1. Introduction

I wrote in the previous post that God used the manna to test Israel’s obedience to His instructions. After learning that He would impose sanctions if they disobeyed, the Jews soon learnt to follow the instructions for collecting and eating the manna. As a result, they learnt to live lives of moderation and not excess and to worship and rest on the Sabbath.  Today, I will explore the truth that God used the manna to humble Israel.

As he gave them parting instructions prior their entry into Canaan, Moses said:

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no (Deuteronomy 8:2)

And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end (Deuteronomy 8:16)

2. Exploring the Hebrew word for humble

`Anah (aw-naw’) is the Hebrew word for “humbled” in the text. I then read the texts in which this word is used and extrapolated the following meanings. When God humbled the Jews, it meant that He:

  • Caused them to submit to Him (Genesis 16: 9).   He did this by imposing sanctions – the manna stank and grew worms when they left it overnight. Furthermore, He did not give them any on the Sabbath. They had to collect double on Friday as instructed.  This did not decay.  As a result, the Jews learnt that God meant what He said and obeyed His Word.
  • Chastened or dealt hard with them in an attempt to correct their sinful ways (Genesis 16: 6; Daniel 10: 12).
  • Afflicted them with hunger in order sanctions when they disobeyed. The affliction in this case was the punishment imposed when the manna decay when kept overnight. However, God reveals that this is a last resort and that He does not willingly afflict nor grieve the children of men (Lamentations 3:33).
  • Weakened resistance to His Word (Psalms 102:23). The Jews had been complaining that Egypt was better than their current situation. They had forgotten the many miracles in Egypt and at the Red Sea. God wanted to keep His promise to Abraham and to produce a nation of worshipers. Rather than killing them, He took the action of giving Israel strict guidelines about the manna in order to teach His hidden truths about self control and obedience.

3. Putting it together in the context

Two of the reasons for which God humbled Israel are revealed in the following text:

to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments (Deuteronomy 8:2)

Scriptures reveal that He did so to bring out the contents of their hearts and to see if  they would keep His instructions.  Is this contradictory? God is supposed to know what is in us. Yes He does, but we do not know the deep contents of our own spirits. We feel that we are wonderful and justify ourselves like the Pharisee that Jesus spoke about.

God sometimes permits “hunger” or deprivation to come in order to chasten or correct us. The initial human response is to ask “why me?.”  If we do not receive correction, we can very well go to hell for hiding unconfessed sins in our spirit. David prayed:

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try (test or prove) me, and know my thoughts (Psalm 139: 23):

Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret [sins] in the light of thy countenance (Psalm 90: 8).

Prophet  Jeremiah received the revelation that:

the heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9)

Because we do not know what is in us, God  will sometimes conduct experiments in order to collect the data. We will please Him if we produce the right responses. However, He will impose sanctions in order correct our bad ways when we fail to respond according to His Word.

Apostle Paul explained this truth very concisely in Hebrews 12:5 – 13:

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?

If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

Let us accept and submit to His discipline so we can please Him and dwell daily in His presence.