“These Forty Years…”! How to be ‘Successful’!

Repetition can be vain, but not if it calls people back to God, and encourages faithfulness to him. A British professor lectures at a Chinese university through a translator. His long delivery is summed up at fifteen minute breaks with three short statements. Finally the audience bow respectively and leave! The Professor later finds out what the translator’s 3 statements actually said: (#1) The professor has so far said nothing new, (#2) I don’t think this professor is going to say anything new to us, (#3) I was right, he did not say anything new at all!

Deuteronomy (8:1-10) is Moses’ rehearsal of God’s covenantal promises – laws yet expressions of God’s love for a new generation settling east of Jordon before the conquest of their land. The emphasis is on God’s sovereignty in choosing to bless Israel among all other nations. This came with the responsibility to obey God’s Word and reflect his loving character to “all nations”!

This speech reflects the giving of the original law at Sinai or Horeb. Moses at Moab highlights: 1) the love of God 2) the Word of God and 3) their Way of life. It can be titled: “How to be Successful”. Notice the rhetoric is persuasive filled with candid stories from the past, exhorting obedience, so that you may… for what is ahead. The repetition is intentional as the commands warranted enactment. God’s people were to wholeheartedly do all the law required. Any revision is pedagogic, serving as ethical teachings in covenant form on how to now live and showing them it was for their own wellbeing and bright future!

Moses, like Lincoln at the Gettysburg’s address, offers it fresh, simple and memorable: he reminds them of the power of God’s love in deliverance; rescuing them out of Egypt their enemies. He then highlights the wonders of God’s grace in providence; symbolized in sending manna to care for them in the wilderness. Finally he celebrates the richness of God’s mercy in abundance; in bringing them into and securing for them a good “land”! Now at ‘the end of the beginning’ are instructions on how to respond so God makes them truly ‘successful’:

Obedience: adhering to the Torah, God’s Word (8:1-3) ‘so that you may’ more than survive or stay alive but thrive or enjoy the ‘good life’ in the inherited land. Not so much a realization of William James’ self-centered ‘American dream’! But an increase in true prosperity that leads to posterity, the handing down and spreading of faith in a God who is good all the time.
– When you hurt and chastened by God, NB: God is too good to be unkind

Dependence: learning to trust in YHWH alone; Note, at this time, land was still under control of the Canaanites! Always mindful that God is sovereign and in control, Israel is identified as God’s beloved children, not rebellious slaves and they must live as grateful sojourners. This world was not their ultimate home, God was! There is always a lurking danger in times of doubt and danger to become self-sufficient (golden calf) so the ‘forget not, remember’ notes.
– When feeling you’re not going to make it, NB: God is too strong to let you down

Confidence: developing a blessed assurance that testifies, ‘all the way my Savior leads me, what have I to ask besides?’ On one hand is a warning against independence, the ‘we did it!’ mentality and on the other ingratitude at the “place of plenty that can leave us empty of God”. God’s people easily allow arrogance the ‘who needs God!’ attitude make us idolatrous. An over-confidence, God-complex with idols of materialism that are not in the shelf but self!
– When thinking you’ll lose if you trust/obey, NB: God is too wise to make mistakes

This exhortation is to Be careful to obey, then we will always be… joyful. Be mindful to trust, and then we will truly be successful, and Be grateful to bless and walk in God’s ways. Above all to be thankful, God is good/wise all the time and all the time, God is wise/good! God’s Word that reveals his character and covenantal love requires our worship and obedience. His redeeming grace, not our goodness, has given us all things richly to enjoy. Now, we must fear, love, trust, obey and walk worthy of God. So where are we headed? What does our success tell other people about the kind of God we trust and obey?

An Epitaph:
Stop my friend as you go by, where you are now so once was I,
Where I am now, you soon will be, prepare my friend to follow me
A Response:
To follow you is not my intent, until I know which way you went!

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