In my daily Bible reading this week, I came across this passage:
“Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would really obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people need more than bread for their life; real life comes by feeding on every word of the Lord. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. So you should realize that just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you to help you.
“So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with springs that gush forth in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley, of grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, olives, and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. When you have eaten your fill, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you” (Deut 8:2-10).
One of my doctoral classes was “The Problem of Evil and Suffering” and in it I studied several complicated theodicies–defenses of the goodness of God in a world where evil exists. By the time I had finished, I had come up with a theodicy of my own, but as I read the above passage, I realized that this passage pretty much sums up my theodicy, but as a metaphor.
What is the purpose of life? Why do we suffer on occasion? It’s all in the above passage. “He did it to teach you that people need more than bread . . . and the Lord your God disciplines you to help you out.”
You could almost come to the end of a man’ life, substitute the number of his years for the number “forty” above, and read that passage as a metaphor about life in general. We walk through the wilderness with the Lord, we learn, we grow, and yet he takes care of us. And then he leads us to heaven, a “land flowing with milk and honey.”
I like that a lot.