Deuteronomy Chapter Eight
In one of his final books John Stott wrote of the need to learn dependence. It sounds strange in a world that prizes independence and hammers away the need to “believe in yourself”. But Stott was right – we begin as very dependent babies and often end as very dependent adults so that in between we need to learn what is patently clear – we do depend on others and we definitely need the Lord.
In this fourth ‘facet’ of the covenant diamond between the Lord and His people (Deuteronomy 8), the message is dependence. This is a beautiful chapter describing the Lord’s past provision in the desert, His future provision in the Land and the present need to recognise that everything comes from Him. These chapters have such striking and memorable sentences such as the one in 8:18, “it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth and so confirms His covenant”, in case you ever (foolishly) think that God is helpful but not crucial.
Notice in 8:2 that the Lord had led them through the desert to “humble and test them”. This word ‘test’ can be a constructive or destructive thing. The Lord tests His people to strengthen their dependence and faith in Him but the devil tests people in order to stretch or ruin faith.
And we ourselves test God by stretching the friendship. You see God’s question in testing us is ‘how can I build the bond?’. Our question in testing Him is often ‘how can I loosen the bond?’
And what a miracle that desert journey was! Hundreds of thousands of people in the desert being fed and watered for forty years. And clothes and shoes lasting the distance (8:4). No wonder He is worth trusting and obeying.
Then the new Land they were about to enter would have everything needed and more (8:6-9). Every kind of water supply and every kind of food supply. We can feel the logic of this argument as if Moses is screaming out to them ‘depend on Him with everything you have’ and we shake our heads at their waywardness. Till we look in the mirror.
We are exactly the same. It would be many years before a Man would come who would perfectly trust and obey (even in the desert see Matt 4:1-11) and offer His life for faithless people like them and us. He is our Hope and our praise. We depend completely on His performance not ours.
So the Lord knows the problem and urges His people – when things are thriving and they are tempted to feel proud and clever – to remember Him (8:11) , to stay humble (8:14) and to know that He gives those gifts that are outside them and those gifts that are inside them (8:16-18).
Paul puts it like this (and we should remember this for salvation riches as well as earthly riches), “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor 4:7).
Heavenly Father, everything good comes from you and we have received mercies beyond what we deserve and beyond this world. Teach us a real and happy gratitude and dependence. In Jesus’ name. Amen.