As the people of Israel stand at the edge of the Jordan River ready to finally make the historic trek back into the Promised Land, Moses rallies the troops to remind them of where they have been and where they are going. The book of Deuteronomy records this speech in which Moses not only recounts the major aspects of the Law to Israel, to the children of the men and women who had originally heard the law from the Mountain, but he reminds them of their history and how God has rescued them and taken care of them these forty years in the desert. He also reminds Israel that their ancestors should have been living already in the land of plenty instead of dying in the wilderness, and the only reason they were not living in the land of plenty was because of their lack of faith and trust in Yahweh God. And in the midst of recounting these historic tales Moses gives some advice to the new people of Israel who are standing at the promised land ready to claim their reward.
The LORD your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land, be careful not to forget the LORD, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. You must fear the LORD your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name. You must not worship any of the gods of neighboring nations, for the LORD your God, who lives among you, is a jealous God. His anger will flare up against you, and he will wipe you from the face of the earth. (Deut. 6:10-15 NLT)
Moses is cautioning the people that when they enter the land of plenty not to forget who actually gives them what they have. It becomes easy when you are surrounded by wealth and good things, homes you did not build and trees you did not plant, to lose sight of the giver of all things. The temptation, when surrounded by luxury, or at least an easier life, is to start putting your faith in your things or even to start to feel that your own hard work has earned your house or your food or your property. Moses wants to remind the people that even though they will be living in luxury they must never forget that they are dependent on God for everything, from the clothes that they wear to the food that they eat to the homes that they live in. They must remain focused on worshiping God, and God alone as the provider of all good things. It is an important reminder, and sadly we will learn, one that Israel will forget.
But before we move on to other passages of scripture, the Spirit wants to speak a reminder to us. We, those of us living in the United States of America, those of us who are in the top-tier of wealthiest people in the world, those of us who often don’t worry about where our next meal will come from, or what clothes we will wear, or whether the air conditioning will be cool enough in the summer so that we don’t sweat too much, we live in the land of plenty. Most of us live in houses we did not build, we drink water from wells we did not dig, and we eat food from trees and plants that we did not farm. And as we sit in our seats of luxury, and put money in our IRA, and go to Kroger to buy our food, we must be careful not to forget the LORD who brought us out of the land of slavery, who rescued us from our own self-mutilation of sin, and has brought us into the Kingdom of his Son. We must be careful not to put our trust in our bank accounts or our jobs or the government program that will provide for us, but to put our trust in the Creator and Sustainer of the world. We must be careful not to turn our attention to other gods of self-promotion and covetousness, and greed, and the desire to always want new and better toys. For our God is a jealous God who will not stand by idly while we promote other things as most important while we give God an hour a week on Sunday, if we have the time. No, our God demands obedience, and deserves obedience because he is the giver of all good things.
It is time for us to take a good, hard, long look in the mirror and ask ourselves, who is Lord of our lives? Is Yahweh God Lord or is self Lord? Do we make our decisions in accordance with an ethic based on the Sermon on the Mount or do we make our decisions in accordance with what will make us most happy? Are we willing to die to self, the hardest thing in the world to die to, and live for God and be willing to actively live out our convictions of what it means to be a Christian? As we live in the land of plenty, will we forget God, or will we take to heart Moses’s reminder and be ever more vigilant in carrying out the commands of God.