Text: Matthew 4:1-4; Psalm 19:7-11
Last year I had the privilege of leading our church’s high school mission trip to Jamaica. One of my favorite memories from that trip was when we visited an infirmary. They gave us an hour to explore the infirmary and talk to the people there. As I walked around I noticed an old Jamaican man lying on his bed. So I sat next to him and introduced myself, instantly recognizing that he was blind. I also noticed that he looked a little thin, as if he was malnourished.
Since we had such a short amount of time together, I only got to learn a little about his story. For most of his life he worked as a slave in some corn fields. He never married and never had kids. In his old age he had become blind and all of his relatives had passed away. With no money and no one to support him, this infirmary was the only place he could go to receive care. I would have felt heartbroken and despair for him, except that while he was sharing all of these details with me, he was smiling and laughing. I started to think that maybe he had gone crazy while at this infirmary.
After he indulged a few of my questions, he asked for a favor from me. Before I left, he wanted me to read him his favorite chapter from the Bible, one of the psalms. So I pulled out the Bible app on my phone and began to read to him. As I read, he recited the whole chapter with me from memory. This time his smile was even greater than before.
Shortly after that, our group had to leave, but I was so moved and challenged by this elderly Jamaican man. He had every right to be angry, bitter, and cynical toward the world and especially toward God. Yet there he was, thankful for his life and filled with love for God. He was in need of money, food, clothing, assistance, and love, yet he didn’t ask me for any of those things. Instead he asked me to read his favorite chapter of the Bible to him because he truly believed that he needed God’s word in his life more than anything else. I could clearly see that this man loved God with all of his heart. And I was able to recognize that in the first 15 minutes of knowing him.
The Big Idea
Do we live like this? Do we live as if our Bibles are the most precious possession we have? Does God’s word impact us and make a difference in our lives? Let me phrase that question a little differently. Would we notice a difference in our own lives if we completely stopped reading the word of God? If I removed God’s word out of your life, would anything change?
I personally believe that your answer to this question reveals how you view or see the Bible and what you do with it. If you have a high view of scripture then it will be at the center of your life. If you have a low view of scripture then it will be non-existent in your life.
And the point I want to make today is this: God’s Word invites and connects us into a loving relationship with our heavenly Father. The more you treasure and abide in God’s word, the closer you will be to God. If you want to grow in your relationship with God, then you need to start with your Bible.
And who had a closer relationship to God then His Son, Jesus? If anyone didn’t need to read or memorize scripture, it was Jesus. He was one with His Father, being the very imprint of God’s nature and radiance of His glory, yet Jesus still memorized the Bible. Throughout His earthly ministry He constantly quoted or taught on Old Testament scriptures. He wasn’t just making up new stuff on His own, He was teaching scripture. He would often say “it is written” and tell a story or do a miracle to illustrate that passage of scripture and how he was fulfilling it.
Let’s look at an example in Matthew 4, the story about the devil testing Jesus. Verse 3 tells us that after 40 days of fasting from food, while Jesus was at His weakest, the devil came and questioned His identity: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered him by quoting Deuteronomy, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” When the devil came to test and tempt Jesus, He was ready. What do you think He was doing during those 40 days? He was praying and meditating on God’s word. He used scripture to connect to and abide in His heavenly Father, reminding Himself of His Father’s love and faithfulness toward Him.
Jesus not only quoted this passage from Deuteronomy, He fulfilled it as well. If you look in Deuteronomy 8, Moses told the Israelites that God tested their faithfulness by making them wander in the wilderness for 40 years. When the Israelites got hungry, God fed them with manna from heaven to teach them, and I quote, “that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” The Israelites failed their test and a generation was kept from seeing the Promised Land. Yet Jesus fulfilled Israel’s role by being obedient to God for 40 days in the wilderness.
Jesus says that God’s word can meet our needs and proves it to us by fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. He used God’s word to find strength, hope, and courage in the midst of starvation. Jesus passed God’s test in the wilderness by living on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
The question all of us need to ask ourselves today is this: What does it mean for us to live on every word that comes from the mouth of God? We all already know what it’s like to live on food. That’s how wild animals live – On pure instinct of surviving. Similar to animals, we can exist as humans on food alone and just survive, but if we live that way we will never truly live as fully flourishing, healthy humans. God designed humanity as complex beings that need more than to simply survive. We need purpose, meaning, and a loving community of relationships.
That’s what Jesus is saying here – We can’t live on bread alone or our souls will wither and die. To truly live we need a loving relationship with our heavenly Father. And Jesus shows us that He experienced God’s love by treasuring and abiding in God’s word. If this is what He did, then we need to follow His example.
Remember that David, a human like you and me, is not talking about the Bible as we have it today. He only had access to the early books and stories of the Old Testament – Genesis through Ruth. The rest of the Bible hadn’t happened or been written yet. He lived before Jesus, before any of the New Testament was ever written.
Have you ever started a Bible reading plan and couldn’t make it past Leviticus? I know I have – You either get lost in the wilderness with the Israelites or you can’t keep up with all of the laws that God gives them. David says that these Old Testament books are perfect and refreshing for his soul. They bring joy to his heart. They are more precious to him than gold and sweeter than honey. David read, memorized, meditated on, trusted in, and obeyed God’s word. He loved scripture so much that he, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was given the privilege of writing 72 psalms. If you read through David’s psalms, you’d find a man who had a very intimate and personal relationship with God. At the very core of this relationship, you’ll see that his Bible was his most precious possession.
David used scripture to connect to and abide in His heavenly Father in all of his circumstances. When he was a lowly shepherd, the youngest in his family, he memorized and meditated on God’s word. When David had become the greatest king Israel had ever seen, he turned to scripture for guidance and direction. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in battle, he repented of his sins and turned to scripture for comfort. David didn’t just survive, he lived an abundant, thriving life because he learned to live on every word that came from the mouth of God.
We have it even better than David – We aren’t waiting for our Messiah to come, He’s already here! We have access to the living Word of God, Jesus. Jesus is the word through whom God created all things in the beginning. He is the true bread of life, come down from heaven, to feed the world. He offered his body on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. God raised Him from the dead to become the light and life of all mankind. And Jesus invites us to become children of God through faith. We now have unhindered access to a loving relationship with our heavenly Father through Jesus. This should motivate us, more than anyone else before us, to treasure God’s word!
In this day and age, I think we have become so busy that it’s difficult to fit the Bible into our daily schedule. When I was a youth director at my last church, one of my adult volunteers in his late forties inspired me. As we were talking about scripture, He shared that he had read his Bible over 20 times in his lifetime. I was shocked and amazed. I had never known anyone that had read their Bible that many times. Here’s his secret: 20 Minutes. If you can devote 20 minutes a day to reading 4 chapters in your Bible, then you can read the whole thing in a year. He had been reading the Bible once, every year, for the past 20 years.
Is your schedule too busy for God’s word? Can you find 20 minutes in your day to devote to reading 4 chapters in your Bible? Maybe that means waking up a little earlier, or staying up later to read. f you want to grow in your relationship with God, I want to challenge you to find 20 minutes in your day to read your Bible.
Another issue I’ve found is that people have trouble understanding the Bible. Around the time my Dad turned 50, he was inspired by his dad to read the Bible. At that time, my grandfather had read through his Bible four times. Since my Dad had never read through the entire Bible, he made a goal to beat him. So he set out to read 20 minutes a day so that he could finish in a year. Like most of us, once he got to Leviticus and Numbers, his Bible reading plan became more of a checklist. My Dad’s enjoyment diminished because he had trouble keeping up with this plan and following what was happening.
Thus he decided to start over and try a new plan: 1 Chapter a Day. He was going to read one chapter a day, every day, until he finished the whole Bible. Three years later, he completed the Bible. Although this pace was a lot slower, my Dad had a much better understanding of scripture, and got more out of his reading.
Do you have a hard time understanding the Bible? Can you find 5 minutes in your day to devote to reading 1 chapter in your Bible? Maybe you can read a chapter a day with your family. If you want to grow in your relationship with God, I want to challenge you to find 5 minutes in your day to read your Bible.
One final issue I’ve seen is that people find the Bible to be boring. I’m about to start a new Bible reading plan in which I will read 10 chapters a day for 30 minutes. I’m supposed to read one chapter from 10 different sections of the Bible every day. Imagine reading 10 different chapters from 10 different books. In this way, I’ll never be bored. There are many other benefits to this plan, but I won’t get into that now.
If you find the Bible to be boring to read, and want something easier than reading 10 chapters a day, I suggest you read 2 chapters a day by pairing the Old Testament with the New. Read one chapter from the Old Testament, and one chapter from the New. In one year, you will have read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice.
Do you find the Bible to be boring? Can you find 10 minutes in your day to devote to reading 2 chapters in your Bible? Maybe that means reading during your lunch break. If you want to grow in your relationship with God, I want to challenge you to find 10 minutes in your day to read your Bible.
The good news is that there are many different plans and resources to help you read your Bible. One resource I highly recommend is called the Bible Project. They create animated videos that summarize each book of the Bible and gives you an easy guide to understanding them. Their tagline is, “The Bible is one unified story that leads to Jesus.” To give you a glimpse, let’s watch one of their videos. [we watched the first three minutes, but the whole video is included below]
The Bible Project has a video like this for every book of the Bible! All of their videos are free on YouTube.
Today, I want to leave you with some challenging questions. What if we were to treasure God’s word like Jesus does? What if we lived as if our Bibles were the most precious possession we have? What if we were to read, study, memorize, meditate on, and obey it daily? What if we were to discuss what we’re reading with friends and family? How much would our lives change? How much more would we learn to love God and know His love? How much more would our thoughts, words, and actions reflect God more than this world?
God has given us a book of love letters to invite us into a loving relationship with Him. The more I’ve read scripture, the more I’ve been able to connect with God and experience His love. Reading about the way Jesus loves others challenges me to love more selflessly. Seeing the disciples take the gospel to the ends of the earth challenges me to be more bold with my own faith. My Bible becomes more precious to me every time I read it.
I want to challenge you today to not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Some Music Used
- Every Promise of Your Word (Getty/Townend)
- Seek Ye First (Lafferty)
- DUET: Show Us Christ (Kauflin/Plank)
- CHOIR: Grace (Hayes)
- Take Time to Be Holy (HOLINESS)