Taking a Look: Deuteronomy 8
Deuteronomy is largely made up of pep talks Moses gave the children of Israel before he left them and they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land with Joshua as their general. It is not very dissimilar from a soccer manager addressing his team before a needle match, or a party leader rallying his followers before and election. The invasion of Canaan was going to be a very big step. Deuteronomy might be a good book to study in the run-up to the Millennium, or before any big new venture a local church undertakes. Chapter 8 is in many ways the jewel in the crown and one of the really great chapters in the Bible. Here Moses urges people to take a look, or indeed, several looks.
Look Back to Past Lessons vs 1–5
They were not to forget all they had learned in those hard but precious years in the wilderness. They had been humbled (v.4) and they would need to remember that God was not going to use or bless those who grow proud. They had also been hungry, and the intriguing lesson they had learnt then was not so much that God graciously provided manna, “What is it?”) but rather that in their hunger there was a deeper need than that for food. Bread alone would not satisfy, they needed the Word of God. Here is a lesson for all bread-winners. Is bread the only thing you take home? Your family will not survive without the Word of God. What has happened to family prayers? They also learnt the lesson of God’s faithfulness (v.4). Indestructible clothing was not to be theirs for all time, but for those years in the wilderness, the Lord their God met all their needs.
2. Look Forward to Future Blessings vs 6–9
The description of the Promised Land is mouth-watering! Although there were going to be battles ahead, nonetheless they were to grasp that even in this life, Christians should be the happiest people in the world. It is true that the bulk of our blessings lie ahead in heaven – which is why we are told to rejoice in our hope – and thus the prospect of heaven should fill our horizon far more than it does. Nonetheless, there is very much to rejoice in here and now: the forgiveness of sins, the knowledge of our heavenly Father, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the fellowship of God’s people, the privilege of serving Him. For the Christian, life gets better and better.
Look Out for the Dangers vs 14, 17, 19
Moses, like all true prophets, is utterly faithful in warning the people of God of dangers that lie ahead. As ever, the chief of them is proud presumption. This can either take the form of attributing my blessings to my achievements, my efforts, my faithfulness, rather than to His undeserved mercy and grace. Or, worse, I can presume on that mercy and begin to think that I can sin with impunity because, of course “God will forgive me, that’s His job.”
God promised the physical land of Canaan to the people and He gave it to them. God promised to take it away from them if they were faithless. They were... and he did. Look out for the dangers.
4. Look up the Commandments vs 1, 2, 6, 11, 20
We never reach a stage in our Christian lives when we need no longer obey. There is much talk these days about “being open to what God may be saying.” The biblical emphasis is very different. It is “be obedient to what God has said.” So look up the commandments to make sure there aren’t any we have forgotten or overlooked. They are all there for our good, not to make our life narrow and restricted, but rather to enhance and enrich our lives. Serving Him in obedience is the way to perfect freedom.
The author of this exposition Jonathan Fletcher, is a member of the full-time ministry team at Emmanuel, Wimbledon, in the diocese of Southwark.
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