REMEMBER THE LORD IS GOD

 

Week of June 17, 2007

 

Bible Verses:  Deuteronomy 8:1-14,17-18.

 

Biblical Truth: The Lord is God, and His people are to remember He is God in their difficult times as well as in their good times.

 

Do you learn from the Lord’s discipline?  Deuteronomy 8:1-5.

 

[1]  “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. [2]  You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. [3]  He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. [4]  Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. [5]  Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.   [NASU]

 

“Remembering” is a key idea in Deuteronomy. As a good teacher, Moses frequently returns to the same theme in order to drive its message home. For the Israelites, the years in the desert had been far from easy but Moses knew that once the people entered the land they would be exposed to entirely different hazards. Life in Canaan would confront them with the temptations of disobedience [11,20], materialism [12-13], forgetfulness [14-16], pride [17-18] and idolatry [19-20]. The future was bright with promise but not free from danger. Once they possessed this unfamiliar territory, the prosperous Israelites would be in serious danger of forgetting the Lord’s correction [1-6], provision [7-18] and commandments [19-20]. These themes are intertwined throughout these verses as God’s servant prepares the people for life in a new environment. Life frequently involves big changes and fresh adjustments. This chapter has some important things to say to people in a time of change. In such circumstances, forgetfulness is a serious danger. When we are confronted with new, possibly unwelcome, experiences we must take care that we do not forget the Lord your God [11,14]. In such circumstances believers must deliberately remember [2,18] God’s fatherly training [1-6], undeserved generosity [7-16] and sovereign demands [17-20]. This chapter invites us to value His discipline, acknowledge His goodness and obey His orders.

 

[1-5]  Life is about learning. As they look into the uncertain future, the Israelites are told to remember the past. If they think about the way God has helped them through difficult experiences in years gone by, they are not likely to be terrified about the way ahead. Moses tells the Hebrew people that those forty years in the desert had been difficult years, but not wasted ones. Disobedience had kept a whole generation out of a land they might have enjoyed, but God had been with them just the same. When His people grieve Him, He does not utterly forsake them. If rebels run away from Him, He lovingly pursues them. God’s people looked forward to a rich and prosperous land ahead, but they must not forget that God had also been good to them in the barren desert. They had learned lessons there which prosperity could never have taught them. Through those bleak wilderness years, He had been like a compassionate father who occasionally has to discipline His children for their own good.

 

Some lessons can only be learned in trouble. One of the most important things we all have to learn is what life is all about. God longs for His people to enjoy life. The phrase that you may live recurs throughout this book and it appears in this chapter also [1]. But these desert pilgrims had to learn that “life” consists of more than eating and drinking. When they were hungry in the wilderness, they cried out for food and God gave them manna [3] as His choice gift to meet their daily needs. Without it they would have perished physically, but if they had also been denied even more satisfying food, they would have died spiritually. The manna would feed their earthly bodies, but nothing more. They were spiritual people, with a capacity for receiving the most necessary food of all, God’s word. Only as they made an obedient response to that word could they truly “live”. God spoke to them in the desert and it was that which kept them truly “alive”. By His word He presented them with great, unchanging spiritual realities, essential both for this life and for eternity. To eat and drink is merely to exist; only as men and women receive and obey God’s truth can they really “live” as God intended – lives which bring them lasting satisfaction and eternal security.

 

In order to make us aware of the priority of spiritual over material values, God sometimes temporarily holds back physical necessities to remind us of the supremacy of spiritual ones [3]. God continues to discipline His children. He sometimes leads us through difficult, bewildering, even bitter experiences to prove our dependence upon Him. Such times can be used to strengthen our faith, determine our priorities, enrich our witness and increase our usefulness to others. When we encounter new situations or come up against adverse circumstances, we must remember that these times may not be as threatening or destructive as, at first sight, they often seem. The Lord may be using such events to discipline us, to show us how much we have been relying on our own resources, or how prayerless we have become, or how we have allowed our lives to be determined by materialistic values, and a host of other things. Testing times are learning times.

 

Do you trust the Lord’s purposes?  Deuteronomy 8:6-10.

 

[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, flowing forth in 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 where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. [10]  When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.   [NASU]

 

Moses tells the people that during periods of chastisement or corrective discipline we must remember to do three things: you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him [6]. During life’s dark and puzzling experiences we are to obey the word, live in a manner which pleases God, and hold Him in reverence. We will not complain or grumble during such periods but fear Him, acknowledge His sovereignty and recognize that He alone is God, fully entitled to control every aspect of our lives. The theme of ‘change’ is here presented with an arresting word-picture which make deliberately bold contrasts. The barren desert [2] of the past is sharply contrasted with the good land [7] of the future, the forty years of constant mobility [2] with the settled years in Canaan’s security, their moveable tents with the good houses [12] of the land ahead, the temporary existence with the permanent. The hunger [3] of the desert is exchanged for food without scarcity [9] but, sadly, the days when they were humbled [3] give way to the years when they are proud [17].

 

Do you remember your source of success?  Deuteronomy 8:11-14,17-18.

 

[11]  “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; [12]  otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, [13]  and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, [14]  then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. [17]  Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ [18]  But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.   [NASU]

 

[11-14]  Moses here makes special mention of two serious dangers in any time of change – forgetting God’s former mercies and ignoring His continuing favor. God’s former mercies are forgotten. In the forty years which had gone by He had redeemed [brought you out … of the house of slavery, 14], guided [led you through the great and terrible wilderness, 15], protected [with its fiery serpents and scorpions, 15], and sustained them [brought water for you out of the rock … fed you manna, 15-16]. Even the times of adversity had all been lovingly designed, that He might do them good in the end [16]. Those unwelcome decades in the wilderness had been years of beneficial humbling [2-3], purposeful testing [2,16], and necessary learning [3,5]. But the constantly repeated experiences of God’s earlier blessing had quickly faded from their memories. When we are preoccupied with the present, it is easy to forget the mercies of the past. God’s continuing favor is ignored.

 

The Lord knows that, once they settle in such a fruitful land, prosperity will quickly rob them of their earlier dependence upon Him. During those long years in the desert, they were compelled to rely on God. Circumstances demanded it; there was nobody else to whom they could turn. The daily collection of manna is specially mentioned. Perhaps more than any other event, it drew attention to their utter dependence upon God. The regular morning activity of gathering it in hardly presented the Israelites with much of an opportunity for boasting. He gave, they took – it was as simple as that. Once they settled in Canaan, however, the contrast was overwhelming and the temptations immense. The sandy waste, the vast, wind-swept desert was a thing of the past. Now they could enjoy the good land around them with its attractive physical features (streams, pools of water, springs, valleys, hills), rich agricultural produce (wheat, barley), abundant orchards (vines, fig trees, pomegranates, olive trees) and useful resources ( a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills).

 

God’s purpose was that they should welcome these blessings and recognize His goodness; they did the former without attempting the latter. Instead of remembering, they forgot [11,14]. Widespread prosperity led to gross ingratitude. The Lord intended them to do three things: enjoy His benefits (when you have eaten and are satisfied), offer their worship (bless the Lord your God) and acknowledge His generosity (He has given you) [10]. Instead they forgot Him [11,14], disobeyed His commands [11] and became arrogantly self-sufficient and proud [14] – even in the presence of such a generous God. Once they began to disregard His kindness it was not long before they disobeyed His word [11].

 

[17-18]  Once the abundant prosperity became an established feature of life in the land, two further dangers would seriously damage their spiritual lives – pride and idolatry. Once they became wealthy, they exalted themselves [17-18] and insulted their God [19-20]. They committed two acts of blatant theft – they stole from God the glory due to His Name, and robbed Him of His exclusive right to the worship of their lives. They followed other gods and worshipped them [19].

 

They foolishly imagined that all this prosperity was due to their own efforts: you may say in your heart, my power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth [17]. Self-glorification is a sinister transgression. It takes full credit for all life’s achievements. It forgets that without the breath God gives, the motivation He inspires, the intelligence He provides, the strength He imparts, the perseverance He encourages, none of these things would be possible. He did not give these rich qualities to His people in order to feed their pride but because He was determined to honor His word, confirming His covenant which He swore to your fathers [18] He can be relied upon to keep His word, but they certainly do not keep theirs. In the covenant they agreed not to worship other gods but, forgetting God’s word, they broke their promise. Once God is not acknowledged as the supremely generous Giver it is an easy step to look elsewhere for the source of life’s gifts and blessings. The Canaanite people were deeply persuaded that the rich harvests of their land were the special gifts of Baal, the agricultural god par excellence. The Lord’s warning to His people was a necessary one. In the long years ahead they did go after other gods and serve them and worship them [19]. God here issues His warning that if they begin to follow idols they will perish. The fulfillment of that threat became a sad feature of their later history. This land which lay ahead of them would one day be taken from them. God is sovereign and, for our own good as well as for His own glory, He will not allow His unique place to be taken by another. He is a jealous God and there can be no rivals.

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.      Why does the Lord discipline His children? What are we to remember during these times of discipline?

 

2.      What three things does Moses tell the people that they need to do during periods of chastisement or corrective discipline? Why is trust in God’s sovereignty important during these times?

 

3.      What are the dangers that Moses warns the people of during times of prosperity? What does Moses tell the people to do in order to avoid these dangers?

 

References:

Deuteronomy, Eugene Merrill, NAC, Broadman.

The Message of Deuteronomy, Raymond Brown, Inter-Varsity.