“Love’s Covenant Test” – Deuteronomy 8:1-20

July 30th, 2017

Dt. 8:1-20

“Love’s Covenant Test”

Aux Text: James 1:2-4

Call to Worship: selected verses from Psalm 139

 

Service OrientationLove must be tested before it can be trusted.  The heart of true love passes every test because it is devoted to the beloved, not to self.  Only Jesus gets A+ on the test of life and love.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart. —  Proverbs 17:3

 

Background Information:

  • The chapter covers the discipline of the prior forty years from which they were to remember and learn that they were to be humble and rely on the Lord. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 75)
  • He has given almost all these principles before, but it is so easy to fall that he repeats them several times in Deuteronomy. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 297)
  • The following chiasm shows the emphasis of the text:

A The land sworn to the forefathers command given today (v. 1)

B Wilderness as place of humbling, testing, and provision (vv. 2-6)

C A good land (vv. 7-9)

D You will eat and be satisfied (v. 12a)

C A good land (vv. 12b-14)

B Wilderness as place of humbling, testing, and provision (vv. 15-16)

A Wealth, covenant with forefathers; as at this day (vv. 17-18)  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 121)

  • (vss. 2, 11, 14, 18, 19) Moses’ fivefold appeal to keep alive the memory of Yahweh’s actions on Israel’s behalf (vv. 2, 11, 14, 18, 19) suggests that the notion of remembering/forgetting is a key motif in the chapter. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 225)

 

Heading Clarification 6:10-15 8:1-20
The context of the test In the land Yahweh had promised the ancestors 6:10a 8:1
The nature of the test Limitless opportunity and prosperity 6:10b-11 8:7-10
The wrong response to the test Forgetting Yahweh 6:12 8:11-17
The correct response to the test Fearing/remembering Yahweh 6:13-14 8:18
The final warning Elimination from the land 6:15 8:19-20

(Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 226)

  • (v. 2) God had led the people all the way in the desert, in order to humble. . . to test. . . to know. It was not just a matter of salvaging something positive from the wreckage of a failure.  Like other events in biblical history (e.g., the story of Joseph, the rise of the monarchy, and ultimately, of course, the cross itself), the wilderness wandering is presented to us both as arising out of human sin and rebellion and as having a divine purpose.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 122)
  • (v. 3) Deuteronomy 8 is perhaps the greatest statement of human dependence on God for everything. Verse 3 is a key:  it is not (directly) a contrast between the material and the spiritual (as might be supposed from Jesus’ words in Mt 4:4), but between self-dependence and dependence on God.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 173)
  • (v. 3) Jesus’ citation of this verse on the occasion of his “testing” in the wilderness is fully consistent with the intended lesson of Deuteronomy. The issue is not whether one needs primarily spiritual or material food–or both–but that one relies on God for the provision of life and can be sustained by whatever God provides, and only by that.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 116)
  • (v. 3b) These words were spoken by Jesus to Satan when the devil asked him to turn stones into bread (Mt 4:4). Many Christians think these words teach that Jesus did not need physical food because he had spiritual food at that time.  But the context in Deuteronomy shows that this is not the meaning, for it describes how God gave them physical food and how through that provision they were going to learn that “man does not live by bread alone.”  What he means is that God and his words are ‘more basic to Israelite existence than food.”  The words from God’s mouth include the life-giving word that gave us physical life and spiritual life through salvation in the past.  It includes the commands that tell us how to live in the present and the promises that assure us of security and success in the future.  Food is important.  But even more important than food is obeying God’s Word always.  We can trust God to provide all our needs, including food.  Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt 6:33).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 301)
  • (vss. 3-4) It may well have been the combination of food and clothing in these verses that inspired the teaching of Jesus about faith in God’s provision in Mt 6:25-34. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 124)
  • (v. 6) Moses described the life God desires from his people in terms of three categories. The first is behavioral:  they were to observe the commands he gave in what they did.  The second category is habitual and goes deeper.  Israel was to walk in God’s ways whether a specific commandment addressed their behavior or not.  They could always ask, “is what I am about to do reflective of the character of God?  The third category is motivational:  Israel was to revere God at all times.  They were to possess a reverential fear that would motivate them to take no chances.  Unless they were sure that what they were about to do was acceptable before God, they should refrain.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 109)
  • (vss. 7-9) While the land is ubiquitous in Deuteronomy, this passage contains its most vivid portrayal, picturing its natural richness with an accumulation of its features.  All is in contrast with the desert.  In place of the hand-to-mouth sustenance provided by the manna, the means of livelihood will be present regularly and in abundance.  It will be well watered rather than arid, fertile rather than rocky, rich above and beyond basic need, with its variety of vegetables and fruit, oil and honey, replete even with minerals, suggesting the possibility of industry, trade and wealth.  The theme of land becomes here an ideal, or dream, of plenty; a well-known theme in the ancient world, where life was often felt to be precarious.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 170)
  • (v. 8) Vines and fig trees became symbols of prosperity and peace (1 Kgs 4:25; 2 Kgs 18:31-Isa 36:16; Mic 4:4; Joel 2:22; 1 Macc 14:12); pomegranates were prized as objects of beauty and became a symbol of fertility because of their many seeds (ABD, 2:808). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 351)
  • (v. 8) If the term for “honey” is understood as the product of bees, it seems out of place. Most therefore interpret the word to denote the nectar of fruit, particularly “date honey,” used as a sweetener.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 231)
  • (v. 9) In the southern Negeb, however, about 38 km north of the Gulf of Aqaba, huge deposits of copper ore have been found at Jebel Mene´iyeh on the Palestinian side of the Arabah (Glueck 1940, 77-79). Glueck says this is the largest and richest copper mining and smelting center in the entire Arabah.  Iron Age sherds have been found there from the age of Solomon and later.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 352)
  • (vss. 14-16) This familiar theme is now made to bring out the irony of Israel’s pride and ingratitude. The climax of the point is reached in v. 17, in which Israel imagines that its own power has made it rich.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 172)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why is God so redundantly persistent in testing the Israelites (and us) in regard to their love for Him as verified through their obedience to God’s Law?

 

Answer:  Because all of us fail to understand the nature of God’s test.   Because we fail to love God as we ought.  Because we think more highly of ourselves than we should.  Because we fail to show appreciation to God for His provision.  And because if we don’t wake up and pay attention we will be destroyed.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Test

 

Why does God persistently test us?: (purple word indicates what I believe God is working to produce in our hearts through testing)

 

 

I-  We need to understand the nature of the testRefinement.  (Dt 8:1-11 see also; Gn 22:1-12; Ex 16:4; Dt 5:29; 1 Sm 16:7; 2 Chr 32:31; Ps 26:2; Prv 17:3; 21:2; Acts 1:24; 15:8; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 4:12-18)

 

God is not an arsonist; He’s a refiner.

 

Whereas in the past Yahweh had tested and refined his people with deprivation and manna, in the future he will do so with prosperity.  His aim in both is to produce a nation that brings praise and glory to him in the sight of the nations (26:19).  If they fail the test and refuse to be refined, he will discard them again like dross and consign them to the slag heap (cf. Ezek 22:17-22).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 235)

 

As metallurgical metaphors, these tests were intended to refine Israel by burning off the dross and purifying that which is of value–specifically, to enhance Israel’s relationship with Yahweh.  The fact that God tests/refines Israel demonstrates that he cares about them and that he acts to deepen that relationship.  This “refining” interpretation gives new meaning to verse 4, which reads like a casual aside.  But the statement is patently ironic.  Everyone in Moses’ present audience knows that their parents were the ones tested and that they had failed the test.  It was not the length of the journey that killed them (their feet did not swell); they all died in the desert because they were dross.  What survived the test was the divine provision–their clothing and the manna that was there on the ground every morning to greet the survivors.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 228)

 

Obedience is the test of love, and it is rewarded by deepening intimacy.  Nothing is said about emotional reactions–only simple obedience.  The key question is not, “How do you feel?” but, “have you obeyed?”  Love is expressed through the will.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy with God, 100)

 

It was one thing for the previous generation to lean on Yahweh in the desert when they were directly dependent on God for food, but for this and future generations the test will be the opposite.  In response to the gift of the land and the food it produces, the people were to acknowledge Yahweh (cf. 26:3-11).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 232)

 

The threat envisioned is not the Canaanite nations but the Israelites themselves.  If, in the midst of prosperity, they forget Yahweh, they become their own worst enemy.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 232)

 

God knew that they could not conquer Canaan until He conquered them.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 141)

 

More was at stake for man than mere abstinence from a particular fruit.  “Adam was denied the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to test his obedience and prove that he was willingly under God’s command.”  God had spoken and revealed His will with regard to the forbidden tree.  Adam and Eve were put to the test of recognizing or denying the authority of God and their dependence on Him. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive:  A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 28)

 

A primary purpose of work is to develop character.  While the carpenter is building a house, the house is also building the carpenter.  Skill, diligence, manual dexterity and judgment are refined.  A job is not merely a task designed to earn money; it is also intended to produce godly character in the life of the worker.  (Howard Dayton, Your Money Counts, 87)

 

  1. Stanley Jones, American missionary to India, used to say that circumstances don’t make a person, they reveal a person. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 299)

 

Testing does the work of both revealing and refining.  Difficult circumstances will reveal whether people follow God with all their heart.  If they followed him just to get some temporal blessings, the difficult circumstances could reveal their counterfeit faith as they move away from God, or it could refine their mixed-motive faith and help them develop a more genuine faith.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 299)

 

When all our needs are met, God is testing us:  when we win a scholarship to a prestigious university, receive accolades for a beautiful painting or poem, are promoted in business, or gain a windfall fortune on the stock market.  But this is also true of the more mundane accomplishments:  when we learn to read or ride a bicycle, master a new computer program, or strike a hole-in-one on the golf course, God is testing us.  Will we give him praise for giving us the wits and the skills for these accomplishments?  Our faith and faithfulness are not tested only when the Lord drives us to the end of ourselves; they are also tested when everything is going our way.  Indeed, the more successful we are, the stiffer the test and the greater the reason to praise God, and at the same time, the greater the danger of self-sufficiency.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 238)

 

The godly person is as much a student of himself as he is of God.  The unguarded heart is always vulnerable to folly, and God extended his kindness to Israel not only in his gifts but also in his counsel.  Becoming spiritually lax is not an option for a person who would be Christlike.  The greatest test comes when the crisis is over and we seem to have won the battle.  Then the heart tends to become proud; and with pride comes the lack of a sense of need.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 111)

 

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 purpose of the deprivation in the desert was to refine his people through “discipline.”  Whether punitive of educational, Yahweh’s fatherly disciplinary action is always administered in love for the good of his people.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 229)

 

Feeding people with manna (vv. 3, 16) tested their obedience and trust (Ex 16:4; cf. Nm 21:5).  Here it is said that Yahweh’s testing was to see whether or not the people would keep his commandments.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 349)

 

George Mathison prayed, “My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorns.  I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorns.  I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross; but I never thought of my cross itself as a present glory.  Teach me the glory of my cross; teach me the value of my thorn, show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain.  Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 140)

 

Perhaps Sir Rabindranath Tagore expressed the intent of God’s heavy hand on Israel when he said, “I have on my table a violin string.  It is free.  I twist one end of it and it responds.  It is free.  But it is not free to do what a violin string is supposed to do–to produce music.  So I take it, fix it in my violin, and tighten it until it is taut.  Only then is it free to be a violin string.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 142)

 

Elisabeth Elliot said, “As a child in a Christian home I did not start out with an understanding of the word discipline.  I simply knew that I belonged to people who loved me and cared for me.  That is dependence.  They spoke to me and I answered.  That is responsibility.  They gave me things to do and I did them.  That is obedience.  It all adds up to discipline.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 142)

 

The journey in the wilderness has been an assay, to know whether the people can and will remain faithful, and to teach them that they have cause to do so (by the provision of manna); similarly, the possession of the land will tempt them to be unfaithful; then they must stand firm, remembering the lessons of the desert.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 166)

 

The time in the desert is now additionally seen as a test of Israel.  This is a neat reversal of the “testing” of Yahweh by the people at Massah (6:16).  Its focus on whether Israel would obey the commandments is also a shift from the test of faith that was entailed in the initial command to take the land (1:8).  The testing in the desert is related to the provision of manna, as it was also in the parallel passage in Exodus 16.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 169)

 

Yahweh took delight in doing Israel good (28:63).  “Your end” refers here to the settlement in Canaan.  Driver says Israel is being represented as an individual whose training in early life has been severe for the purpose of fitting it better for the position it has to fill in riper years.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 354)

 

As a response to their rebellion at Kadesh Barnea, the wilderness was indeed punishment.  But as a place of learning, it was an ideal classroom.  The irony is that in that very classroom the Israelites thought they were testing God (cf. 6:16), whereas in fact it was the other way around; it was God who was testing them.  The meaning of test is the same in both cases.  It does not mean to tempt someone into doing something they would not otherwise do, but rather, it means to prove a person’s word and intentions.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 122)

 

The tendency to forget the giver in the very enjoyment of his gift is now developed.  The motive to gratitude and praise is dulled by the experience of plenty.  This forgetfulness, like its corresponding memory, is a capacity of heart and will, rather than of mind.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 171)

 

The first ten verses describe the nature of the test of Israel’s faith in four parts:  (1) an introduction, which sets the context for the test (v. 1); (2) a retrospective look at Israel’s desert experience as a paradigm for the future tests (vv. 2-5); (3) a prospective view of the future, when Israel’s faith will again be tested (vv. 6-9); (4) a concluding prescription on what is required to pass the test (v. 10).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 226)

 

(1) Yahweh was intentionally depriving Israel of normal food to humble them.  (2) Yahweh was testing his people to access the quality of the vassal’s fidelity (8:2) and to enhance Israel’s covenant commitment through discipline (8:5).  Just as the metallurgical process of refining precious metals involves extraction of impurities from ore through intense heat, so metaphorical refinement involves a demanding and painful process.  (3) Yahweh was exposing the shallowness of the people’s commitment to him.  This aim is expressed explicitly by the clause “to know what was in your heart,” and the method involved observing whether or not the Israelites would keep his commands.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 227)

 

II-  So we better understand how miserably we are failing the testDiscipline.  (Dt 8:12-14 see also: Dt 32:1-43; Psa 94:12; 119:71, 75; Prov 3:11-12; 19:18; 29:17; Jer 17:9-10; Rom 1:21-23; 3:9-21; 1 Cor 10:3-5; Gal 3:24; 1 Tim 6:7-19; Heb 12:5-11; )

 

The claims of the Israelites to have achieved the prosperity described in vv. 12-13 through their own efforts provide clear evidence of hearts that have been lifted up and that have forgotten Yahweh (v. 14a), from whom all blessings flow.  Not only have those who think this way failed the test; the trial has also proved the people themselves to be dross (cf. vv. 19-20).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 233)

 

Martin Luther said that affliction was the best book in his library.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 300)

 

In the educational process, punishment seeks to bring about future improvement (Weinfeld 1972, 217-7).  Yahweh therefore chastened Israel in the wilderness for its future benefit (v. 16).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 350)

 

It may seem strange to think of a nation of slaves needing to be humbled, but they had needed precisely that.  Pride is native to the human heart, and it knows no socioeconomic or ethnic boundaries.  It was the first sin, and it forms the wellspring for all others.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 108)

 

God doesn’t test people for his sake but for ours.  By testing us, he lets us find out what he already knows.  His tests show us that he has created a faith in our hearts far deeper and stronger than we ever realized. His tests also become occasions to exercise our faith, much as a coach arranges a scrimmage to give his team experience.  Perhaps the most outstanding example of how God “tests” his people’s faith occurred when he ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son.  For half a century the Lord had put Abraham through a training program in the faith; this ultimate test revealed how successful his training program had been in Abraham’s heart.  Abraham’s obedient response to the Lord strengthened his faith still more.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 81)

 

The examples of moderation in prosperity are rare; rather, as soon as men perceive themselves to be in a flourishing estate, they begin to swell with arrogance, and so admire their exaltation that they despise even God Himself.  On this ground Paul charges “the rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches”  (1 Tm 6:17).  We ought, indeed, the more kindly we are dealt with by God, to submit ourselves the more meekly to His rule; but, as I have said, the depravity of our nature hurries us quite the other way, so that we grow insolent under God’s indulgence, which should bend us to submission.  And if this does not happen immediately, yet whenever prosperity flows on uninterruptedly, its delights gradually corrupt even the best of us, so that they at last degenerate from themselves.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 398)

 

Although some argue that God needs “to test” Israel because he lacks knowledge of the people’s level of commitment, this interpretation flies in the face of other texts that declare generally that God knows everything about us.  It also contradicts fundamental assumptions in Deuteronomy that Yahweh knows what is in the Israelites’ hearts and where this will lead them long range (4:25-31; cf. 5:29).  The verb “to know,” which occurs three times in verses 2-3, should be interpreted something like “to prove” or “bring to light,” so that observers (including the Israelites themselves) would know the level of commitment (cf. v. 3b).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 227-8)

 

Chastening is a mark of affection, not a sign of rejection.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 113)

 

They were to remember the discipline of the forty years of the Lord’s leading in the desert (v. 2).  This remembrance was to teach them that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (v. 3) and that “as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD. . . disciplines” them (v. 5).  (The discipline of sons by fathers is mentioned in Prv 3:12 and developed in Heb 12:5-11.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 75)

 

The more kindly God deals with us, the more we ought to remember and thank Him; but the depravity of our nature too many times causes us to be insolent under God’s indulgence.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 145)

 

III-  So we might more persistently battle against self-promotionHumility.  (Dt 8:1, 2, 11, 17, 18 see also; Dt 29:4-5; Job 31:25-28; Rom 6:6;  12:3-10; Gal 2:20; 6:14; Eph 4:2; Phil 2:1-11; Jam 4:6-10; 1 Pt 5:5-6) 

 

This is the principal ground of pride, to assume and assign to ourselves what belongs to God.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 400)

 

Verse 18 sticks a very simple but fundamental pin in verse 17’s balloon of complacency and pride.  “You say your own power and strength produced this wealth?  And where do you think they came from?”  The fact is that all human strength, gifts, abilities, and life itself, along with the material resources out of which the wealth has been created, are the gift of God.  We are as little the makers of our own strength as we are the makers of the earth.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 128)

 

Deuteronomy 8 shows us that the great danger of prosperity is that it can cause people to take the credit for their success, which will lead them to forget God.  It also shows that God sends deprivations that will push them back to trusting in him.  When such deprivations come, may we not fight them but take them as gifts of God aimed at bringing us back to the things that matter most in life.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 306)

 

The potential problem emerges in verse 14:  instead of blessing Yahweh, the Israelites’ hearts will be tempted to “rise” with pride.  Moses clarifies what he means by “a lifted heart” in verse 17:  this is a disposition that causes people to take credit for all their successes and to think that their wealth is the result of their own efforts.  Moses highlights the perversion of this kind of thinking by treating “my power” and “the strength of my hands” as the subject of “produce,” whereas they should say, “the LORD [our] God” has done all this.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 232-3)

 

Now the OT certainly praises hard work and the achievements that flow from it (Prv, passim).  But the rest of the law (as we shall see in later sections) undercuts any idea that “what’s mine is mine because I produced it,” by subjecting it to the demands of compassion and the common welfare.  “I made it so I own it” is never the bottom line of biblical economics.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 128)

 

Do you see how it is especially appropriate after the enjoyment of food to set a spiritual meal for yourself lest the soul, after satiety of bodily food, should lose its zest and fall into some disaster and make way for the wiles of the devil, who is always looking for an opportunity and anxious to deliver us a blow at a critical moment?  (Chrysostom, Homilies on Gn 10:20)

 

I once heard a missionary tell how he was working with a particular tribe and found it difficult to translate the word or the concept of “pride.”  He finally came to the idea of using their terminology–“the ears are too far apart.”  In other words, he conveyed the idea of an “inflated head.”  That translation is hard to improve on when we think of the problem of pride.  Surely an inflated head indicates a haughty spirit.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 145)

 

IV-  To expose our ignorance and self-sufficiency through our ungratefulness, ignorance, or lack of appreciation to God for all He has done for us — Dependance(Dt 8:18 see also; Ps 105:1; Eccl 5:18-19; Dn ch 4; Jn 3:27; Acts 12:1-24; Rom 1:21-23; 1 Cor 3:1-7; 15:10; 1 Tm 6:7-19; Jam 1:17)  

 

The source of forgetfulness was the kind of pride that could ignore the incredible history of Israel with its God.  Again, it helps to run the verbs by in rapid sequence, as indeed their participial form invites, as a kind of verbal “action replay.”  The LORD your God is the one who “saved you” (brought you out, v. 14), led you (v. 15), “watered you” (v. 15b), “fed you” (v. 16), and “gifted you” (v. 18).  What was there to be proud about?  Nevertheless, Moses anticipates the boast of the self-made man worshiping his creator (v. 17).  How well he knew human nature!  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 127-8)

 

Failure to acknowledge God in success proves that we are at root Canaanites, and that our faith is just a modern version of ancient fertility religion.  Nothing provokes the ire of God like ingratitude for his grace.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 239)

 

Daily food is but one God-given gift for sustaining life.  The words here, so often quoted, embody a great biblical truth, i.e., that everything proceeding from God is life-sustaining.  The Deuteronomic preacher never tires of telling Israel that doing the commandments leads to life.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 349-50)

 

The fire that cheers, refines, and purifies, also burns and tortures.  It all depends on our relation to the fire, whether it be our friend or foe.  (Joseph S. Exell, The Biblical Illustrator, 2 Chronicles, 137)

 

When we take time to meditate on the good that God has done for us, we will end up praising him.  The trouble with us is that we do not stop to meditate on God’s goodness.  It takes time to do this, and, given our busy lives, we can easily overlook it.  Taking time to praise God for his goodness is one of the necessary disciplines of the Christian life.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 303)

 

This passage declares that the first stage on the road to idolatry is ingratitude.  Dt 8:10 has had a profound impact on Judaism, providing the basis for the threefold blessing after meals and should provide inspiration for Christians today to acknowledge the gracious and generous work of God on their behalf, particularly in sustaining our daily life.  Moses reminds his audience and us that the only appropriate response to eating of the bounty that God provides is to bless Yahweh.  But this chapter exhibits a downward spiral, in which forgetting Yahweh (vv. 2, 11) leads to ingratitude (vv. 12-16), which leads to self-sufficiency (v. 17), which leads to idolatry (v. 19).  Paul plots a similar course in Rom 1:21-23.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 238)

 

Even if the Israelites prosper through hard work, they must recognize that the skill and energy needed to do that work is a gift from Yahweh.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 233-4)

 

When thou hast eaten and art full.  In these words he admonishes them that they would be too senseless, unless God’s great bounty should attract them to obedience, since nothing is more unreasonable, than, when we have eaten and are full, not to acknowledge from whence our food has come.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 394)

 

To forget a person is to lose touch with the story of the relationship and all it meant in the past and should still mean now.  That is why it is such a hurtful and diminishing thing to “feel forgotten” by other human beings (or by one in particular) with whom one has shared a story in relationship.  This is no less true for the God of Israel.  Such “forgetting” is felt as deliberate rejection, not just as a mental lapse.  So much of the pain of God expressed through the prophets (who frequently shared it in their own lives) is the result of this kind of forgetting.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 126)

 

I need to separate times for praise.  I find the hymnbook to be a helpful resource for such a time.  Hymns help me realize what God has done for me, and they often express what is in my heart better than I can.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 303)

 

The key to life is not found in the food one eats, but in the nourishment that comes from the mouth of God.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 228)

 

V-  So we might not be destroyed in our ignorance and self-sufficiencyRepentance(Dt 8:19-20 see also; Lv 18:24-28; Dt 4:25-28; Ez 22:17-22; Hos 13:4-8; 2 Tm 3:5)

 

Like Israel of old, Christians do not live by bread alone but by obedience to the will of God.  If we are preoccupied with physical well-being to the neglect of our spiritual life, we too will perish.  This is a particular problem in the Western church, where with our prosperity we have forgotten that all good things come from God, including the ability to make wealth.  Not only have we forgotten to give thanks to God; we have also become increasingly resistant to letting his revealed will govern our lives.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 237)

 

The Song of Moses censures Israel for forgetting Yahweh after its settlement in Transjordan (32:15-18).  The same happened later in Canaan, and it became the unwelcome task of Jeremiah to have to indict Judah for this serious neglect (Jer 2:32; 3:21; 13:25; 18:15; 23:27).  A covenant people forgetting Yahweh and his gracious acts will perish (vv. 19-20), and so it happened that nationhood in Israel came to an inglorious end.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 348)

 

The issue is not spiritual versus material food but trust in the Lord’s provision and obedience versus reliance upon self.  In the time of wilderness hunger, Israel was given nourishment and life by God’s gift of manna.  Time and again throughout the whole Book of Deuteronomy it is made clear that Israel finds its life also by keeping the commandments, the divine instruction (e.g., 4:1, 4; 5:16; 8:1, 19; 11:13-17; 30:15-20).  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 116)

 

People who do not obey God forget him.  They may preach in God’s name, they may go from meeting to meeting seeking a blessing, and they may be consistent in presenting prayer requests for God’s help in their lives.  They may remember to give large offerings regularly for religious causes.  But if they are not obedient to God, that is the same as forgetting God.  Their religious behavior is that of those whom Paul describes as “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Tm 3:5).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 298)

 

The chapter concludes with a curse formula, in keeping with the covenantal structure of thought.  The tone of persuasion gives way to a different kind of motivation, the warning that rebellion will have consequences in severe punishment.  The topic of forgetfulness is continued, but shifted slightly to focus on worshiping other gods, rather than on mere self-sufficiency.  The apostasy would also imply disobedience to God’s commands.  Self-sufficiency, apostasy and disobedience are finally brought together here, as jointly characterizing rejection of Yahweh’s covenant.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 172)

 

Complete destruction, however, remains the due penalty for covenant disobedience.  The point is made with some irony, for Israel would then be subject to the wrath that had been destined for others, whom God had not chosen to bless.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 172)

 

 

 

Worship Point:  Worship, thank and praise the God who provides for all of your needs (Ps 23:1; Phil 4:19; 1 Tm 6:17)Every good and perfect gift comes from your Heavenly Father (Jam 1:17).

 

As in chapters 7 and 9 he praised the richness of the land, so does he now confirm the same statement; or rather afterwards more fully explains what he slightly touches upon here.  They all agree in this, that the happy state of life which was before their eyes ought to awaken the people’s gratitude, lest such notable beneficence should be expended on them in vain.  Moses therefore declares, that he had presented to them laws and statutes, by which they might be instructed in the fear of God; at the same time, he reminds them how base in them it would be not to be ravished to the love of God and of His law by the delightfulness and abundance of the land.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 395)

 

Gospel Application:  Jesus passed every test through His obedience, discipline, humility, dependence and praise.  By faith we are  “In Christ” and God reckons to our account Jesus’ perfect test score.  (Mt 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-11; Jn 6:31-51; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15)

 

While Jesus put a particular spin on Dt 8:3, there is nevertheless no important difference between that verse and his interpretation of it.  Both the Israelites (in accepting the manna) and Jesus (in refusing miraculous food) expressed trusting dependence on God, pointed to him as the true author of all well-being, and resisted the temptation to depend on strength that was independent of him.  Deuteronomy’s affirmation of the good things of God’s creation has no truck with any “prosperity theology”; this chapter, indeed, is as strong a repudiation of such an interpretation as may be found anywhere in the Bible.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 173)

 

No doubt Satan’s repeated insinuation, “If you are the Son of God. . .,” was intended to induce in Jesus the same spirit of “testing God” that had so characterized Israel.  Had God really meant what God had said, even in the scriptures?  It was the same trick Satan had played on Adam and Eve with such tragic success.  If God could feed the Israelites, why be hungry now when a miracle would solve the problem?  But Jesus sees through Satan’s temptations to the reality of God’s testing, in its Dt 8:2 sense:  what was in Jesus’ heart?  Would he live by the word and will of God?  Would he be covenantally faithful and obedient where Israel had failed?  The ancient word of Deuteronomy pierced the fog of Satan’s confusing question and confirmed Jesus on the pathway of filial obedience that led ultimately through Gethsemane to the cross.  Perhaps the combination of the Deuteronomic text with the tradition of Jesus’ temptation and the final battle in Gethsemane is what lies behind the profound meditation on sonship, suffering, and obedience in Heb 5:7-8 and its implications for us in Heb 12:7-11.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 125)

 

The biblical account gives the impression that the people of God never learned the lesson very well.  It is in the context of this reality that the account of Jesus’ temptation is set specifically in relation to Deuteronomy 6-8.  Indeed, it has been argued that the temptation narrative is a midrash (commentary) on Deuteronomy 6-8, an application of these chapters to Jesus, themes and passages from these chapters providing the basis for the overall interpretation (Gerhardsson).  The close ties between the temptation text and Deuteronomy 6-8 are obvious:  the testing theme, the wilderness setting, the theme of hunger, the forty years (Deuteronomy) and the forty days and nights (Matthew and Luke), and the quotations from Dt 6:16 and 8:3.  Especially important is the parallel between Israel and Jesus carried in the notation of “son” (Dt 1:31 and 8:5).  In Deuteronomy the relationship between the Lord and Israel is compared to that of a father and son, a parent and child.  The same is true of the relationship between Jesus and God.  In contrast to Israel in the wilderness and in later times, this time the child (Jesus) is obedient to the parent (God).  In Jesus, God receives an unambiguous answer to the question raised in Dt 8:2 (Will you keep the commandments?).  Here is the son/child who does keep God’s instruction and does not tempt God (6:16), who accepts the discipline and testing and knows that God, and not one’s own power, is the provider.  As such, Jesus is also the model for the way of the faithful community past and present.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 117-8)

 

The faithfulness required by Yahweh is expressed in trust.  In this respect the present text is exactly like Exodus.  But here the point is made as a general principle.  This is the purpose of the well-known v. 3b.  Jesus’ adoption of the passage brings out a contrast between material and spiritual “food,” in the context of his fasting in the wilderness (Mt 4:4), and this has widely influenced understanding of the verse in question.  Jesus’ refusal of miraculous food in that context is a strange inversion of the divine provision of it here.  The thought in this place is not directly a contrast between material and spiritual, but an assertion that people do not secure their well-being in their own strength.  The final phrase, “by everything that comes from the mouth of the LORD,” may imply utterances as commands which, by their wisdom, are a source of life, or as acts of providence, that is, whatever is created by God’s word (S. R. Driver 1895; 107).  The former meaning is certainly at home in Deuteronomy, with its close connection between obedience and life.  Yet the latter is strongly suggested here, because the temptation to self-sufficiency is a central theme of the chapter, which will be developed in vv. 12-18.  The case of manna as a warning against self-sufficiency is stressed especially in vv. 15-18, which echo v. 3b.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 169-70)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Cheer up!  You’re a lot more ignorant and sinful than you ever realized.  But, Cheer up!  God is more gracious, forgiving, and loving than you ever dreamed or imagined.  (Dt 4:29-31; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Jn 1:9)

 

The result of forgetting God is that they will fail to keep His commandments (v. 11).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 146)

 

In ancient times refiners would heat the metal until it became liquid and then skim off the impurities, the dross.  The refiner knew the metal was purified when the molten liquid mirrored back his own reflection.  So it is with the Spirit’s work in our lives.  He melts our hearts, skims away the dross, allows us to cool into Christ’s likeness, and then turns up the heat again.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 119-20)

 

A missionary translator was endeavoring to find a word for “obedience” in the native language.  This was a virtue seldom practiced among the people into whose language he was translating the NT.  As he returned home from the village one day, he whistled for his dog and it came running at full speed.  An old native, seeing this, said admiringly in the native tongue, “Your dog is all ears.”  Immediately the missionary knew he had his translation for obedience.  To obey is to be “all ears” toward God.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 146)

 

So What?: Spiritual maturity is present in proportion to how much you begin to realize that it is not about you and what you have done; but, that it is all about Jesus and what He has done. (Rom 3:27-28; 4:4-8; Bk of Gal; Eph 2:8-9)

JESUS:

ACED EVERY TEST

 

 

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