Great chapter. Moses implores the people to follow “every” command he’s giving them so they may truly prosper in the land. The key phrase in the first verse goes back to this being all about God. He is giving them the land he “promised on oath to” their forefathers (Gen. 15). This is happening because of what he had done and what he is doing. We only respond to God’s initiative in salvation. The purpose for which he had led and humbled them in the desert was to teach them total dependence on his Word:
3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
This of course was quoted by Jesus when he was tempted by Satan in his own wilderness journey. He obviously learned it better than the Israelites; what they couldn’t accomplish, he did. And what an amazing concept, something that should be at the forefront of our minds at all time. Sure we need bread, food and physical sustenance, but what truly gives us life is every Word of God. And notice it’s not some words, words we can pick and choose, but on every word. Which of course leads us to John 1:1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
We live on God himself! God’s word and his character are one, in perfect harmony. I love that the Hebrew’s religion offered the world the foundation for reason; their religion isn’t some mystical, “spiritual,” experiential existence that seeks to take a person beyond this world. It is rational and propositional and bound up in this world, and it’s basis is a person, the person of God.
Then Moses warns them again that when they are blessed in the land they are not to forget where this blessing comes from and that they were slaves in Egypt. They are only where they are because of God. Never forget that, and neither should we. Then he says something that is truly revolutionary:
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.
Yes, in context this is a statement relating to the covenant of God with his people, and he gives them this ability to confirm that covenant, but it implies so much more. Wealth is a good thing; there is no hint in Biblical religion that poverty or being poor is good. The only problem with wealth is that we can fall into what Moses is warning Israel against, thinking our wealth is somehow our own doing, that we don’t need God, that any material blessing is something built of our own strength (and that’s what the Hebrew word here implies).
It also implies that the foundation of capitalism is God himself. Just like some people are deluded into thinking that the universe runs itself, some if not most think economies run themselves. As Paul says, he gives all men life, breath and everything else. Our economics is no more autonomous than we are; God’s foundational morality ground in his being is its basis. It’s the way the world works and the way he made the world to work. No wonder modern liberals screws things up so often, thinking they can “control” an economy and people.
Moses finally ends this chapter on a downer. If God’s people forget him and bow down to other gods, they too will be destroyed. The blessing or not of Israel is completely conditional. God is teaching not only them, but the rest of us that our ultimate blessing can never come from perfect obedience because we can never pull it off. God’s blessing, not to mention salvation, comes from his mercy and grace alone.