“And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut. 8:3; NASB)
The Israelites were much the way I am. Let just the smallest difficulty into their lives and they would fall into grumbling, complaining, and murmuring. It almost became an art form. Day after day, month after month, and year after year they ate manna (with a daily quail dinner). Let’s face it, there aren’t 40 years of recipes to keep one’s taste buds stimulated by manna and quail! Boiled or baked, manna was still manna after 40 years (Num. 11:6, 8). It was enough to make one push away from the dinner table and reminisce about the good old days of leeks, cucumbers, onions and garlic in Egypt (Num. 11:5).
There was a reason, of course, that God had them eating the same daily diet, waiting for a whole generation of people to die. God’s intention was that they recognize that food was not the sum total of existence. There was something more important than their personal comfort. A full belly, a stimulated set of taste buds and a comfortable easy chair do not make a blessed life. What provides satisfaction is eating, but the filling food is spiritual. The refreshing drink is supernatural (Jn. 4:7-14).
Jesus Himself illustrated this truth with great poignancy on two occasions. The first was when He was tempted by Satan. Forty days without food had undoubtedly left Him hungry. “So,” suggested the tempter, “use your power to satisfy selfish passions. Misappropriate what God has given you. Go ahead and turn those stones to bread. Feed your hunger” (Mt. 4:3). “No,” said Jesus, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” In other words, “I may be hungry, but what is more important is that I follow the Father — that is what is of prime importance.”
And then once more, shortly later, Jesus reminded those who had gathered to hear him speak at a mountainside, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt. 5:6). His point? “Your stomach may tickle your backbone with hunger; you may even die of hunger, but you will never lack for satisfaction when you are spiritually hungry.”
I like the way Ben Patterson said it a few years ago: “We shouldn’t be too quick to make hunger go away, for it can teach us much about our frailty, need, and emptiness apart from God. A full stomach can be cause for deep gratitude, or as it has so often been for me, cause for spiritual dullness and torpor. A little hunger never hurt anyone, but its absence will.”