close up of a pine cone on a tree
advent lettering

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

God's Son Tested in the Wilderness

by Bailey Pylant

Today's Reading

Deuteronomy 8:1-3

Plucked from slavery, promised a new land, fallen to disobedience; Israel returned the Lord’s great act of mercy with a half-hearted refusal to enter the Promised Land. More than disobedience along the way, Israel stood at the borders of the land, unable to trust God over their enemies.

It's astonishing how, in the wake of miraculous deliverance (Exodus 7, Ex. 13), Israel believed they could build for themselves a better hope than the Promise Land. Had not they been given an abundance of evidence to believe that God could and would fight for them? Lacking the power to save themselves from Egypt, yet presuming they had the power to sustain themselves after Egypt, Israel struggled in the same way believers do today.

The wilderness years exist as part of the unfolding thread of God’s promise to dwell with His people. Israel waited for the promised land. We wait for the return of Christ. Both in waiting. Both depend upon the Lord. Throughout all time, this has remained true, that "man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." (Deut. 8:3)

Speaking to Israel, Moses says, “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years… He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known.” (Deut. 8:2-3)

In the same way, Moses’s words challenge us today.

Forget not His continued faithfulness despite our unbelief (Hebrews 3:19) and disobedience. Forget not that we have been preserved by the Lord’s hand. Forget not the “whole commandment” (Exodus 20) in light of the Lord’s promise.

The wilderness required Israel to pause and remember. It is in this remembering that faith is renewed alongside a refreshed desire to obey.

As manna was delivered daily to Israel, the nature of God’s dealings with people was continually revealed. His word could be trusted; on His character, we can depend. Yet, Israel was required to walk in faith, putting to rest, daily, their doubt.

Israel was tested in a desert just as Jesus would be tested in a desert (Matthew 4:1-3). While Israel’s unbelief led to disobedience, Jesus overcame with perfect faith. With full assurance, Jesus resists temptation while referencing the Old Testament scriptures.

When tempted by Satan he answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:4)

In ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise, “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Where we, like Israel, are unable to overcome, God remains faithful and provided a way to make His presence here with us.

Advent prompts us towards a myriad of feelings. Praise. Longing. Confession. Awe. In our eager expectation, we celebrate that not only did He make His dwelling among us, He did so when we assumed we needed Him not.

He has regarded our helpless estate and made a perfect way for the restoration of Creation. In our waiting, we reflect on the faithful nature of God despite our unbelief, praising Him for all He has done and all He will do.

Previous Article Next Article