Look at the four commands given in today’s reading:
1. Be careful to follow the Lord’s commands (verse 1), because following them will yield blessing and success. This is a theme repeated by Moses that we have already commented upon.
2. Remember God’s leading (verse 2) over the past 40 years – how God had indeed supplied. The way that God supplied for their physical needs taught them that there was more to life than just eating and surviving – that God’s word and his truth was even more essential. The instruction for the Israelites was to desire God himself more than the appetites of life itself. Of course, the phrase that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God is one that Christ would use to counterpunch Satan on the occasion of his temptation.
3. In verse 5, Moses encourages the people to know that there is a pattern to the way God works with his people. God disciplines his own as a good father would correct his son or daughter. The goal is the moral development of the child – a discipline with a view toward corrective love rather than punitive wrath. It is good for us to learn over time how God works in our lives. This is the value of a long walk with the Lord over extended years. One is able to see patterns and to hear the recognizable voice of a faithful father.
4. Observe the Lord’s commands (verse 6) – here it is again. Do you think this is the main idea of Moses’ exhortations? Over and over! Moses is saying again that the land they are entering is just so fantastic, so full of rich blessing, that it would be a travesty to blow it all by something so stupid as not obeying God.
If you want to know how to have a good future, look to the past and to those who have been blessed. They are those who obeyed and who learned, even at times through discipline, that trusting fully in God is the way to go. Yet this always proves to be mankind’s most difficult lesson, of course, due to the sin nature within.
There is a character of Roman mythology named “Janus” – who was the god of gates and doors. He was depicted as a two-headed creature – looking both to the past and to the future (and is the name of an investment firm with obvious implications). Of course there was no such God, and my point is not to exalt Janus, but to speak of the timeless wisdom of considering both the past and the future. We should neither live exclusively in one or the other, though we are obviously heading in one direction, like it or not. Our well-being in the future should be well-informed by the past – particularly by the truth that the same God who granted successes to the obedient of the past will grant the same to those obedient in the future. That should revive us in terms of our faith and deeds.
8:1 Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.
6 Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.