And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. —Deuteronomy 8:2–3 (ESV)
The wilderness wanderings of Israel after the Exodus and prior to the entrance of the Promised Land is a major part of the storyline of Scripture. In part, the wandering was a consequence of unfaithfulness when the people did not believe the good report of Joshua and Caleb, that they could take the land immediately.
In our text today, however, on the eve of their long-awaited entrance into the Promised Land, the Lord tells his people another purpose of their 40-year wilderness journey: He was shaping them into the people He wanted them to be. He humbled them. He tested them. And He taught them the vital truth that is later quoted by Jesus in response to the temptation of Satan: “[M]an does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” God taught his people that His words are as essential to life as food itself.
It is a matter of when, not if, we enter the wilderness—a time of difficulty, of testing, of temptation, perhaps. Remember in those times that part of the Lord’s plan is to use that experience to form and shape you into the person He’s called you to be. Lean into Him and learn to depend on His goodness and guidance. Learn that His words are life. And as those you love and care for enter the wilderness, remind them of these truths, too. As Jesus shows during His temptation—His ‘wilderness journey’—be steadfastly faithful to the Lord who will bring you safely into the Promised Land.