God’s Masks and Disguises

Lent 1 Tuesday

Matthew 4:4

“But he answered and said: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

These words are so fine and powerful. We must not pass them by but must expound them in detail. Christ takes these words from Deuteronomy 8:3 where he said: “Your God humbled you and let you suffer hunger and fed you with Manna which you and your fathers had never known in order to let you know that man does not live by bread alone but by everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” This means: From the fact that you, although he let you suffer hunger, survived, you may learn that God feeds you without bread by his Word. For if you were to be fed and live by bread alone, you would have to be full of bread at all times. But the Word that feeds us is his promise proclaimed to us that he is our God and wants to be our God. Thus, the meaning of Moses and Christ is this: If you have and believe God’s Word, you have two things for certain: First, where you suffer want and do not have bread but must suffer hunger, the Word will sustain you so that you do not die of hunger or perish, as if you had enough to eat. For the Word you have in your heart feeds and sustain you even without food and drink. But if you have little to eat, a bite or piece of bread with nourish and feed you as well as a royal banquet. For it is not the bread but God’s Word that feeds the body also in a natural way, just as it creates and sustains all things, Hebrews 1:3. Second, the bread certainly will be found at last, regardless of where it may come from, even if it comes from heaven as the Manna did, although no bread grows, or is able to grow, in heaven. You may freely rely on these two things: Either you must get bread and food in the midst of hunger or your hunger must become tolerable and bearable to the point of feeding you as well as bread. Now, what is here said about food and nourishment is to be applied also to drink, clothing, houses, and all physical needs…For this is what God’s Word says: “He cares for us,” 1 Peter 5:7. And St. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:17: “God richly gives us everything to enjoy.” And in Matthew 6:33-34, Christ says, “Seek first the kingdom of God, then the other things will be added to you. But do not be anxious,” etc…Now, God feeds the whole world by bread and not by the Word alone, without bread, in order to hide his work under bread to exercise faith. In the same way, he commanded the Israelites to prepare and to fight, but he did not want the victory to be won by the sword and the deed. Rather, he himself wanted to beat the enemies under the sword and by their deed and win the victory. He might as well have said: “The soldier does not win by his sword alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord,” as it says in Psalm 44:6; 147:10…He nonetheless uses men and horses, swords and bows, but not based on the strength and might of the man or the horse, but under the curtain and cover of the man and the horse he fights and does all things…In summary, all creatures are God’s masks and disguises. He lets them cooperate with him to do all kinds of things he could otherwise do, and does, without their cooperation, so that we may only cling to his Word. In this way, our faith will not increase if there is bread, just as our despair will not grow when there is no bread. Rather, we will use the bread when it is there, but will do without it when it is not there being certain that live and are fed in either case by God’s Word, whether there is bread or not. Such faith properly overcomes greed, the belly, and temporal worries about food.

St. Louis ed., 11:537-539.

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