By Asst Ps Patrick Chan Yin
Read Deuteronomy 8: 1-20
There is a recurrent theme throughout the first few chapters of Deuteronomy, where God communicates through Moses what He expects of His people, the Israelites. His message is quite simple: Do or die. And He really means it. Either you do exactly what He says (including obeying the ten commandments to the letter) or you perish.
In this passage we get a little more understanding behind God’s motivation in ‘dragging’ the Israelites around the wilderness for forty years. Moses explains that God wants to “humble” them and “test” what is in their hearts (v. 2). He lets them be hungry but He then makes up for it by feeding them “manna” from heaven and by ensuring that they have clothes on their backs and their feet do not swell during all these forty years (vv. 3-4).
To encourage them to obey and revere Him, God goes on to paint a beautiful poetic picture of what the Promised Land will look like: “a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.” (vv. 6-9)
But of course, there is a catch. God reminds the Israelites that all of this is contingent on them keeping His commandments, His ordinances and His statutes. If they do not, “they will surely be destroyed.” (v. 19)
Thankfully, most of us have not experienced the incredible hardships the Israelites went through (unlike some others in other parts of the world). But God gives the Israelites a particularly insightful warning that I think applies to many of us.
Envisioning the Israelites in the Promised Land after they have eaten their fill, built fine homes and their herds and flocks have multiplied, God cautions them: “You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth….” (vv. 17-18)
When we are successful in life, we tend to attribute it all to ourselves. We think it is all by our doing and wisdom and do not need God as much. Conversely, when we are “humbled” by life’s trials, we suddenly put God at the forefront. But thank God He is always there for us, all by His grace and mercy. So do remember the LORD, your God, no matter what you are going through.
Help us, O Lord, to know what is in our heart and help us to remain strong in our love and commitment to follow and obey you in times of prosperity and success, as well as in times of uncertainty and hardship.
“It helps me if I remember that God is in charge of my day - not I.”Charles R. Swindoll