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Does it feel to you that we are reading the same content day after day? Every chapter seems to say: God was good to you, so obey his commandments; then you will have a good life in the land God brought you to, and you will not be punished. What really strikes me anew in this chapter is the humility that comes from testing. You can see it at the beginning (8:2-4) and at the end (8:15-18) of the chapter.
Moses challenges the Israelites to remember the forty years they have just endured in the desert, with its lack of food and water, and its snakes and scorpions. They could survive only by relying on God; he fed them and gave them water, he provided miraculous clothing and healthy feet. They did not survive because of what they could provide for themselves, but only because God cared for them. This is the sense in which they learned humility, and which they must not forget when they enter the promised land and are able to provide for themselves. Self-reliance, the arrogance which says ‘I did it my way’, brings curse. Trust in God brings blessing.
This is especially true in times of testing, which is why Jesus refers to this chapter when he is tested by the devil (Matt 4:1-11). In 8:2 Moses states that God tested the Israelites to know what was in their hearts. In moments of trouble, who do we reach out to? In whom do we trust? Our own abilities, or the Lord’s word?
Another way to talk about this is ‘discipline’, in the sense of training, as a father does with a son (verse 5). Yahweh trained his people to depend on him in want (in the desert), so that they would continue to depend on him in plenty (in the good land). I am reminded of this song. Whether we live in need, or in a land which flows with oil and honey, brooks and fountains, wheat, grapes, figs and pomegranates, with silver and gold, with fine houses and with copper-mines, in any situation, we are to bless the LORD and be obedient to him. His desire is that we prosper (8:16), but only in ongoing and deepening relationship with him.
Let our hearts never become proud, secure in our own abilities to provide for ourselves, with the result that we forget to depend on God. The testing is to remind us that God is the one who gives us the ability to provide for ourselves. We must never elevate ourselves or any god to the place of glory that the Lord, Yahweh, deserves.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for forgetting you in my life, for depending on my self or on others to provide for me. Help me to trust in you at all times, whether in lack or in plenty, and never to allow another to take your place as God in my heart.