proceeding upon the false assumption that for a man, in order to appease hunger and keep alive, bread is absolutely necessary. Over against this erroneous idea, I now declare that not bread but the creative, energizing, and sustaining power of my Father is the only indispensable source of my, and of man’s, life and well-being.” (Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew)
Hendriksen goes on:
“The expression ‘every word that comes out through the mouth of God’ refers to the word of his power. It is God’s omnipotence exercised in creation and preservation. It is his word of effective command; for example, ‘And God said, Let there be light, and there was light’ (Gen. 1:3); ’By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made’ (Ps. 33:6).”
The point is this: Man can eat as much bread as he can get a hold of and yet, if God withdraws His sustaining word, such a person will die that very instant. Conversely, man can be without any bread due to circumstances beyond his control–and by God’s mercy, even circumstances WITHIN his control– and yet, by God’s sustaining word that man will go on living.
This doesn’t negate human responsibility (more on that in another post), but places our responsibility squarely UNDER God’s sovereign dominion and care. We live and move and have our being only because God continues to speak His sustaining word that commands us to go on living. And what a relief this is to the anxieties of daily life!
As I drive back and forth from VBS this week, logging 500 kms just in multiple short trips, I am aware that the reason I have yet to drive off the road or hit another car is not merely the good condition of our van or my ability to stay alert and focus on the road (anyone who’s ever had 4 kids in the back of their van knows it couldn’t possibly be that!), though these are agents of God’s care. I have yet to die on the road because God continues to speak His powerful words of existence for me.
If you are fighting illness, or you worry every time your child acts out crazy kid-antics on the jungle gym, or things are so tight that you literally don’t know where tomorrow’s meal is going to come from, trust that God’s word will speak sustenance until the very moment HE has appointed for the end. It is not bread, or health or helicopter parenting that keeps us all going. And “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt. 6:27) Man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God, and His powerful word will never cease to command and carry out his good, pleasing and perfect will.