Saturday, April 01, 2006
Deuteronomy Chapter Eight: From Decadence to Decay
First, thanks to Matt for giving a solid post, articulate and well-crafted. Thanks. If anyone out there in the blogosphere thinks Matt should continue with me on this Exegetical journey through Deuteronomy give him some encouragement, by way of a comment on his last post.
If anyone knows a good picture for this post, let me know.
Now on to Chapter Nine & From Decadence to Decay.
At the height of a fruit's ripening process the last thing we might think would be that soon it will decay and be worthless. We might have this knowledge after seeing the process repeat many times but for someone who hasn't seen fruit go bad, it would seem that there would be no way to posit the completely 'other' end--that it's decay would follow it's decadence. Israel, never having seen affluence, does not stand at a vantage point where it can understand decadence and self-exaltation as the seeds of demise, however, God--via Moses--warns them, "Do not say about yourself, 'My power and my might have gotten me this wealth.' But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth [...]" ( v.17-18), and then, "if you forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today you shall surely perish" (v.19). To continue with the horticultural metaphor, if Israel "forgets" that all things come from God they are akin to a fruit falling from the vine; they will ripen quicker but they will perish quicker too. The lesson that Israel needs to learn is what Jesus tells his disciples in the book of John, "apart from me you can do nothing" (ch. 15 v.5).
Moses tells Israel that they should, "Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years [...]" (v. 2). We learn that God brought them the "long way" through the desert to "humble" and "test" them (v.2). The method God used to humble them was "by feeding [them] manna, with which you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" (v.3). If Israel remembers this upon reaching the Promised Land they will never "exalt themselves" when they are at rest (v. 12-14). So Israel is called to a holy remembrance which is two-fold: (1) they must remember their God, (2) they must remember their humble beginnings so that they may see come to grips with the timeless truth that says, 'success, as the Bible sees it, is not a product of human ingenuity or force but humble faithfulness'. Both take root in the corporate acknowledgment that the Lord is sovereign and that he provides, or that he is the vine and we are the branches.