In Matt.4:3,4 when Jesus is lead by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness to fast it is written: “And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”But he answered, “It is written,“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Interestingly, that is not what is literally written in the Old Testament passage Jesus appears to be quoting from. I know that most versions have inserted “word” in Deut.8:3 but, a simple study of the Hebrew text shows that is not what is literally written. A few versions have corrected this like, the NASB, YLT and WEB. (On a personal note, my favorite, the ESV also has it wrong.)
This is more accurate to the original text that Jesus quoted:
WEB- Deut.8:3 “He humbled you, and allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you didn’t know, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh does man live.”
I believe there is a very profound significance in this that should be considered. Moses wrote that man lives by “everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh.”
It is true that words proceed out of the mouth of God and we must live by His words. But, there is something to the aspect that Moses wrote “everything” and Jesus said; “words“. In the Greek, the term that was translated “word” is rhema. This is the same term that Jesus used in John 6:63- “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
It seems to me that what Jesus knew as the words of God, Moses simply understood as “everything”. Because God had not revealed to Moses that His words were spirit and life. That was a revelation that Jesus gave us!
However, in the Old Testament they did have an understanding of this verse that may have been missed by some Christians.
Psalm 33:6 recorded: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth:” (D-RB)
I used this version because it is the only one that translated the Hebrew word from “ruach” as “spirit”. Every other version that I have found translated it “breath”. They are both accurate because they are used interchangeably but, most Bible readers are probably not aware of this fact.
The point is that Jesus was able to articulate more clearly that the rhema/ words (which is spirit and life) is what man lives by. ” what therefore God did join together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:9)
Moses simply recorded that man lives by “everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh.” and they are both accurately saying the same thing!
For Moses to simply have said that man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God would have been incomplete to them. To their minds, the word was simply the letter of the law, which kills. They were not aware of the Spirit of the word, which brings life! (2 Cor.3:6)
Both proceed from the mouth of God and the Word (Jesus) and the Spirit are one! That is the “everything” that Moses wrote about and Jesus articulated simply as “words.” Moses didn’t know it but, Jesus knew that His words ARE spirit and life…do we?
Also in 2 Cor.3, Paul told them; “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
The 10 Commandments, the original “Law of Moses” were carved on stone but, now God has made us living stones in His House! (1 Peter 2:5 and Ephesians 2:20) It’s interesting that Satan tempted Jesus to create bread from stones because He knew that God was more than capable of bringing life from the rocks! (Exodus 17:6)
In that story, Moses gave the Israelites living water from a dead rock! Jesus described the living waters as the Holy Spirit in John 7:37-39 and I think that a truth behind that event is that there is life (living water) in the stone law (even the 10 Commandments) that flows from the Rock of Ages (Jesus) by the Holy Spirit!
Because God can speak to us through rocks if He chooses too! “The Spirit breatheth where he will; and thou hearest his voice, but thou knowest not whence he cometh, and whither he goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. “ (John 3:8) Again, this is the one of the only version that translates the word “spirit”. Breath and wind are also adequate but, spirit brings a different emphasis to light.
John the Baptist said in Matt.3:9 “For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.“ When the Pharisees criticized Jesus’ followers for giving Him divine praise, Jesus replied: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Romans 1:19-20 expresses a similar idea: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
The Holy Spirit has been “speaking” to all of mankind for all of history through anything in creation that He cares to use. God has chosen to “speak” to us by His Spirit, primarily in the Scriptures. When the Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures, they bring life! When any man depends on His own understanding of the Scriptures, they can bring death, bondage or condemnation.
I really believe that.
Consider how some, like the Westboro Baptist, church attempt to quote the Scriptures at people’s funerals. They do things like protest the deceased people’s lifestyles and proclaim to all of their friends and family that their loved one is now burning in hell.
Whether it’s true or not is completely beside the point. That is completely unlike Christ and even though they quote Scripture in an attempt to prove their case, they are not bringing a spirit of life or power, love or grace. If anything, they are encouraging a spirit of fear, death and condemnation.
It is my opinion that even the Scriptures can “bring death”. But, when they are inspired by the Holy Spirit, even the law engraved on stone will bring life! This is the word of God that gives man life!