1 “You must carefully follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase, and may enter and take possession of the land the Lord swore to your fathers. 2 Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. 3 He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothing did not wear out, and your feet did not swell these 40 years. 5 Keep in mind that the Lord your God has been disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. 6 So keep the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams of water, springs, and deep water sources, flowing in both valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land where you will eat food without shortage, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you will mine copper. 10 When you eat and are full, you will praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. 11 “Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God by failing to keep His command—the ordinances and statutes—I am giving you today. 12 When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, 13 and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, 14 be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. 15 He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, a thirsty land where there was no water. He brought water out of the flint-like rock for you. 16 He fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end He might cause you to prosper. 17 You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ 18 but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant He swore to your fathers, as it is today. 19 If you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods to worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will perish. 20 Like the nations the Lord is about to destroy before you, you will perish if you do not obey the Lord your God.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Today's reading is one of my favorite passages in all of the Bible. It was this very passage that enticed me to pursue philosophy and ethics. We find the Israelites preparing to enter into the Promised Land. Moses explains to them that their long wandering as punishment against their parents has been to their advantage. God has been disciplining them to prepare them for proper works when they are in the land.
On the one hand, the people are simply to remember what God has done for them, in order that they would continue to rely fully upon God for all things. That idea is the key to the passage: man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. On the other hand, the people are implored to actually keep the commands of God because they are the necessary foundation for human flourishing. God does not offer commands for Himself to follow (He is perfect already); rather, God's commands are there to perfect us as we grow in Christ-likeness.
Why did this verse have such an impact on me when I was seeking to know through which field of study I could best serve the Church? In my first Christian Ethics course as a seminary freshman, my professor drew our attention to verses 17 and 18: You may say to yourself, “My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,” but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant He swore to your fathers, as it is today.
No matter how brilliant you may be, no matter what critical decisions you may have made for your business to succeed, no matter how many awards man grants you … God stands behind it all. God did not accidentally give us passions and abilities. God grants us abilities in order to generate wealth, best understood in modern times as human flourishing, for His name's sake. To put the full potential of our God-given abilities to work for the glory of God is the epitome of what it means to be an image bearer of God. But we must never forget that without God there would be no-thing, and without God's sustaining and enlightening power, all of our tremendous efforts and creativity would also amount to nothing.
One great thing about Old Testament passages like this is that we don't have to work hard to see the application. We have a series of commands and the reason for those commands. I can do no better than to repeat the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: Remember all the [long] way in which the Lord your God has led you...Keep the commandments of the Lord your God to walk in His ways and to fear Him...Bless the Lord your God for the good land [life, circumstances] which He has given you...Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments.
- Just as Moses recounted the many things God had done for His people in their wandering, make a list of the ways God has sustained you throughout the years. Keep this list somewhere accessible so you will not forget what the Lord has done for you.
- Constantly pray for humility in all that you do. Think through or make a list of those things which you are most proud of in your life. Now think about how God might have been operating in and through those moments.
- Read through the rest of Deuteronomy to determine what the commandments are that Moses was talking about. Note those that were not fulfilled in the work of Christ and set yourself to fulfilling those commandments more explicitly in your life. If all else fails, meditate on Jesus' summation of the law: Love the Lord your God … love your neighbor as yourself.