The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples….
– Deuteronomy 7:7
Wow, would we do well to remember this. Israel was not chosen on account of any quality that recommended itself to God. You and I were not chosen by God on account of any loveliness or inherent goodness that we had. It was an act of completely unmerited kindness; same story for Israel, same story for us. This little verse in Deuteronomy 7 sets the table for what I want to look at in Deuteronomy 8: the danger of unrecognized blessings of God. I have a tendency, rooted in self-absorption, to forget the providence of God that has brought me to this point in life. Israel had that same tendency. And you have it as well.
In Deuteronomy 8 God points Israel to the danger that is imminent before them. But that danger is not some obvious military threat. God has fought their battles for them along the way–against Pharaoh of Egypt (Exodus 14), the Canaanites of Arad (Numbers 21), Sihon of the Amorites (Numbers 21), against Og of Bashan (Numbers 21), and against the five kings of Midian (Numbers 31). Again, let us hearken back to our background verse, Deut 7:7, “…you were the fewest of all peoples….” Israel was not chosen on account of its prominence or military might. These were battles they should not have been winning. But God has gone before them, prepared their way, and been preparing them for what lies ahead. The danger is not military at all. God has delivered them from battles before, and He will deliver them from battles still to come.
When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites,seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.
– Deuteronomy 7:1-2
There are still big, powerful nations to come. And so we read in Joshua that, as the people trust God and walk in step with Him, they do in fact conquer, drive out, and destroy these greater nations. When they rely on God (Joshua 6: Jericho), they prevail. When they trust that they can handle the battle in their own strength (Joshua 7: Ai), they are routed. Military conquest is the task, not the danger. God has called them to the task; He is warning them of another danger. Let us now proceed to our focal text, Deuteronomy 8.
Section 1: I put you through the Wilderness to prepare you for the Land.
You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot sweel these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.
– Deuteronomy 8:2-5
The toils of the Wilderness were preparation for living in the Land. The preparation was not some form of military or physical training, but spiritual formation. The people of Israel needed to learn dependence. This passage should ring a bell with anyone who has ever read through the Gospels. Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Jesus understood what was going on in the wilderness and He never forgot the lesson God was teaching His people; He was, after all, the faithful Son. As for Israel, they forgot the lesson. God humbled them, tested them, and studied them. He disciplined them. He was preparing them for what lay ahead. And they completely missed the point of the forty years in the wilderness.
Section 2: I am the unrivaled Giver. Remember Me as you receive them.
Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack antying; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.
– Deuteronomy 8:6-10
After 430 years of slavery in Egypt and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, how must this have sounded to them? Pure bliss: a land of their own where they will lack for nothing. Do you know what God’s description of the Land sounds like to me? My pantry and my refrigerator at my house. I have all of the food and drink I could possibly want. When the stock runs a little low, Erica or I simply run to the store and get more. We live in a land of plenty. A little question for you: Do you take that for granted? I do. Another question: Do you think after a while Israel might tend to take that for granted? I do. This is the danger of unrecognized blessings. Why in the world do we pray before we eat meals? So that God will magically make the food taste better or fill it with greater nutritional value than it would otherwise bear? I guess that is possible, but ultimately in praying that God would bless my meals, I remind myself that I do not live by my own strength, my own provision, and my own wisdom. I am a contingent being. I do not live on account of the bread that I eat every day; I live on account of God’s Word and God’s will. God has determined my days before me, and so I live. We are in the same jeopardy that Israel was in. We live in a land of plenty. We have virtually everything that could ever catch our eyes right at our fingertips. We might be tempted to think, “What need do I really have of God?”
Section 3: Do not forget Me in the midst of the blessings.
Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
– Deuteronomy 8:11-14
Folks, what is the danger? That we forget God in the routines of our abundantly blessed daily lives. Oh, that paycheck that I will get this week–I earned that. Oh, that food in the pantry–I bought that and put it in there. Oh, the cars in the garage–I put in the work required to get them. Oh, my wonderful wife and daughter–I earned them by being such a wonderful guy. Oh, my family and friends that support, comfort, encourage, and fight for me–I certainly deserve them with the way that I treat people. Sure, none of us would ever come out and say these things. But do you sometimes think them–even subconsciously? The quality of our lives does not ultimately rest in the graciousness of God. It proceeds from how much work we put into making our lives good. Or so we think…
Section 4: I was the Provider in the Wilderness; I will be the Provider in the Land.
He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you might say in your heart, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
– Deuteronomy 8:15-18
How in the world did Israel ever forget this lesson? We know that they did. They never fully finished the conquest of the land in Joshua or in later times. In fact the northern kingdom of Israel was eventually completely annihilated and never fully restored. The kings forgot, the priests forgot, the people forgot. And so God followed through on what He said…
Section 5: Do not forget me. I am your God.
It shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the LORD your God.
– Deuteronomy 8:19-20
God our Father, help us to hear Your voice today and to live on every word that proceeds from Your mouth.