What does it mean to live on God’s language? I’ve asked myself that question many times, especially whenever I’m reading through Deuteronomy 8, Matthew 4, or John 4.
In Deuteronomy 8:3, God is addressing Moses and the people directly, recounting their pitiable wilderness wanderings and reminding them that he was the one who let them hunger so that they might know “that man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” It is not food that sustains, not even manna from heaven. The manna, after all, was an experiential placeholder, something that called them back to the real miracle: that God’s utterance controls all. In the end, it is not food that sustains us, but the divine word that lets food enter the world and pass through our lips. In any ultimate sense, only God’s speech sustains.
Consider Matthew 4. Jesus is in far worse shape than the wandering Israelites after the Spirit of God leads him into the wilderness (notice again that it is God who introduces the hunger). In Matthew 4:3, Satan comes to tempt the starving Son of God, perhaps suggesting he might confirm his identity before taking on the weight of the world: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Jesus responds, of course, with Deuteronomy 8:3. We live primarily on divine speech, on the spoken direction and purposes of God, not on self-confirmation. To do the latter is to live on the words of men, not the words of God. Just as only divine speech can sustain our earthly bodies, so only divine speech can satisfy our longing for confirmation, our desire to be confident in the promises of God. Only God’s speech satisfies.
In John 4, the situation appears far more common. The disciples are hungry and keep asking Jesus to eat. He tells them he has food that they do not know about. As they banter about who might have passed along some bread to their master, Jesus tells them plainly, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). That will and work were revealed by divine speech. And it is that same will and work that leads to our salvation. So, only God’s speech saves.
What does it mean to live on God’s language? I have more praying to do on this. But at the moment, it seems to mean that all of life lies in divine language. We are sustained by God’s speech; we are satisfied by what he utters; we are saved by what he says. God’s speech is the center of all things. To live on God’s language is to believe that without fail, to put the full weight of our faith behind it.
And we’ll all face the greatest test of such belief. We’ll all see soon enough whether we really believe that God’s speech governs all. For in the face of death, we must boldly stare at our finitude, remember the words of God, and tell the tempter that death isn’t a period; it’s a comma. God’s speech in us will go on; it will sustain, satisfy, and save. It will. Because you cannot mute the God who speaks.