27. Deuteronomy 8: “Obeying God at ALL Times”
Salem County Correctional Facility in Woodstown, NJ – Men’s Evening Chapel Service on 1/27/2013
(edited January 2020)
Before Joshua took over in Ancient Israel, the people had already begun to drive out their enemies as they approached the Promised Land while still under the leadership of Moses. And he was urging them to press on and obey God even though they hadn’t crossed the Jordan River or gone into Jericho yet:
Verse 1: “All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers.”
Joshua would command the assault on the Promised Land, and that is a good thing. But Moses spent his entire ministry leading the people in circles through the wilderness.
Verses 2-4: “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.”
The Lord had kept them in the wilderness so long it became a training ground. They showed that they weren’t ready to conquer anything yet in His name. But that doesn’t mean God abandoned them. He went through the wilderness with them, step by step. He blessed them there also, and waited patiently for them to change and to reform. He trusted that with help and experience they would learn and grow in their faith toward Him. In reality it took a whole generation.
Verses 5-6: “Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee. Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him.”
God was very purposeful, but He wasn't toying with them. Nor does He toy with us today. He cares about us, as a good father does, under all circumstances. That doesn’t mean He won’t require faith from His People, then and now.
I would say to an unbeliever in our day that the Lord cares about you, very much, and has throughout your life. He created you to begin with and you remain His concern right now, even if you want nothing to do with Him!
Ancient Israel had delayed their blessings for forty years through blatant unbelief. But the Lord still remembered all His best plans and goals for them:
Verses 7-10: “ For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.”
I can claim no right to criticize Ancient Israel. But I do believe that the Lord went ahead and blessed them as a group in the Promised Land, in spite of their doubt and disobedience out there in the wilderness. It wasn’t just for them that He finally did it, nor did they really deserve it. It was so that they could continue on and produce Jesse, David, Mary and Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Reflecting on this, I wonder how many times the Lord has blessed and delivered me when I was actually in the wrong or being unfaithful to Him. It also wasn’t only about me, but so I could get through it and still have a chance to be a blessing to others. Can you think back on some of the Lord’s mercy on you in this way? As long as we have life, even an imperfect life like mine, we can still bless others. We need to answer His call today to serve and share our blessings over the years with others.
(Blessing others can be tricky. We might think, Lord I can’t feed every starving person in town. I don’t have the resources for that. Even if I find the resources to do that for one day, they will all be hungry again the next day. But sometimes it’s much simpler than that. There might be those around us right now or close by who are starving not for physical food, but just for someone to look in their eyes and listen to what they have to say, even if only for a moment. Yet how often have I left a simple kindness like that undone, even though it would have been relatively easy to do?
Jesus looked up at a crowd of people one day and said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is great.” But some days when I look out on the same world, I see nothing, looking right past many people that I could help. What Jesus said next has too often been a commentary on my life. He said, “The harvest truly is great, but the workers are few.” The time to serve Christ is right now, this day. What keeps me up at night is not the failures of Ancient Israel, but my failures.)
Let’s get back to Moses:
Verses 11-17: “ Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.”
If we can’t honor our Lord out in the wildernesses of this life, we should not assume that we will do it in better times! I need to remember not to bargain with God, praying that if He gives me all I want, then I’ll obey Him. The truth is, whether in darkness or light, I must follow and obey Him through it all.
Moses understood this. Strength, success, and physical victory actually sometimes cause spiritual defeat. Look at what he tells them:
Verses 18-19: “ But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.”
Here’s what I believe Moses feared most that The People of God would forget about once they settled into that Land of figs, and pomegranates, and honey described so well above:
1. To love the Lord (see Deuteronomy 5:6-15)
2. To love one another (see Deuteronomy 5:16-21
(We refer to this passage as the Ten Commandments.)
About 1,500 years later, Christ restates the same message for us in the New Testament:
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” -Matthew 22:35-40
Worldly success doesn’t have to draw us away from God’s commandments, but to be honest, it can. That is actually what happen to Ancient Israel, even after they got into Canaan.
Deuteronomy chapter 8 closes with this final dire warning from Moses:
Verse 20: “As the nations which the Lord destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God.”
Jesus also echoes that in the New Testament. The major difference being that while they could only lose a physical kingdom here on the earth, we stand to lose an eternal one in Heaven:
“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” -Mark 8:34-37
So, when is the best time to obey God? Of course, it is: All the time. Even if you’re in the wilderness.