11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
–Deuteronomy 8.11-18 (NIV)
In today’s passage, we are confronted with the the problem of the human condition. Our pattern of rebellion (which the Bible generally calls sin) has led us to be delusional. We want to take God’s rightful place and play God ourselves. This manifests itself, in part, when we want to take credit when and where it is not due. Here we see God reminding his people Israel through his prophet Moses to remember Whose they are, what they are, and to give credit where it is due.
As we read today’s lesson, the first thing we must do is to get past the historical context in which it is set. Remember that God interacts with his people in the course of human history and therefore Scripture will always have an historical context. We may not have herds and cattle, gold and silver as indicators of success, but the point remains the same. When things are going well for us, we tend to delude ourselves into thinking that we are the ones primarily responsible for our success. Think about it. When we get a job promotion, become popular and enjoy status and prestige, or enjoy financial success, we tend to pat ourselves on the back and make it all about us.
“Not so fast,” says God to his people. “Sure, you have to put forth the effort and use the gifts I’ve given you to acquire the material benefits in life, but without me you have no hope for success because all good things in life come ultimately from me. Stop being obstinate and rebellious and acknowledge this truth and it will go well with you.” For you see, the underlying issue involved in today’s passage is this: Who will be God in your life? Will it be the one true God or will it be some false god of your making (which might include yourself) whom you worship?
God goes on to remind his people that it was he who delivered them from their slavery and exile in Egypt. It was God who helped his people navigate the treacherous wilderness and delivered them to the promised land. Likewise, when the storms of life descend on us, it is the same God who will help deliver us from them. That doesn’t mean he will make us immune from all that can go wrong in this life. Rather, it means that God will be with us and guide us through those storms.
This is what faith is ultimately all about. Do you believe that God can and will do this for you?
If you do, you can count on God to give you what you need, both in good times and in bad. When things are cooking with gas for you, God will give you the needed humility to remember that God is the One who provides for you. You will remember that you are simply the beneficiary of his abundant generosity toward you.
When things go terribly wrong for you, God will give you what you need to navigate through the dark periods of your life. You may not be skipping through those bad times and whistling on your way–in fact, that is highly unlikely–but you will be given what you need because God is a God who provides for his people and who will deliver them from the evil that can beset them.
We know this primarily because God has taken care of the problem of sin and death for us by becoming human, bearing the penalty for our sin himself, and then rising from the dead as the first-fruits of his promise to us of New Creation. If God can and will raise us from the dead, is there anything in life that he cannot handle or help us handle?
When you really believe this, you really will have the Easter hope and promise, and it will make all the difference in the world for you. The Easter promise does not make us immune from the hurts of this world. What it does is to remind us that we are connected to the Source and Author of all life who will not let even death separate us from his great love for us. But to claim the promise we must give up our delusion of self-grandeur. We must acknowledge that God is God and we are not, and we must willingly submit to his will for us to become agents of his New Creation.
Our obedience as his agents of New Creation will be characterized by love and service for God’s broken and hurting creatures and creation, and he calls each of us to use our gifts in different ways to serve him. When we decide to do this, we can count on it going well for us, even in the face of all that hell and the world can throw our way. Because as God reminds us in today’s passage, God wants things to go well for us. He created us to love him and enjoy him forever and it all starts by giving credit where credit is due.
If you do not have this kind of life-giving relationship with God, what are you waiting for? Do yourself a huge favor and tap into the power of the God who will raise you from the dead. After that, everything else is basically rock and roll, isn’t it?
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!