Text: Deuteronomy 8:1-20
“Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.
6 “Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.
11 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end— 17 then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’
18 “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. 20 As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lordyour God.
We continue to work our way through Deuteronomy in a series focusing on Faithfulness for the Next Generation. In the previous chapter, Moses highlighted that faithfulness to the Lord meant no covenant compromise with the Canaanite nations or their gods. If God’s people were faithful in this, then the Lord would radically bless them. Covenant compromise remains a danger. That’s a danger. Another danger is that once the Lord has established Israel in this abundant land, they would grow comfortable and complacent and so forget their God who was the source of all the blessings.
Cotton Matter a New England minister in the 1700’s accurately stated, “Faithfulness begot Prosperity, and the daughter devoured the mother.” In whatever circumstance whether barrenness or blessing, God’s people must remember the Lord’s provision and faithfully obey the Lord. This was a lesson Israel was repeated taught in the wilderness and they must not forget in the prosperity of the Promise Land. And, this is a lesson that we must learn today in our own lives and our church community.
Maybe: In the wilderness, Israel needed to learn the lesson that they were completely dependent on the Lord and so must obey Him fully. And that was a pretty obvious conclusion. Only God is capable of bringing water gushing out of bolder. God provides in the wilderness. Soon Israel will move into a land with abundant water, abundant bread and all the good stuff they’ve been longing for in wilderness. Will they remember their lesson? Or will they Forget the Lord their God?
Humbling, Testing, Providing (vs. 1-6)
Moses begins chapter 8 with the admonition, “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply and go in and posses the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers.” Like in the previous chapters, Moses presses on Israel the central importance of obedience. Obedience begins today. The first and greatest commandment that Moses has delivered is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” This is worth your careful attention and obedience. If you are, then the Lord will give you life and children and the land that he promised to your fathers (all of which are really good).
“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” Israel had a forty year course at Wilderness University where they were regularly tested. Here’s this Red Sea, here’s this thirsty desert, here are these Moabite woman and their Baals. The tests were aimed at revealing what was in the heart––Who will you obey, Israel? Who do you love, Israel?
In a trial, you commonly ask, “What are you doing, God?” The Lord is humbling you by the trial, by a storm. And he tests to know what’s really in your heart, whether you will obey or whether you’re a sunshine Christian only.
In verse 3, Moses gives an example, “The Lord humbled you and let you get hungry and then fed you with manna.” The Lord humbled. The Lord tested. The Lord provided. God humbled Israel so that their stomachs were growling. Their growling stomachs revealed their grumbling hearts. The Lord provides miracle manna to teach Israel–– “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the Lord.” Bread is never enough. Israel had to be made dependent on the Lord for the basics, bread and water, so that they’d know that they are dependent on the Lord for all things (not just physical but emotional and spiritual).
Israel will soon be in a land loaded with bread, and they are gonna be tested again. Will they forget the primary lesson? Man needs God and God provides for Man––bread and clothes and footwear and all the rest (vs. 4).
The Lord is humbling and testing and providing because he is like a father disciplining his son. “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.” Often we feel like we can do without the discipline of the Lord. I think this is how my kids think of my discipline. I know this is how I thought about the spankings I got from my parents. But now I’m thankful for their loving discipline. It was love and merciful of them. A memory I had was my pops disciplining me by making me ask forgiveness to Mr. Johnson, an elderly retired marine, who lived next door when I chucked a snow ball at him and beaned him right on his bald head. Pops led me over. Humbled. Test what was in my heart––a lot of fear. That put the fear of Mr. Johnson in me, “Will you please forgive me for throwing a snow ball at your head?” And the fear of God. Responsibility for my actions. Restoration. And Obedience––no more snow balls at Mr. Johnson.
The response to God the Father’s discipline is obedience, “So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him” (vs. 6). Israel’s situation will soon change. They are moving from the harsh wilderness to a prosperous paradise. What doesn’t change in their new circumstance? Reliance upon God and faithfulness to God.
A Good Land from a Good God (vs. 7-10).
Israel should be motivated obey the Lord because the Lord is bringing Israel into a very good land. Get your desert-dwelling-nomad imagination on and listen to this, “The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land filled of brooks of water, of fountains and springs (hot springs, perhaps?) flowing out in the valleys and the hills, GUSHING WATER, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and figs trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper” (vs. 7-9). Israel should give some holy high-fives after hearing what the land is going to be like. Milk and honey totally undersold what the Promise Land would be like! There’s even buried treasure out there!
Such abundant provision should produce a roaring doxology from the people––Hallelujah! Vs. 10, “And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” God has blessed Israel with this good land. Therefore, they should bless the Lord for this good land he has given. Gratitude is the response for grace.
Israel should not pretend that the land that God gave was NOT good. Because it was good. It was the best. They should faithfully receive the good things––good food, good wine, good jewelry, all gifts from a good God. It would not be faithful to ban the pleasures, the enjoyment. God didn’t declare Prohibition Era in the Promise Land. God was excessive in the Promise Land. Just like Jesus was at the wedding feast. Just like in salvation. This good land should continually remind Israel of their good God. Or it should…
Do we need to say that blessings are good? There are some branches of the Christian tree that recoil at goodness––food, drink, spikeball. If it’s enjoyable, then it’s inherently sinful, or at the very least suspicious. Well, I’m here to put the fun back in fundamental. Basic obedience to God leads to a blessed life, a happy life, dare I say, a fun life. When does your family have the most fun? When everyone is bickering and snatching toys and cutting with words? OR when you’re loving each other and loving God––two fundamental commandments.
Do Not Forget the LORD Your God (vs. 11-16)
Having spent a bit of time with Israel, Moses feels prompted to give a warning, “Beware lest you FORGET the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statues, which I command you today” (vs. 11). The warning is don’t forget the Lord in the abundance. You forget the Lord by forgetting the Word of the Lord. You forget the Lord by disobedience. Take a similar warning from your own life–– “Boys, don’t forget your mother.” A high-school guy or really any guy can say, “Yeah, of course, I want forget my mama. I love her.” But, you forget your mama when you forget to take out the garbage like she told you. Likewise, but much more importantly, God is forgotten when his commandments, his rules, his statutes are not done. Forgetting and, we will see, remembering are not verbs limited to you head.
Moses gives the setting of the temptation to forget, “Take care that when you have eaten and are full, and have built good houses and live in them and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold multiply and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart will be lifted up and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (vs. 12-14). Moses says that their prosperity gives rise to self-exaltation. But this self-exalting leads to God-forgetting––where they came from, how they got there, what they’ve been given. They forgot the Word of God and they now forgot the deliverance of God.
Fools Don’t Remember (vs. 17-20)
But a heart that exalts itself, forgetting God, is a foolish heart and says insane things like, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth” (vs. 17). This is a severe case of spiritual amnesia. It was not your power or your mighty hand, but God’s. And God did not build you up with his blessings so that you could set yourself up as a rival to God. This is the kind of crazy-talk that got Nebuchadnezzar humbled from prosperity. Nebuchadnezzar exalted his heart and boasted look at what “I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty” (Dan. 4:30). The next thing Nebuchadnezzar is chewing the cud with a herd of cows. This is the foolish talk of the Rich Fool in the parable Jesus told of the man who torn down his old barns to build new ones and said to his soul, “‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Lk. 12:18-21).
But in contrast, Israel is called to remember, “You shall REMEMBER your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (vs. 18). Think back, Israel. Where would you be without God? Slinging mud for bricks to build Pharoah’s bath house. That’s where––in slavery. In bondage. In hopelessness. It would have been impossible for the nation of Israel to come here. It was the Lord your God who delivered you out of slavery. If you think that it was your doing, that is pride and foolishness.
There are solemn consequences if Israel acts the fool and forgets the Lord in the abundance, “And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God” (vs. 19-20). If Israel forgets the Lord and lives like Canaanites, then Lord will treat them like Canaanites––they shall surely perish. Notice that comfort and compromise go hand and hand. What are Canaanites still doing in the land seducing God’s people who apparently have settled into a comfortable existence? Israel should be fighting, not forgetting.
Faithful in Abundance
If the negative command is “Don’t be forgetful in abundance,” the positive admonition is “Be faithful in abundance.” The abundance, the prosperity, the wealth is not the problem. These are from the Lord hand. Just like the wilderness, the barrenness, the battlefield are from the Lord. How can you be faithful in abundance? Remember the Lord your God who has delivered you. Gratefully recognize the gifts that he has given to you. Get up and live faithfully. All of which is dependent on Christ.
Comfort and desire to maintain rather than pusihing forward in obedience of the mission. Community complacency. Grace becomes assumed, entitlement.)
So let’s do that right now.
We forget that God has delivered us out of our darkness out of hours soon and cold us and brought us into his marvelous light in order for us to declare his praises we have been delivered from in order to be delivered to. We are not the ones who are able to say that’s good, you’ve made it. You run until God says stop. You keep striving and working moving forward until he says well done good and faithful servant welcome into your rest. God has called you out of darkness so that way you can call others out of darkness.
How did God deliver them? Remember the land of Egypt––the place you were slaves for 400 stinking years? Remember the Lord delivered you by his mighty hand? Remember the ten plagues against the hard-hearted Pharaoh? Remember the Lord who led you with his own Spirit in the cloud and in the fire. Remember the Lord delivered them from serpents and scorpions. Remember the Lord miraculously brought water out of the flinty rock. Remember the Lord who daily fed you manna. Remember Him who humbled you, tested you, so that you may not be proud. So that the Lord your God may do you good in the end.
God has delivered you from the accusations of serpents and their bites and the fear of guilt unforgiven, and the wilderness of shame where there seems to be no shelter from scrutiny or scoffing. What a dreadful and terryfiing wilderness to pass through that is our sin and death IF the LORD had not provided and guided us through and brought us into the abudnant land that he has promised.
Even in that Wilderness, God provided the Rock who is Christ for your to drink from. He provided heavenly manna that you might have the bread of life. Jesus took on the curse of the serpent and was hoisted up on a cross so that the serpent plague would cease.
Because the Lord promises to bless faithfulness, each new generation of God’s people need to learn this and decide to love and to obey God. God will continue to blessing obedience.
Christ and His Gifts
Consider the alternative. If you are a Christian for the gifts with the added benefit of Christ, what happens when the blessings turn to barrenness? The water dries up. The crops fail. The good house starts falling apart. The basement floods. The appliances break. The job is terminated. You fail out of class. The courtship crashes. There is no courtship or a single date this decade. The cancer is back. The baby doesn’t survive past 8 weeks. What happens when the blessings become barren? All of these trials, troubles, heart breaks come from the Lord. You’re in the wilderness, and you’re hungry. How you response reveals what’s in your heart. Once the blessings, the gifts abandon you, will you abandon Christ? Some do. Many are tempted.
“Do you want to go away as well,” Jesus asked his disciples. Peter answered well, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn. 6:7-9). Your hope in the good times and the tired times, the times in the wilderness and in the promise land, the disciplining the for the 19th time, the times you’re sinned against and the times when you sin, where do you go? Go to Jesus Christ, for he has the words of eternal life. As Saint Patrick said, “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me… pg 351). If you are gift-less, then do not be Christ-less.
Jesus Christ is here today, and he provides. If you are in the wilderness, where do you go to drink? Where do yo got to eat? You go to Jesus, just like Israel in the wilderness. 1 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “Our fathers all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” Christ was with them.