“Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3 NLT
The experience of the Jews in the wilderness is to teach us the importance of gratitude and hunger for God’s Word. God gave the Jews ten simple commandments to enable them to live a life of worship that is rooted in Spirit and Truth. The Ten Commandments are our Creator’s loving instructions to help us overcome the 7 cardinal sins, to cultivate the 8 beatitudes of the Kingdom of Heaven, and to bear the 9 fruits of the Spirit. Richard Rohr gives us the following prophetic insight about the importance of the Ten Commandments:
“Without laws like the Ten Commandments, our existence here on earth would be pretty pathetic. What if you could not rely on people to tell you the truth? Or not to steal from you? What if we were not expected to respect our parents, and we all started out with cynicism and mistrust of authority? What if the “I love you” between partners was allowed to mean nothing? What if covetousness, which Rene Girard calls, “mimetic rivalry,” was encouraged to grow unstopped, as it is in capitalist countries today? Such shapelessness would be the death of any civilization or any kind of trustworthy or happy world. I wonder: Are we there already?”
The Ten Commandments are to keep us from becoming slaves of our human egos. They are God’s instructions to help us live in the Kingdom of Heaven here and now. But God’s commandments are onerous when our hearts are filled with greed instead of gratitude for what God has done for us. The Jews had been delivered from their crushing slavery in Egypt and yet, they complained time and again when they encountered physical hunger and thirst in the wilderness. Like the Jews in the wilderness, we too complain when we are faced with troubles and sufferings that are designed to purify our hearts – to change the soil of our hearts from a footpath and rocky soil to a fertile soil for God’s seed of love to germinate. It is gratitude that will keep us close to God as we remember His providence in our everyday life:
“Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights— His faithful love endures forever. The sun to rule the day, His faithful love endures forever. And the moon and stars to rule the night. His faithful love endures forever.” Psalms 136:4-9 NLT
Gratitude is more than being thankful for God’s blessings. It is a spirit of thankfulness for what God is doing, not only in our lives, but in the lives of others and in the world. The apostle Paul was encouraged and filled with gratitude for the faith and love of the followers in Thessalonica as they were initially less open minded to the gospel:
“But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence.” 1 Thessalonians 3:6-9 NL
We will have trials, problems and suffering in the wilderness of our lives. These are not times for complaints but a time to hunger and thirst for God’s promises, presence and power. It is a time to feed on God’s Word to be deeply rooted in the love of Christ. After listening to Paul’s message, the followers in Berea searched their Jewish scriptures day after day to confirm that Paul and Silas were teaching the truth (Acts 17:11-12). We have the advantage of having the New Testament as a testimony of the faith of the early followers in the Risen Christ. Jesus came to fulfill God’s Word and not be abolish it:
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” Matthew 5:17-18 NLT
God’s Word is to lead us our Saviour and Shepherd of our souls, Jesus Christ. We need the discipline of Silence to open our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit. As we search the Scriptures with the Holy Spirit, the Logos of God becomes the Rhema of God in our lives. Then our souls will be restored by our Shepherd of Love as He leads us in the paths of righteousness to the glory of God.