What does it mean that “man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (v. 3)? Interestingly, the word word is not in the Hebrew. Although it would be implied, as something that comes from God’s mouth, it could mean something more broad, implying a trust in all that God gives and says and means. When Jesus quotes this verse in His desert temptation, He indicates this double meaning (Matt. 4:4). Jesus realized that Satan was not just asking Him to make bread to assuage His hunger, but was asking Him to distrust His own identity and prove it by a miracle. He was also asking Jesus to doubt what God has called Him there for, which was to conquer the temptations to which Adam and Eve fell. God’s word can indeed make bread, and it does every day for the Israelites with the manna, but the main point of God’s word is to inculcate faith and trust. If you have bread, but no faith, you are poor and still hungry and are denying the power of God. But if you have faith in God’s word, you can face any trial, even poverty and hunger, with a greater view to what God is doing beyond the present moment. Your soul hunger has been filled.
When thinking about the Exodus miracle, we usually only focus on the parting of the Red Sea. However, God worked many other miracles throughout the journey from Egypt to Canaan. Similarly, it is often easy to forget all the things God does for us on a daily basis and focus on the big miraculous things that seem to happen less often. This is one of the reasons that the Israelites were in danger of forgetting God; they began to ascribe all the blessings to their own efforts.
It seems that this is also tied into how the humbling and testing does the Israelites good in the end. They themselves experience the miracles in the same way that their parents experienced with the Red Sea. Now the Israelites are also experiencing the discipline that helps them to grow and soften their hearts so that they do not forget God and worship other gods instead. Just as the Canaanites before them, they were in danger of falling into the same traps and losing their land and lives due to their sins. And as Jesus affirmed in the desert, it is only God’s Word that can show them the truth about who they are and who they are following. The devil will try to distract and destroy them with lies about God, but they must hold firm to God’s truth.