Sustaining Ourselves on the Fulfillment of Jehovah’s Utterances
“Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—MATTHEW 4:4.
1. How is Jehovah the Great Food Provider, but what statement did Jesus make about man’s needs?
JEHOVAH is the Great Food Provider. He presented himself as such to man in the very first chapter of the Bible. (Genesis 1:29, 30) Much later, the psalmist David gratefully said to Jehovah: “To you the eyes of all look hopefully, and you are giving them their food in its season. You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15, 16) Yes, Jehovah has provided an abundance of food for both man and animal. There is a difference though. Whereas animals require only physical food, Jesus showed that man needs more than physical bread, or food. He ‘must live also on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.’—Matthew 4:4.
2. What should we know concerning the meaning of Jesus’ words at Matthew 4:4?
2 Jesus made this statement in reply to Satan, who had tried to tempt Him into miraculously converting stones to bread. The Devil did not press the point but quickly moved on to another temptation. Judging by the erroneous way he then applied Psalm 91:11, 12, maybe Satan did not even understand what Jesus meant in His reply to the first temptation. (Matthew 4:3-7) But we servants of Jehovah are very interested in what Jesus said. We who enjoy digging deeper into the Bible so as to get the maximum spiritual benefit can ask: Did Jesus mean that in order to lead a full life, man must study and perhaps memorize “every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth”? Or what did he mean?
3, 4. What twofold meaning do the Greek and Hebrew words for “utterance” have? Illustrate.
3 In rebutting Satan, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 according to the Greek Septuagint version of this Hebrew scripture. The Greek word translated “utterance” (rheʹma) has a twofold meaning. It is sometimes translated “word,” “expression,” or “utterance.” But, like its Hebrew equivalent (da·varʹ), it can also mean “thing.”
4 In Luke 1:37 we read: “With God no declaration [rheʹma] will be an impossibility.” Luke 2:15 reads: “The shepherds began saying to one another: ‘Let us by all means go clear to Bethlehem and see this thing [rheʹma] that has taken place, which Jehovah has made known to us.’” So, particularly as used in connection with Jehovah, this Greek word can imply a “word,” a “declaration,” or an “utterance” of God. Or it can imply a “thing,” whether that refers to an “event,” or “action” described, the result of what is said, the word fulfilled.
5. What is the meaning of Luke 1:37?
5 Thus understood, Luke 1:37 does not mean that God can say just anything. That could be true of a man, even if what he said was unlikely to occur or was meaningless. But regarding God’s statements, the import of Luke 1:37 is that no word or declaration of Jehovah can go unfulfilled. The declaration that the angel had made to Mary was thus bound to come to pass. The thought behind the Hebrew and the Greek words used for Jehovah’s “word,” “utterance,” “expression,” or “declaration” is beautifully expressed in the book of Isaiah. Jehovah states: “For just as the pouring rain descends, and the snow, from the heavens and does not return to that place, unless it actually saturates the earth and makes it produce and sprout, and seed is actually given to the sower and bread to the eater, so my word [Hebrew, da·varʹ; Greek, rheʹma] that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.”—Isaiah 55:10, 11.
“Not on Bread Alone”
6, 7. What was the historical and geographic context of Deuteronomy 8:2, 3?
6 Now, coming back to the point, what did Jesus mean when, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, he said that “man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth”? (Matthew 4:4) Was he saying that the godly man is sustained just by utterances, words, or declarations? Would head knowledge of such divine expressions be sufficient? Let us examine the historical context of the words Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy.
7 The Bible study aid “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial” informs us, on page 36: “The book of Deuteronomy contains a dynamic message for Jehovah’s people. After wandering in the wilderness for forty years, the sons of Israel now stood on the threshold of the Land of Promise.” The year was 1473 B.C.E. The place? The plains of Moab. In his second discourse to the assembled Israelites, Moses declared: “You must remember all the way that Jehovah your God made you walk these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, to put you to the test so as to know what was in your heart, as to whether you would keep his commandments or not. So he humbled you and let you go hungry and fed you with the manna, which neither you had known nor your fathers had known; in order to make you know that not by bread alone does man live but by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth does man live.”—Deuteronomy 8:2, 3.
8. What had been the situation of the Israelites, and why had Jehovah allowed this?
8 Just imagine! Several million Israelites—old and young, men, women, and children—had been walking for 40 long years in “the great and fear-inspiring wilderness, with poisonous serpents and scorpions and with thirsty ground that [had] no water.” (Deuteronomy 8:15) They had needed water to drink and food to eat. Jehovah had, at times, allowed them to be thirsty and hungry. Why? So as to impress upon their minds that “not by bread alone does man live but by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth.”
9. How had the Israelites’ needs been filled by Jehovah’s utterances?
9 What was the connection between the Israelites’ needs and the expressions, or utterances, coming forth from Jehovah’s mouth? Well, what tangible things had come to pass among the Israelites as a result of Jehovah’s utterances? Moses wrote: “Your mantle did not wear out upon you, nor did your foot become swollen these forty years. . . . [Jehovah] brought forth water for you out of the flinty rock; [and he] fed you with manna in the wilderness.” (Deuteronomy 8:4, 15, 16) The connection is this: The Israelites would have received none of these things if Jehovah had not commanded them to take place. Thus, the Israelites had literally lived “by every expression [or, command] of Jehovah’s mouth.”
Sustained by Jehovah’s Utterances
10, 11. In what other ways were the Israelites able to be sustained by Jehovah’s utterances?
10 Besides depending on Jehovah for such material benefits as food, water, and clothing, how else were the Israelites able to be sustained by Jehovah’s utterances? There were spiritual benefits too. Moses told the Israelites that Jehovah had caused them to go through these experiences in the desert ‘in order to humble them, to put them to the test so as to know what was in their heart, as to whether they would keep his commandments or not.’ He added: “You well know with your own heart that just as a man corrects his son, Jehovah your God was correcting you . . . so as to do you good in your afterdays.”—Deuteronomy 8:2, 5, 16.
11 Yes, if the Israelites had taken full advantage of their experiences in the wilderness, they would have learned to ‘live by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth,’ not only by learning to obey his written commandments but actually by experiencing the results of Jehovah’s utterances in their life as a nation and in their individual lives. They had been given ample opportunity to “taste and see that Jehovah is good.” (Psalm 34:8) These enriching experiences in connection with Jehovah’s words—both uttered and fulfilled—should have sustained them spiritually.
12, 13. How did Joshua familiarize himself with Jehovah’s utterances, and to what did he testify?
12 Joshua, who succeeded Moses as leader of Israel, informed himself of Jehovah’s utterances by filling his mind with them. His faith was strengthened by observing their fulfillment. After Moses’ death, Jehovah made this utterance to Joshua: “This book of the law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.”—Joshua 1:8.
13 Toward the end of his life, after having faithfully obeyed Jehovah’s word and observed its fulfillment upon Jehovah’s people, Joshua was able to testify: “So Jehovah gave Israel all the land that he had sworn to give to their forefathers, and they proceeded to take possession of it and to dwell in it. Furthermore, Jehovah gave them rest all around, according to everything that he had sworn to their forefathers, and not one of all their enemies stood before them. All their enemies Jehovah gave into their hand. Not a promise [Hebrew, da·varʹ; Greek, rheʹma] failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made to the house of Israel; it all came true.” (Joshua 21:43-45) Joshua truly lived and was sustained, not on literal bread alone, “but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Matthew 4:4.
Living Today by Jehovah’s Utterances
14. (a) By digging deeper into Matthew 4:4, how can we better understand what Jesus meant? (b) What strengthened appreciative Israelites?
14 Having dug a little deeper into the above words quoted by Jesus in reply to the Devil’s temptation, we are better able to understand what Jesus meant. The historical and geographic context of Moses’ account, quoted from by Jesus, shows that the utterances of Jehovah by which godly men and women must live are not just words learned by rote. For those Israelites, “every expression of Jehovah’s mouth” was linked with the manna, the water, and the clothing that did not wear out. Yes, the utterances included their fulfillment, the wonderful things Jehovah did for his people. It was their experiencing these things, in fulfillment of Jehovah’s utterances, that strengthened the appreciative Israelites.
15. How can Jehovah’s utterances nourish us?
15 Similarly today, what nourishes Jehovah’s people is not simply reading and studying Jehovah’s utterances, as necessary as this is. It is experiencing, collectively and individually, the wonderful way in which Jehovah deals with us and acts on our behalf. The more we are conscious of Jehovah’s dealings with us, the more such fulfilled utterances will nourish us, strengthening our faith, our spirituality.
16. (a) With what did a psalmist concern himself? (b) How should we do likewise, and how will this help us?
16 A psalmist wrote: “I shall remember the practices of Jah; for I will remember your marvelous doing of long ago. And I shall certainly meditate on all your activity, and with your dealings I will concern myself.” (Psalm 77:11, 12) If we concern ourselves with Jehovah’s practices, doings, activities, and dealings on behalf of his people, realizing that they are a tangible expression of his utterances, these divine providences will be like spiritual bread for us. They will draw us into a closer personal relationship with Jehovah. We will be like Jesus. He refused to turn stones into loaves of bread at the Devil’s bidding. Likewise we will take care not to allow material things or undue concern about material needs to cause us to fall into the Devil’s trap and abandon Jehovah’s worship.
17. In what way was Jesus a wonderful example?
17 Jesus stated: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) He was a wonderful example, showing us in a practical way that “man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Matthew 4:4.
Awaiting Further Instructions
18. What divine utterance is now being fulfilled?
18 Jehovah, through his Son, has stated that “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth” before the end comes. (Matthew 24:14) That divine utterance is in course of fulfillment as a result of the worldwide preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Are you ‘living’ on that utterance from Jehovah’s mouth by having a full share in the preaching work and thus receiving spiritual sustenance because you are doing his will?
19, 20. What other divine utterances will shortly cause exciting events?
19 Other utterances of Jehovah are due to cause exciting events in the near future. “The ten horns” and “the wild beast” will turn against “the harlot,” Babylon the Great. Yes, the destruction of that world empire of false religion by antireligious elements within the United Nations will be an outstanding action resulting from the carrying out of one of Jehovah’s utterances.—Revelation 17:16, 17.
20 Another remarkable divine utterance will come to pass when Jehovah symbolically puts “hooks” in the jaws of Gog, or Satan, challenging him and his “military force” to attack His people on earth. (Ezekiel 38:2-4, 8-12) Yet another divine utterance will bring the destruction of Gog’s hordes. (Ezekiel 39:1-6)* This will mean “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon. (Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:11-21) How thrilling it will be for Jehovah’s faithful people to observe the fulfillment of these divine utterances and, in the midst of the fray, to hear figuratively this further utterance: “Stand still and see the salvation of Jehovah in your behalf.”—2 Chronicles 20:17.
21. The carrying out of Jehovah’s utterances will bring about what developments?
21 Then, carrying out another divine utterance, Christ will bind Satan and his demons and hurl them into the abyss for “a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:1-3) That thousand years will allow for the fulfillment of other utterances of Jehovah, including the resurrection of the dead and “the curing of the nations,” obedient mankind. (Revelation 20:11-15; 22:1, 2) During this thousand-year judgment period, Jehovah evidently will give additional instructions, unknown to us at present, as new “scrolls” are opened. (Revelation 20:12) How marvelous it will be for the survivors of the “great tribulation” and for the resurrected dead to gain instruction and guidance from these further instructions as set forth on these unrolled “scrolls” of Jehovah and to carry them out delightfully!
22. What are we encouraged to do now?
22 With such a wonderful prospect before us, let us take full advantage of the opportunity we now have to acquaint ourselves with Jehovah’s utterances and do deep personal study of his Word and participate in the preaching work with an ever-increasing consciousness of Jehovah’s actions on our behalf.
See chapters 19, 20 in “The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah”—How? published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Can You Recall?
□ How did the Israelites learn to live “by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth”?
□ How could the Israelites feed spiritually on Jehovah’s utterances?
□ How can we live today by Jehovah’s utterances?
□ What utterances of Jehovah are to be fulfilled?
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What does Jesus’ response to Satan’s temptation mean to you?
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The Israelites’ living “by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth” had direct physical benefits