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Simple Math

Deuteronomy 8:3
“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.”

Each clause in Deuteronomy 8:3 is like a number in a mathematical equation, the sum of which provides a theological formula for understanding the purpose of suffering in our lives of faith. Look with me at Moses’ statement here in an analytic way, following from premise to premise till we reach his grand conclusion about God’s goal for our spiritual formation together.

Number one—God humbles His people. Why? Because pride goes before a fall. Because we’re so proud by nature, so infatuated with our contributions to the grand scheme of things, so hellishly bent on our own ways and beliefs and attitudes, so puffed up by our self-perception that we can be freefalling spiritually and at the same time thinking ourselves progressing. But God, in His love, seeing our demise ahead of time, humbles us to set us straight again.

Number two—He lets us go hungry. Why? Because we can’t be proud and starving at the same time. Hunger turns kings into beggars and rich, self-sufficient moguls into poor men. To be hungry is to be aware of our physical weakness, of our human need, and pride can’t simultaneously exist in a soul that sees its helpless condition. In other words, God lets us feel the sting of physical hunger so that we’ll feel the tug of our spiritual hunger and run to Him for nourishment.

Number three—God feeds us truth that we can’t manufacture for ourselves. We can’t plant it in the ground and water it day by day and harvest it and cook it into a delicious meal and pat ourselves on the back for the endeavor; it doesn’t come that way. Manna comes from God’s hand, His mouth, His Passion, not our own. That is, we don’t live by our own toil, but by the toil of our redeeming God and Savior Who never ceases to work out our salvation from day to day.

So that’s the equation: humility + hunger + the Word of God = fulfillment. It all adds up, doesn’t it?