“Love’s Pitfalls” – Deuteronomy 6:10-25

July 9th, 2017

Dt. 6:10-25

“Love’s Pitfalls”

Aux Text: 1 Tim 6:17-19

Call to Worship: Psalm 128

 

Service Orientation: In our superficiality we believe that it is God Who is being tested and not us.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Power, prosperity and success is one of our greatest tests and we need to teach our children how to pass.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. — 1 Timothy 6:17

 

Background Information:

  • (vss. 10-12) God’s grace is expressed in the repeated emphasis on the fact that all of this is not the result of Israel’s arduous labors but is the gift of God. One is reminded of Eph 2:8-9.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 105)
  • (v. 11) Vineyards and olive trees require years to develop, and Israel would enjoy their fruit without having done the planting. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 319)
  • (v. 12) Although the Israelites, whether in the time of Moses or at the end of the Exile, may have responded to the appeal of verse 5 with enthusiasm and sincerity, the danger was that, in the course of time, they would forget (v. 12). (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 50)
  • (v. 13) Dt 6:13 is the verse that Jesus used to respond to Satan when the devil asked him to worship him (Mt 4:10; Lk 4:8). (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 276)
  • (v. 14) The idiom “to walk after a god” [NIV “follow after gods] may derive from religious festivals in which devotees of a deity would follow in procession behind the image of the god. In Deuteronomy it is always used in a metaphorical sense of loyal devotion to Yahweh demonstrated by living in accordance with his revealed will and/or behaving as God himself does (10:18-19).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 193)
  • (v. 15) This is one of four times in Deuteronomy where God is described as a jealous God (4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:21). And each time God is said to be jealous because his place of supreme lordship has been replaced by another god.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 277)
  • (v. 17) This exhortation that Israel be sure to keep the statutes, commandments, and ordinances is one of the most oft-repeated in the book. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 321)
  • The fundamental deuteronomic call to loyal obedience in 6:4 stands at the head of the instruction that is then unfolded as far as ch. 26. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 145)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What does God through Moses desire for us to learn from this passage?

 

Answer:  It is mankind and not God who is being tested.  We need to remind our kids of this, as well as how to pass the test.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Test

 

What does God through Moses desire for us to learn from this passage?:

I-  It is mankind that is being tested . . .  Not God(Dt 6:10-19; see also: Ex 17:1-7; Dt 8:1-18; 9:22; 28:30, 49-54; Ps 52:7; 62:10; ch 78; 81:7; Prv 16:18; Dan ch 4; Jer 5:7, 17; 6:12; 8:10; Lam 5:1-9; Hosea 13:6; Mic 6:15; Amos 5:11; Zeph 1:13; Mt 4:1-11; 13:1-23; 19:22-24; Mk 4:1-9; 10:22-25; 12:12-13; Lk 4:1-13; 8:4-8; 12:14-21; 18:23-25; Eph 2:1-13; 1 Tm 6:7-18; Bk of Jam; Rv 3:17-18)

 

Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters. — Victor Hugo

 

Moses warned them that the leading spiritual danger they would face on entering the land would be forgetting the Lord.  What adversity would not do, prosperity and satisfaction could.  They were to be on their guard against spiritual lethargy.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 87)

 

It is a general truth that affluence tends to dull one’s spiritual life and perceptions.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 50)

 

The test we all face is to trust in the providence, the provision and protection of God in every and any circumstance.   When we complain or pray to God for more resources or we are upset with Him and want less suffering; we are in effect putting God to the test instead of realizing we are the ones being tested.  — Pastor Keith

 

One can test God in two ways:  (1) one can put him on trial in times of anxiety or crisis, to see if he really will help; or (2) one can try his patience, testing him to see how much disobedience he will tolerate.  Both are really signs of lack of faith and loss of love; both betray the fact that a certain distance has crept into the relationship between man and God.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 50-1)

 

Ahaz misused Dt 6:16 by refusing to ask for a sign when God actually offered him one in order to confirm the prophetic word (Isa 7:10ff.).  Ahaz piously quotes this verse in an attempt to conceal the very refusal to believe God’s word that the verse itself is directed against!  No wonder Isaiah’s patience snapped (Isa 7:13).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 106)

 

Self-reliance replaces God-reliance.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 121)

 

The full belly is the enemy of faith in Deuteronomy.  The comforts of prosperity are thought of as leading to complacency, or perhaps even to cultic assimilationism–worshiping the gods of the previous inhabitants who planted those groves and vineyards and hewed those cisterns.  Thus the history of Israel teeters on the edge of a precarious balance:  if Israel punctiliously adheres to the commands of its God, it will prosper; but when it prospers, it runs the danger of falling away from its loyalty to God.  (Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses, 913)

 

Erwin Lutzer, pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago, has said, “Few people have the spiritual resources needed to be both wealthy and godly.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 273)

 

How can we maintain the grace perspective in our lives?  Verse 12 suggests that it would be good for us to remember who we were before God redeemed us.  They are asked to “take care lest [they] forget the LORD.”  But the Lord is described as the one “who brought [them] out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Remembering our past without God with a view to giving God all the honor for our life is an important Christian discipline.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 275)

 

The newly rich (which is what Moses’ hearers were soon going to become) could get blinded by their temporary prosperity and lose the long view of a God who works in history to keep his promises.  This could result in their compromising their principles for temporary gain.  Their sudden wealth could cause greed and confidence in themselves, resulting in their disregarding God and his commands.  That would be folly, for they would be putting their trust in a very unstable entity unlike the God of the ages.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 274)

 

For every verse in the Bible that tells us the benefits of wealth, there are ten that tell us the danger of wealth.  (Haddon Robinson, Leadership, vol. 9, no. 4)

 

The land has been acquired by Yahweh.  It is a work already accomplished, containing all that is needed for life, and in that sense comparable to Eden.  But plenty brings with it the temptation to forget the giver; and therefore the command to remain loyal to Yahweh is reinforced (12).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 143)

 

It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel.  It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity. (Frederic D. Huntington, Forum magazine, 1890 as quoted by Francis Chan, Crazy Love, p. 65, 177)

 

As William Wilberforce once said, “Prosperity hardens the heart.”  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, p. 90)

 

The trial of faith is also a test of its character; it is the furnace that tries the ore, of what kind it is:  it may be brass, or iron, or clay, or perhaps precious gold; but the crucible will test it.  There is much that passes for real faith, which is no faith; there is much spurious, counterfeit metal; it is the trial that brings out its real character.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 87)

 

Life brings sorrows and joys alike.  It is what a man does with them–not what they do to him–that is the true test of his mettle.  (James Austin Wills, The Letters and Speeches of Theodore Roosevelt, 55)

 

A man’s treatment of money is the most decisive test of his character—how he makes it and how he spends it.  —James Moffatt

 

The problem of poverty is to remain physically alive.

The problem of prosperity is to remain spiritually alive.  —Herbert E. Drooz

 

Therefore what Paul is teaching us here is that the proper use of physical pleasures in sex and food is that they send our hearts Godward with the joy of gratitude that finds its firmest ground in the goodness of God himself, not in his gifts.  This means that if, in the providence of God, these gifts are ever taken away–perhaps by the death of a spouse or the demand for a feeding tube–the deepest joy that we had through them will not be taken away, because God is still good (see Hab 3:17-18).  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 187)

 

It was at the height of David’s prosperity that he committed his greatest act of unfaithfulness (2 Sm 11).  Nothing dulls our sensitivity to God like independence.  There is much truth in the thought that adversity has more benefits than prosperity.  Adversity introduces a person to himself; prosperity intoxicates him.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 121)

 

Whereas in the past Israel’s loyalty to Yahweh had been tested by deprivation, in the future they will be tested by being “satisfied” (v. 11).  Crises of need tempt people to demand a response from Yahweh, but crises of prosperity tempt them to forget him and to become self-sufficient.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 194)

 

God’s desire for the people of God was (and still ultimately remains) a full life, enjoying the gifts of creation.  But equally there is no illusion regarding the likely behavior of the people; in the enjoyment of the gift they might forget the giver.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 101)

 

Fullness can lead to forgetfulness, especially forgetfulness of where they came from and what Yahweh had rescued them from–the land of slavery.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 101)

 

Jesus indicates the depth of his meditation on this chapter when he quotes this verse in response to Satan (Mt 4:5-7).  The suggestion that he should “prove” God’s protective commitment to him by jumping off the temple in Jerusalem when he still had ringing in his ears the voice of his Father God, with its combination of recognition, approval, and commissioning, was rightly resisted as utterly out of line with the command of Dt 6:16:  Where Israel, God’s first-born son (Ex 4:22), had so often distrusted and disobeyed, in spite of spectacular demonstrations of God’s benevolence, the Son of God would trust and obey.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 103)

 

As we have already seen, unbelief was the fountain and cause of the tempting in Massah, for when the people neither relied on God’s providence nor rested on His paternal love, they burst forth into impatience, and at length advanced so far as to think that God was not with them, unless He complied with their wicked lusts.  We perceive, then, that God cannot be rightly worshiped unless when He has His peculiar attributes acknowledged.  Whence, also, it appears that true piety cannot be dissevered from faith, because, if we confess that every desirable good dwells in Him, we shall expect and seek for all things from Him; we shall also patiently and contentedly allow ourselves to be governed by His will, and, in a word, give up ourselves and our lives into His hands.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 421-2)

 

Coming to verses 17-18, one seems to encounter a reversal of what verses 10-16 declare.  There (vv. 10-16) Israel is led to obey when the Lord has brought them into the land.  Here the people must obey in order to be allowed to go into the land.  Norbert Lohfink has properly suggested that this is neither a contradiction nor evidence of a different literary tradition; it is an indication of the cultic setting of these texts.  . . . “Through Deuteronomy, the people of Israel became aware that they possessed the land but still did not possess it; they were recipients of blessing yet awaited blessing; because of the gift already received they were called upon to live a life of commitment and obligation so that the gift might indeed be received and perdure.  The grace of God is the presupposition of the divine demand and at the same time the promised reward of fulfilling that demand.  Indeed, the gift of life is possible only when it comes out of obedience to God’s commands.  The gift of a good and long life in the land, the place of God’s provision, is at one and the same time the prior reality, the final results, and the ultimate reward for Israel’s faithful and constant attention to ‘these words’” (Lohfink, Höre, Israel, 67 quoted by Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 106)

 

Isn’t it true that serious thinking must precede genuine thanking?  To not think about God’s blessings is to not be thankful to God.  Moses knew this could happen.  So did the apostle Paul, who said, “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom 1:21).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 120)

 

For the incident at Massah (a name that means “trial”), see Ex 17:1-7.  The trial in Exodus was the people’s lack of faith that God would provide for them in the wilderness.  In this prospective instance, all sorts of bounty would have already been provided to them, and yet, with far less warrant than their ancestors, they would “try” or provoke God by casting aside their obligations of loyalty to Him.  (Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses, 914)

 

The repetition of “that you did not” is clearly intended to show the people that they were not to take the credit for their successes.  This in turn would have an effect on the people that would result in their ultimate good.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 274)

 

Remembering the radical change that took place when we were redeemed keeps us humble.  Humility makes us dependent, and dependence keeps us in touch with God’s power.  This ensures that our life will be characterized by security and strength in the face of temptation.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 275)

 

The history of Israel shows that after they came into the land and began to enjoy the benefits of the land, they became careless with their commitment to God and followed other gods also.  All our power and advancement and the sense of independence and control that accompanies it should not cause us to forget that we are under solemn oath to serve God only.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 277)

 

Moses renamed the place Massah, meaning “testing” because “they tested the LORD by saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’” (Ex 17:7).  They had pushed God into giving them water.  Moses was not pleased because they had demanded water from God.  It was a case of uncrucified desire.  Describing this era in Israel’s history Ps 78:18 says, “They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved.”  The word “craved” points to desire that is out of control.  So Massah speaks of wrong ambition–ambition that has gone out of control.  Ambition pursues what is wrong even if the person knows that what he or she is aiming at is wrong.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 279)

 

Testing involves a question about the capacity of the person tested.  The recollection of Massah (Ex 17:7; cf. Dt 9:22) fits well in the present context because Israel’s “testing” of the LORD there involved questioning whether he could take them safely through the wilderness and into the promised land.  There too Israel was tempted to think Egypt a better option than the prospects ahead (Ex 17:3), a great act of unbelief, reminiscent of the people’s refusal to go up into the land from Kadesh-Barnea (Dt 1).  The central point of this paragraph, therefore, is that Yahweh is capable of keeping his promise that Israel will enter the land.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 143-4)

 

Yahweh will indeed deliver into the Israelites’ hands the fruits of Canaanite efforts, ready made for their enjoyment.  However, Moses warns the people that instead of evoking praise to their divine Benefactor, prosperity may yield a lapse of memory, especially concerning the source of the gifts.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 192)

 

In verse 16 he adds an unexpected imperative with a cross reference to Massah (Ex 17:7), “place of testing.”  Massah became notorious as the place where Israel challenged God to prove himself, to keep his word, even though in suzerain-vassal relationships it is inappropriate for the inferior to challenge the superior (cf. Nm 14:22).  Ironically, at Massah Yahweh was in fact testing the spiritual mettle of the Israelites (cf. Dt 8:2-3; Ps 81:7[8]).  However, they had twisted his test of them into their own test of physical desires and making his response a condition of following him.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 193-4)

 

With the wealth and excess we in the Western world enjoy, it is easy to forget that everything we have is a gracious gift of God.  Sadly, too many of us fail the test of fidelity and faith that prosperity represents.  We become like the rich farmer of Jesus’ parable (Lk 12:14-21)–smug and self-sufficient in our excess but paupers toward God.  But the principle extends beyond personal, material, or physical well-being to the health of the church as well.  Difficult days for a congregation test the faith of God’s people, but so do times of growth and apparent effectiveness.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 200)

 

Israel will come into a wealth it did nothing to create.  It was created by others.  But for Israel, it is to be reckoned as a gracious gift from Yahweh.  On the common pairing of “building” and “planting,” see 20:5-6 and 28:30; also Amos 9:14; Zeph 1:13; Jer 1:10; 18:9; 24:6; 29:5, 28; 31:4-5, etc.  Deuteronomy and the prophets warn that covenant disobedience will cause this blessing to be reversed (Dt 28:30, 49-51; Amos 5:11; Mic 6:15; Zeph 1:13; Jer 5:17; 6:12; 8:10), which is what happened (Lam 5:1-9).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 318)

 

II-  Teach your children how to pass the test.  (Dt 6:20-24; see also: Dt 6:1-9; 11:1-9; 28:63; Ps 132:12; Bk of Prv; Mt 4:1-11; 6:19-33; Mk 1:12-13; Lk 4:1-13; Eph 2:1-13)  

 

The children’s questions are always there:  “What is that?”  “Why?”  “Why do I?”  In Israel such questions were the impetus for teaching the next generation the meaning of its rules and regulations, its social and religious practices, its signs and symbols (e.g., Ex 12:26-27; Josh 4:6-7).  The response is often a story, an account of something that God did for the people.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 108)

 

Some years ago, I asked a devout Jew what value he found in performing the trivial actions demanded by Jewish law–why, for instance, he refrained from switching on an electric light on a Sabbath day.  The answer was, “My instincts are to switch on the light when it grows dusk, naturally, but then I think of God and withdraw my hand; so this law, even if it seems trivial to you, constantly brings God to my mind.”  Plainly the Jewish people have taken to heart the guidance of Deuteronomy.  It is probably rather easier for Christians, who see themselves as “not under law but under grace,” to forget God in the ordinary affairs of daily life.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 51)

 

We can become so shallow and “content” with our addiction to things that we cease to look for anything deeper and more satisfying.   We no longer groan looking forward to a heavenly kingdom and a heavenly world.  In fact, we can become so content with this world that we are dull and anaesthetized to all that God has for us.  We fail to be repentant (in recognition of our need to be more of who and what God created and designed us to be) because we are confident we have all that life can offer.   We have settled for mediocrity.  —Pastor Keith

 

Every generation is only twenty years away from barbarism.  Those twenty years constitute the amount of time needed to transform a human being from a self-consumed infant into a responsible person who can make room in his life for God and for others.  God instructed Israel that they should recognize their vulnerability to the loss of their faith in the form of the next generation and spare neither expense nor effort in training their children.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 88)

 

Parents are to tell them the “old, old, story” of redemption (G. E. Wright).  The people of Israel were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and Yahweh, with a strong hand, brought them out with signs and wonders, bringing great affliction to Pharaoh and his house, in order that he might give them the land sworn to their fathers.  These are the two great events in Israel’s salvation history:  deliverance from Egyptian slavery and a gift of land.  The children must know Yahweh’s charge that Israel keep the commandments.  The larger purpose is to teach Israel to fear him, for its own long-term good and to gain the coveted gift of life.  It will be reckoned to Israel as righteousness if it is careful to keep the commandments.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 325)

 

Moses assumes that when faced with the challenge of competing cultures, children will ask their parents for an explanation of their way of life.  The question the child asks concerns the stipulations, decrees, and laws that Yahweh commanded Israel (cf. 4:45).  Whether the question arises out of ignorance, curiosity, or cynicism, the child is in effect asking “Why are we governed by this set of regulations?”

The answer Moses prescribes for this question has been interpreted as a “family catechism.”  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 195)

 

It seems as though Deuteronomy 8-10 & Proverbs 14:12 were right.  The very thing that we try to do for ourselves and our loved ones is the thing that is killing us and them.  We try to keep them from suffering, pain, sickness, loss and trouble, only to find that the experience of those things is what humbles us and leads us to the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6). — Pastor Keith

 

Socrates asked, “Fellow citizens, why do you turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth and take so little care of your children to whom one day you must relinquish it all?”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 119)

 

People who are content with the avoidance ethic generally ask the wrong question about behavior.  They ask, What’s wrong with this movie!  Or this music?  Or this game?  Or these companions?  Or this way of relaxing?  Or this investment?  Or this restaurant?  Or shopping at this store?  What’s wrong with going to the cabin every weekend?  Or having a cabin?  This kind of question will rarely yield a lifestyle that commends Christ as all-satisfying and makes people glad in God.  It simply results in a list of don’ts.  It feeds the avoidance ethic.

The better questions to ask about possible behaviors is:  How will this help me treasure Christ more?  How will it help me show that I do treasure Christ?  How will it help me know Christ or display Christ?  The Bible says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).  So the question is mainly positive, not negative.  How can I portray God as glorious in this action?  How can I enjoy making much of him in this behavior?  (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 119)

 

What is your financial focus?

Are you focused on what you have or what you don’t have?  That is the difference between gratitude and greed.  Are you focused on this life or the next?  That is the difference between stinginess and generosity.  Are you focused on your wants or others’ needs?  That is the difference between selfishness and compassion.  It’s also the difference between unhappiness and joy.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 36-7)

 

Sometimes amidst the prosperity of a family the children may not see the appropriateness of some of the family values, especially because they were not involved in the process by which the family forged those values.  Parents who came to Christ from non-Christian backgrounds in their youth must be alert to this phenomenon.  Young people tend to rebel against and to question the value of accepted norms.  When the parents did this, they rejected their parents’ values and embraced Christianity.  Accepting Christianity was an expression of their youthful questioning of the status quo.  Their children, however, grew up in an environment where Christianity was the status quo.  This calls for alertness on the part of the parents so that they can contend for the truth in such a way that the children will be convinced.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 282)

 

The failure to educate children in the faith will speedily erode the faith of a nation; it was particularly vital to remind the coming generations of the reasons for gratitude, love and obedience to God, for otherwise they would take for granted the gifts of national prosperity in Palestine.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 51)

 

The reason for this emphasis on the children is clear.  Deuteronomy is always aimed at the next generation.  It takes the present (next) generation back to the past and brings the past afresh into the present.  The children are now the ones before whom all the choices are laid, and some day their children will be there and the divine instruction will confront them (e.g., 30:2).  Can they learn afresh what it means to love the Lord wholeheartedly?  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 107)

 

The picture is that of a family continually in lively conversation about the meaning of their experience with God and God’s expectations of them.  Parental teaching of the children by conversation about “the words,” study of God’s instruction, and reflection on it (cf. Ps 1:2 and Josh 1:8) is to go on in the family and the community.  Whether at or away from home, “these words” are to be uppermost in mind and heart; parents should teach their children in such a way that their last thoughts before falling asleep and their first words upon getting up are about the Lord’s command.  The text is clear that “these words” are not simply to be recited or repeated.  They are to be talked about–that is, discussed, studied, and learned.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 108)

 

The words of the parent explain, therefore, but they do more than that.  They recapitulate the story of God’s way with Israel as the basis for the people’s present life and conduct.  In so doing, they serve to create a memory for the new generation, who were not there and do not know.  That is the point of the educational process, according to 4:9-10 and 31:13.  In fact, Deuteronomy itself can be seen as creating such a memory for the new generation it addresses by painting pictures (8:7-10; 29:22-23) and telling stories (6:20-25), so the children may receive as real what they did not experience.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 109)

 

Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.  (The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham 189)

 

We ought to conform to God’s will in poverty and all the inconveniences poverty brings in its train.  It is not too hard to do so if we fully realize that God watches over us as a father over his children and puts us in that condition because it is of most value to us.  Poverty then takes on a different aspect in our eyes, for by looking on the privations it imposes as salutary remedies we even cease to think of ourselves as poor.

If a rich man has a son in bad health and prescribes a strict diet for him, does the son think he has to eat small amounts of plain or tasteless food because his father cannot afford better?  Does he begin to worry about how he will exist in the future?  Will other people think that because of his diet he has become poor?  Everybody knows how well off his father is and that he shares in his father’s wealth and he will again have what is now forbidden him as soon as his health is restored.

Are we not the children of God of riches, the co-heirs of Christ?  Being so, is there anything we can lack?  Let it be said boldly:  whoever responds to his divine adoption with the feelings of love and trust that the position of being children of God demands has a right, here and now, to all that God Himself possesses.  Everything then is ours.  But it is not expedient we should enjoy everything.  It is often necessary we should be deprived of many things.  Let us be careful not to conclude from the privations imposed on us only as remedies that we may ever be in want of anything that is to our advantage.  Let us firmly believe that if anything is necessary or really useful for us, our all-powerful Father will give it to us without fail.  To those gathered round to her him our Savior said:  If you evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father. . .? (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 58-9)

 

“C.S. Lewis, born a 100 years ago this November 29th, (1998) warned that we should not be infected by our own propaganda.   About prosperity, he said, that it, ‘knits a man to the world.  He thinks he’s finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.’

We are richer than ever, yet we are more impoverished than ever.  We don’t care about much of anything put pretend that by not caring we are not being judgmental (an even worse sin, if we believed in sin, which we don’t).”  (Cal Thomas, Nov 29th Cit. Pat., 1998)

 

The reason physical sacrifice often results in spiritual renewal goes back to a principle Jesus taught in the gospel of Matthew.  As your treasure goes, so goes your heart.  Jesus said it this way:  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21).

Your heart and your treasure are linked.  If you want to know what you are really committed to, look at your checkbook and credit card statements.  There is your heart, plain and simple.  There is no clearer reflection of your priorities and values.  The way you handle your money is an indicator of where your heart is.  (Andy Stanley, Visioneering, 138)

 

III-  True saving faith passes the test and leads to prosperity. (Dt 6:23-25; see also: Dt 8:1; 11:1-9; Ps ch 1; 10:5; ch 73; 119:93, 116, 144, 156, 159, 175; Prv 10:22; 11:28; 16:20; 22:4; 28:25; Isa 26:3; Rom 5:17; 1 Cor 1:30; Phil 4:12-19; Bk of James)

 

In Dt 6:10-25 Moses knows that the people might forget God after they acquire all the wealth of the promised land.  He first puts the emphasis on grace, which is one of the most important themes of Deuteronomy.  He begins by showing that by giving the land to the people, God is fulfilling a promise made centuries earlier.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 273)

 

It is a melancholy fact, that constant temporal prosperity, as a general rule, is injurious to a believer’s soul.  We cannot stand it.  Sicknesses and losses and crosses and anxieties and disappointments seem absolutely needful to keep us humble, watchful and spiritual-minded.  They are as needful as the pruning-knife to the vine, and the refiner’s fire to the gold.  (J. C. Ryle;  Holiness, 94)

 

The worth and value of our soul is measured by what we love.  If we love corrupt and wicked things we become corrupt and wicked.  But the person who loves God spiritually grows and matures until he becomes like the One he loves.  What a person loves is constantly on his mind.  And what we think about has a power to transform our soul.  We become like what we behold.  (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 39)

 

When I am perfectly satisfied, then what can tempt me?   When I am perfectly loved, then what else do I desire?   When I am eternally secure, then what can threaten me? (Bryan Chapell Holiness by Grace, 109)

 

“What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day.  For each of us the time is coming when we shall have nothing but God.   Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will be swept away, and we shall have only God.  To the man of pseudo faith that is a terrifying thought, but to real faith it is one of the most comforting thoughts the heart can entertain.”   A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)

 

In trying to understand this statement and the relationship between human works and righteousness, we must avoid two extremes.  (1) We must reject the notion that Moses viewed obedience to the commands as the basis of covenantal relationship.  He had just declared (vv. 21-23) that the Israelites’ position as the people of Yahweh rested entirely on his past saving actions, independently of any Israelite merit (cf. 9:1-24).  (2) We must reject the notion that one may enjoy a relationship with God without obedience to his commands, as if status can exist without concrete evidence of the status.  Gn 15:6, which provides a close analogue to the present text, does not contradict this interpretation.  Abraham’s faith was indeed accounted to him as righteousness, but even before this event the patriarch had demonstrated his faith and his righteousness with obvious acts of obedience.  Moses’ point here is that when acts of obedience arise out of genuine faith and fear, Yahweh accepts them as proof of righteousness and responds with blessing and life.  Conversely, it may be assumed that in the absence of obedience, faith is lacking and the covenant relationship rejected, to which Yahweh responds with the curse and death.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 198)

 

Grateful people overflow a little, especially with thanksgiving and passed-on kindnesses.  But they do not therefore lack discipline.  In fact, self-indulgence tends to suppress gratitude; self-discipline tends to generate it.  That is why gluttony is a deadly sin:  oddly, it is an appetite suppressant.  The reason is that a person’s appetites are linked:  full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for justice.  And they spoil the appetite for God.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 35)

 

The prophet assumes that outward actions reflect a person’s inner spirit, on the basis of which a judgment concerning the spiritual state of the person may be made and the sentence of life or death rendered.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 198)

 

In both Romans and Galatians, Paul is responding to those who insist that salvation comes by the works of the law, as represented by circumcision.  To those who represent this view, he replies that if one looks to the law as a way of salvation, it will lead to death, but if one looks to the law as a guide for those already saved, it yields life (cf. Gal 5:13-25).  Indeed, Paul himself recognizes that although believers enjoy the status of righteous persons through the work of Christ, he still anticipates a future time when, based on faith demonstrated in acts of love (covenant commitment), believers will stand before God and hear his words of approval:  “You are righteous” (cf. Gal 5:5-6).  On this matter Moses and Paul agree.  In fact, Paul himself says, “it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but those who obey the law who will be declared righteous” (Rom 2:13).  The notion of “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5 NASB)–that is, a faith demonstrated through acts of obedience–is common to Old and New Testaments.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 199)

 

Mercy to the full range of human needs is such an essential mark of being a Christian that it can be used as a test of true faith.  Mercy is not optional or an addition to being a Christian.  Rather, a life poured out in deeds of mercy is the inevitable sign of true faith.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 35)

 

People do underhanded things, act without integrity, and look for quick but un-Biblical solutions to their problems because they think it is not worth being right and good in today’s society.  But the Bible clearly tells us that God does reward handsomely.  Though we may not see the reward immediately it is as sure as the rising of the sun in the morning, because God is a faithful God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 281)

 

This righteousness before Jehovah, it is true, is not really the gospel “righteousness of faith;” but there is no opposition between the two, as the righteousness mentioned here is not founded upon the outward (pharisaic) righteousness of works, but upon an earnest striving after the fulfillment of the law, to love God with all the heart; and this love is altogether impossible without living faith.  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 326)

 

 

 

Your vision has not truly captured your heart until it captures your wallet.  For this reason, at some point along the way, God is going to call upon you to make a financial sacrifice for the thing he has put in your heart to do.  He knows that when you commit your treasure to the vision, your heart will follow.  When you take those first sacrificial steps to act on your vision, your heart moves with you and attaches itself to the vision.

When we loosen our hands from around our treasure, he loosens the world’s death grip from our hearts.  When you apply your hands to a divinely ordered vision, God begins a reordering of your heart as well.  (Andy Stanley, Visioneering, 138)

 

Worship Point:  Worship, love and fear the God of the Universe who encourages us to do so to our benefit.  God even tries to stop us when we forget to worship, love and fear Him because He knows we will suffer greatly as a result.

 

Whoever seeks God as a means toward desired ends will not find God.  The mighty God, the maker of heaven and earth, will not be one of many treasures, not even the chief of all treasures.  He will be all in all or He will be nothing.  God will not be used.  His mercy and grace are infinite and His patient understanding is beyond measure, but He will not aid men in their selfish striving after personal gain.  He will not help men to attain ends which, when attained, usurp the place He by every right should hold in their interest and affection.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 57)

 

Dt 6:13.  Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God.  Hence it is more evident why He has just declared that there is One God, viz., that He alone may be undividedly worshiped; for unless our minds are fixed on Him alone, religion is torn, as it were, into divers parts, and this is soon followed by a labyrinth of errors.  But, first, he calls for reverence, and then for the worship which may testify and demonstrate it.  “Fear” contains in it the idea of subjection, when men devote themselves to God, because His terrible majesty keeps them in their proper place.  Hence results worship, which is the proof of piety.  But we must observe that the fear enjoined in this passage is voluntary, so that men influenced by it desire nothing more than to obey God.  When I stated, therefore, that God brings us under the yoke by a sense of His power and greatness, I did not understand that a violent and servile obedience is extorted from us; I only wished to affirm that men cannot be induced to obey God, before they have been subdued by fear; because their innate corruption always carries with it a contempt for religion, and a spirit of licentiousness.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 421)

 

Religion is the major reason the West rose to become the most prosperous civilization in the world.  In the Middle Ages, Europe was like a modern Third World country, with little education, widespread poverty, and recurring famine.  Medieval Christians thought of holy living as something required only of a spiritual elite–just as the Bible belonged only to an elite, the priests and monks.  The common people felt little moral imperative to be honest or industrious.

But the Reformation changed that.  The Reformers taught that all believers are called to live holy lives–just as all may read the Bible.  Every vocation can be a calling, a way to serve God and the human community.  As a result, the Reformation stressed an ethic of honesty, diligence, and thrift–what has been called the Protestant work ethic.  It had a profound effect economically.  Modern business practices became possible, prosperity blossomed.

Today we have nearly forgotten that the foundation of our economy lies in the Christian moral vision.  And as a result, we are seeing our economy dragged down by dishonesty and fraud.   (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 305)

 

Gospel Application:  Jesus came not only to fulfill the law and be our righteousness (Dt 6:25); but, by trusting in Him,  He also gave us the Holy Spirit Who reminds us to worship, love and fear Him so we might live long and prosper.

 

(The Holy Spirit reminded Tim) “Don’t you dare look at any good thing in your life as anything other than a sheer act of (God’s ) grace, . . . undeserved grace.   And as you meditate on these good things as a sheer act of undeserved grace then turn to Jesus and say, ‘Lord, I can’t believe your grace.  Your grace is so great, that I want to adore you, not these things.  I want your smile, your honor; your pleasure should be my joy and crown, and my worth and my significance’.

Because if I put my heart down for anything else when the trouble free stretch is over, and inevitably it will be over, I will perish.  Therefore, Jesus Christ says, “That there is no more important time to repent than when everything is going very well.”

You see and now we know what repentance is.  You say, “How can I repent if I have not done anything wrong?”

Repentance is not so much for doing bad things as for over trusting good things.   Because breaking rules is just a symptom of sin.  But, the disease of sin is being your own savior by trusting in something besides Jesus Christ for your righteousness, your wisdom, . . . your sanctification, and your redemption.  And as my wife likes to say, “The default mode of the human heart is self-salvation.”

And there is no more time for it to happen, no more time for that to go into overdrive, than during the calm times, the safe times, the comfortable times, the prosperous times. (Tim Keller message from Luke 13:1-9 The Falling Tower)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Pass the biggest and hardest test of all . . . . health, success and prosperity.  It is much harder than sickness, failure and poverty.

 

Our treasure focuses our heart.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 206)

 

Modernity is simply unprecedented in its power to remake human appetites, thinking processes, and values.  It is, to put it in biblical terms, the worldliness of Our Time.  For worldliness is that system of values and beliefs, behaviors and expectations, in any given culture that have at their center the fallen human being and that relegate to their periphery any thought about God.  Worldliness is what makes sin look normal in any age and righteousness seem odd.   Modernity is worldliness, and it has concealed its values so adroitly in the abundance, the comfort, and the wizardry of our age that even those who call themselves the people of God seldom recognize then for what they are.  (David Wells; God in the Wasteland, 29)

 

We cannot but serve our treasures.  We labor all day for them and think about them all night.  They fill our dreams.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 207)

 

Love to God will expel love to the world; love to the world will deaden the soul’s love to God.  “No man can serve two masters”:  it is impossible to love God and the world, to serve him and mammon.  Here is a most fertile cause of declension in Divine love; guard against it as you would fortify yourself against your greatest foe.  It is a vortex that has engulfed millions of souls; multitudes of professing Christians have been drawn into its eddy, and have gone down into its gulf.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 56)

 

To be satisfied by the beauty of God does not come naturally to sinful people.  By nature we get more pleasure from God’s gifts than from himself.  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 9)

 

So What?BEWARE: Abundance can kill your spirit.  Never forget you are what you are by God’s grace.  (1 Cor 15:10; Eph 2:13)

 

There is nothing wrong with people possessing riches.  The wrong comes when riches possess people.  —Billy Graham

 

The heir to an enormous fortune, says that what matters most to him is his Christianity, and that his greatest aspiration is “to love the Lord, my family, and my friends.”  He also reports that he wouldn’t feel financially secure until he had $1 billion in the bank.  (Graeme Wood, “Secret Fears of the Super-Rich,” The Atlantic, April 2011)  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 97)

 

Our material resources are so stupendous that we are in danger of coming to trust in riches rather than in God.  “If a man is growing large in wealth, nothing but constant giving can keep him from growing small in soul.”  (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 171-2)

 

One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realize your need for God.  If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent upon God.  —C. S. Lewis

 

God uses difficult times to drive us to repentance.   Because of our wealth, we choose to insulate ourselves from many of the judgments that God gives to us to drive us to repentance.  Instead of being sensitive to God’s judgments in our lives that should soften our hearts and lead us to repentance, we merely protect ourselves from His discipline with more insurance, addictions, or by wallowing in materialism.  —Pastor Keith

 

. . . “each revival has built within it the seeds of its own destruction, because as Christians put into practice the virtues of hard work and thrift, they prosper, and as they prosper they see less a need of God, and as they see less a need of God they turn away from the very principles that led to their prosperity and the whole cycle must repeat itself.” —  John Wesley

 

JESUS:

PASSED EVERY TEST

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