Moses is going away.
He’s about to die.
He’s led the chosen people for 40 years, and Deuteronomy is his parting message. In fact it is actually three parting messages, delivered over one week. The section today is part of the second discourse and was probably given on the third day of the last week of Moses’ life.
Most of the sermon is about the 613 laws, but chapter 8 diverts to give some encouragement.
In the first discourse Moses reminded the children of Israel why an 11-day journey has taken them 13,780 days. He said it was because their parents lost faith and didn’t trust God. So they should not be like their parents. If they keep faith, they will be able to stay in the land.
In this part of the second discourse, Moses again reminds them of the need for obedience. He says that without their obedience God cannot deliver on his promise. ‘If’ … ‘then’ … is the format in verse one.
‘If’ you “obey all the commands”, ‘then’ “you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.”
The only thing they need worry about is obeying God. The only thing they need fear is God. There is no need to fear the enemies in the promised land. The Hebrews have the assurance of 40 years in the desert with God. We must just remember each day all that God has done.
Moses points out in verses two to four that God has spent 40 years training the Hebrews. They need to remember this in the future when things get tough. Moses says that God wanted to “prove your character” and find out if they would obey him.
You may wonder why God would need to do this. God is already aware of their character. Why does he need to test them to find out? Another way of expressing this is to say that God was acting to bring out the things of the heart. God was putting the people in a situation where it would be obvious to everyone what was in their hearts.
God knew what was in their hearts, but they didn’t. God was at work to uncover what was hidden, and this is always part of what God is doing in our lives.
The author of Harry Potter, Joanne Rowling, tells of her own experience of this at work in her life. After a series of misfortunes she was living in poverty as a single mother. She had failed at everything in life, including work and marriage. Rowling says that at the bottom she had no more illusions or fantasies about who she was or what she could do. She at last knew herself.
At that point, she was able to focus on the only thing in her life that mattered. Rowling, a Christian, says that after all the lies of the world had been stripped away, she was standing on a sure foundation. On that foundation alone she could prosper.
It seems that this is what God did to the Hebrew slaves over 40 years of desert experience.
They learned that they could not feed themselves. Every day God gave them just enough food for one day. I’m reminded of this every time I say the Lord’s prayer – “Give us today our daily bread.”
In the desert it was called manna, which means ‘What is it?’ God was teaching his people to have total dependence on him. I know that many of us prefer independence, and if you are from the United States you will be proud of your declaration of independence from Great Britain. God is trying to teach us dependence.
But it’s not just bread. Manna is the word of God. Jesus rebuked Satan’s temptation in the desert by saying “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In Matthew 4:4 Jesus was quoting our reading today. He was citing Deuteronomy 8:3 – “He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
Moses’ words in the last week of his life are not just for the people standing in front of him and for their children. Jesus showed us that these words are powerful today for us. We can use these same words when Satan comes to tempt us. You can be sure he will come, and even now is crouching in wait.
Are you worried about tomorrow? Don’t worry about tomorrow. God will give you tomorrow’s food tomorrow. He will give you tomorrow’s instruction tomorrow. Today, only worry about obeying the instruction he has given you today. God is training you to rely on him more and more. He is training you to rely on yourself less and less.
God’s message to us today is to trust him totally and completely. He will feed us. He will show us our true character and reveal the depths of our hearts.
Not only that, but he will clothe us. For forty years in the desert the Hebrews never went without clothes or shoes. There was always food enough, and there were always clothes enough. Do you worry about clothes? Do you get stressed over clothes? Don’t. God doesn’t promise to you that you will always be fashionable, just that you will always be dressed.
God treats you like this because he treats you as a child. You are a child of God, so you are being taught how to be a child of God.
In my home country the highest social classes have private schools where they teach their children the things they need to know to behave as high-class people. In the same way, God teaches his precious children the things they need to know to live as his precious children.
God promises the chosen people a great life in the promised land, if they totally obey him.
God promises you a great life in heaven, if you obey him in all things.
We are taught in verse six that the way to obey God’s commands is “by walking in his ways and fearing him.”
You might stumble over the word ‘fear’ in this verse. We keep talking about how God is love and he treats us as his children. We aren’t afraid of God. We should be afraid of God though, but not in the way we are afraid of spiders or snakes.
In Isaiah 43 God says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”
Do not be fearful that God will cause any harm to you the way you fear terrorism or war or disease.
Acts 9:31 – “The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.”
This is a different fear. This is reverence. The fear of God is an attitude of respect, a response of reverence and wonder. It is the only appropriate response to our Creator and Redeemer.
Deuteronomy 8:11 – “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.”
If you ever forget God, you will be destroyed. So verse 18 says always remember God. “Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.”
I’ll be back in September, until then walk one day at a time and don’t forget God. Bless you. We are going to miss you.
Just trust God, it will all turn out right in the end. See in September.