Rich Dad’s Plan for Success (Deuteronomy 4:32-49)

The book entitled Rich Dad Poor Dad is one that my business-loving family has read. Written by a fellow named Robert Kiyosaki, it contains advice he received from his two different fathers – a wealthy entrepreneurial dad, and a father who was more traditionally a money saving employee. Written in a sort of storytelling style of parables, it challenges a good bit of traditional thinking about money and financial strategy. Though popular with many, one well-known economic critic has said that it “contains much wrong advice, much bad advice, some dangerous advice, and virtually no good advice … and is one of the dumbest financial advice books I have ever read.” The debate in on!

But there is no debate about what father we should follow if we want to have success in life – and that is the essential message of today’s reading. We could follow Satan who is called the big daddy of lies, as Jesus said of him, “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  Or we can follow our Father God.

When you think about it logically, it is crazy not to follow the Lord.

Moses, in his sermon to this new generation of Israelites, asks them to think about all of human history and consider when there was ever a time where anything so great and awesome has happened like what God caused to happen for Israel’s good. Where was there ever a nation so chosen and redeemed and rescued as was this people of God’s choosing? Most nations who were enslaved, as was Israel in Egypt, simply ceased to exist – being lost and swallowed up by the more powerful people group. But it was by God’s power that they were delivered.

The Israelites had seen God’s great power. Those who could remember the incident at the mountain where the Law was given (detailed story coming in two days) should certainly stand in awe and obedience to such a powerful God. And the others who had come along more recently were not devoid of seeing miracles – of God’s provision in the wilderness wanderings, and of God’s miraculous empowerment to defeat the kings in this Transjordan area.

All of this was extraordinary … nothing like it could be found anywhere in the world, ever! So the Rich Dad advice?… He is in heaven, you are on earth, obey him gratefully in the land he has given you, and by this you will find success that can be passed on to successive generations.

That same principle and timeless truth can revive us today, and tomorrow, and forever.

The Lord Is God

32 Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? 33 Has any other people heard the voice of God[a] speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? 34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. 36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. 37 Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, 38 to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.

39 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. 40 Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.

Cities of Refuge

41 Then Moses set aside three cities east of the Jordan, 42 to which anyone who had killed a person could flee if they had unintentionally killed a neighbor without malice aforethought. They could flee into one of these cities and save their life. 43 The cities were these: Bezer in the wilderness plateau, for the Reubenites; Ramoth in Gilead, for the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, for the Manassites.

Introduction to the Law (specifically coming in the next chapter)

44 This is the law Moses set before the Israelites. 45 These are the stipulations, decrees and laws Moses gave them when they came out of Egypt 46 and were in the valley near Beth Peor east of the Jordan, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon and was defeated by Moses and the Israelites as they came out of Egypt. 47 They took possession of his land and the land of Og king of Bashan, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan. 48 This land extended from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge to Mount Sirion[b] (that is, Hermon), 49 and included all the Arabah east of the Jordan, as far as the Dead Sea,[c] below the slopes of Pisgah.

The People of God’s Inheritance (Deuteronomy 4:15-31)

An inheritance is a very special thing to receive. Though we most often think of an inheritance as comprising material things like land, houses, money, stocks and bonds … there are immaterial things that may be passed down through the generations as well. Having been the executor of a will once in my life, there was the great blessing of being the custodian of varied material treasures being passed along with all it represented of my parents’ lives; yet it was also very sad and painful to be the bearer of news to family elements of what was not going to happen – all because of a lack of faithfulness to common duties by those members not materially remembered.

In the passage today, the Israelites are being reminded that they are being given an awesome inheritance by the Lord – the Promised Land, along with God’s active provision for their lives as they trusted in him. Yet they are being warned as well of the horrific consequences that will befall them if they do not remember – expressing their departure from the Lord through the silly means of making idols of wood and stone. In that event – fully anticipated by God – they would be disinherited essentially, even scattered to the nations who would be allowed to come and overpower them. This did indeed happen in Israel’s future, yet in the passage it is interesting to see God’s grace and mercy by saying there would be a remnant always preserved and saved. By this, God would keep his covenant word to the nation.

As an example of the serious nature of God’s anger if the nation put idols before the Lord, Moses again uses himself as the example. He reminds them that God is not going to allow him to cross the Jordan with them. And again, I admit that this seems very harsh. The reason is because Moses hit the rock in anger rather than speak to it in obedience as God instructed. Whenever Moses does recount this, he does share the culpability with the people – saying something like, “You people were so frustratingly miserable in your moaning and complaining that YOU brought me to the place of hitting that dumb rock that got me into trouble with God!” But God is holy; he will not share his glory with any … and if not with Moses, then certainly he is going to bring judgment on those who worship idols made by hands.

Today’s passage calls God a “consuming fire,” yet later says that he is “a merciful God.” Of course, both are true. But here’s the great truth for us – for those who have trusted in Christ for salvation:  God’s wrath against sin has been poured out in judgment upon Christ at his substitutionary sacrifice for us. Therefore God’s mercy is able to be lavished upon us in abundant grace through the promise of an eternal inheritance that will not fade away. It says in 1 Peter 1:3-5 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Deuteronomy 4:15-31

Idolatry Forbidden

15 You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, 16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, 17 or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, 18 or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. 19 And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping  things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. 20 But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.

21 The Lord was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance. 22 I will die in this land; I will not cross the Jordan; but you are about to cross over and take possession of that good land. 23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

25 After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time—if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God and arousing his anger, 26 I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. 27 The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you. 28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. 29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.

God-Granted Exceptionalism (Deuteronomy 4:1-14)

There is a phrase bantered about these days particularly in conservative political circles, and that is the concept of American Exceptionalism. Most people don’t understand what this truly connotes, simply taking it at face value to seem to imply a hip-hip-hooray view that America is #1 in the world – waving the giant sponge index finger in the air. Actually, the phrases involves the concept that the historically unique American system of government – allowing freedom, industry, and capitalism to thrive without the heavy hand of the state – is an exceptional expression of human law that best provides conditions toward producing success and the pursuit of happiness.

While I would confess to being a proponent of this view, I freely admit that there was a better exceptionalism historically – that which was granted to the nation of Israel. It was a theocracy for sure – where the Lord God promised to be their provider, in accord with Israel’s obedience as his people. In this passage today, we essentially see God giving Israel this truly sweet deal – saying that no other nation could possibly be found who had a God so close, or who had laws and guidelines for life so completely in their possession.

What Israel had was a perfect recipe. God’s law did not need to be spiced up by adding something to it, nor watered down by taking something away. The people simply needed to obey it and all would go well for them. But to obey, they had to know God’s words and remember them. Moses reminds them of how this body of truth was given in the midst of a mighty scene of the smoking mountain. Remember! The words were written down by God on stone and carried with them in their travels. Remember! At a place called Baal Peor (Numbers 25:1-9), some of the nation forgot to be pure unto the Lord and got involved rather with Moabite women and worship – being destroyed by the thousands for such. Remember! And they were to teach these truths to the rising generations so that they would … what? Yep! Remember!

It all seems so simple and easy enough to follow. If we were there, surely we’d obey! But we have not just God’s Old Testament Law; we have the complete record of God. We know the full story of redemption in Christ. We have the Holy Spirit living inside us upon our salvation. So what do we too often do? We forget. We mess with the recipe. We get tired of waiting for God to come through on something, and so we take over the controls of life. And what don’t we do? We don’t remember God’s word.

Summary – When we remember, we have revival!

Deuteronomy 4:1-14

Obedience Commanded

Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.

You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did at Baal Peor. The Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, but all of you who held fast to the Lord your God are still alive today.

See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness.12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. 14 And the Lord directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.