These sermon notes are from the talk on Deuteronomy chapter 8. This was preached by Tony Swain on Sunday 18th.
Tonight we continue our series on Deuteronomy.
You’ll recall from previous chapters that Moses has been giving instructions to the Tribes of
Israel in the desert knowing that he will die shortly, but that they will soon cross over the
river Jordan into the rich land that God has promised them. The main theme of Chapter 8 is
the necessity to remember God. It contains many of the same instructions and warnings
that are in previous chapters. By constant repetition Moses is making sure that the tribes
both fully understand and remember his instructions which will be vital to their continuing
survival and wellbeing.
I don’t know about you, but I have a dreadful memory. I am always mislaying my wallet, my
glasses, and particularly my keys. I often envy elephants for their memory.
Research carried out during the 1993 drought at Tarangire [Pron. TARRAN JEERY] National
Park in Tanzania discovered that some elephant groups left the park and went to very
distant sources of food and water that they remembered from the previous severe drought
several decadespreviously. Their survival rate was far better than the herds that remained in
the Park. Remembering important things is an key life-skill!
So with this in mind, please turn to Deuteronomy Chapter 8 in your Bibles, or printed on the
1. Remember God – in the desert
In verse 1 , and later in the chapter, Moses again implores the tribes to comply with all the
commandments if they are to survive and thrive when they enter the Promised Land.
His summary of the commandments – in Deut 6 verse 5 – was, you will remember:
5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
Moses tells them in v2 that God has extended their time in the desert to humble them
following the continual disobedience of their forefathers.This was not done out of God’s
anger at them, but out of his love for the nation. God wanted to discipline them like a
parent disciplines their children, for their long term benefit. This was to ensure that their
hearts and minds would be given to God, and that they would learn to depend utterly on
him as they joureyed on through this inhospitable and challenging environment.
Moses then prompts them to remember them of two further examples of God’s amazing
provision in the desert, which he has not previously mentioned.
The first example is Manna – the mysterious substance that fell on the ground each morning
and which the Israelites ate as their main food each day – like bread. I won’t explain the
details of what it was like or how it had to be gathered and prepared: that’s all neatly
described in Exodus Chapter 16 and elsewhere.
Moses clearly states that God’s care for the tribes is much more than just for their material
needs. We read in verse 3:
”…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the
No doubt you are familiar with this verse, mainly because it is quoted by Jesus when he is
tempted after 40 days of fasting in the same desert some 1500 hundred years later. We’ll
refer to that again shortly.
The second example is mentioned in v4:
“Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years”.
This really took me aback when I read it as I can’t recall reading about this before. Amazing!
Peoples’ clothes never wearing out and always being like new! Mind you, I bet the ladies
wouldn’t have liked that as they’d have wanted the latest fashion every season! And it’s
astonihing that no one got foot-ache despite all those decades tramping over the sharp
stones and thorny wastes of the desert.
If you’re man of a certain age, you’ll remember Bri-Nylon shirts. They never ever wore out,
got very sweaty, but washed and dried easily – and were frightfully uncomfortable. I’m sure God would have come up with something much better than Bri-Nylon for the tribes. But I’ll
leave it to you to ponder over exactly how God sorted these matters.
The main point is that the Tribes were in a tough environment and were totally dependent
on God – for both their material and spiritual wellbeing. This dependence made it easier for
them to remember God and to obey his commands. As a result they were now equipped for
the promised land.
2. Remember God – in the Promised land
In verse 6, Moses again reiterates the importance of remembering and obeying God,
especially once entering the Promised Land. He then lists it’s wonderful attributes of the for
the next four verses.
It’s got plentiful water, it’s ideal for growing wheat, barley, vines figs and olives. Honey bees
love it. There are lots of minerals for making bronze tools and weapons, – it’s a fantastic
place. And God says he’ll bless them and that they’ll all do really well. What’s not to like?
But as we read in verse 11 onwards, Moses has clearly seen that once they are settled and
comfortable in this rich new land, they’ll think more and more about their material
posessions, their busy daily lives, and the many temptations increasingly occupying their
thoughts, diaries, and hearts. Then they’ll think that their good fortunes are more a result of
their efforts than anything to do with God, and they’ll stray from their faith.
Moses neatly highlights the danger in v 17:
“Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me
And he clearly states the consequences in vv 19-20.
“19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship
them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the LORD
makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the
LORD your God.”
3. Remember God – Incarnate
With the benefit of the hindsight that are given in our Bibles, we know that the Tribes did
indeed enter the promised land, built a magnificent temple, and prospered. After many
generations of forgetfulness and disobedience, things went from bad to worse, culminating
in the nation being conquered and the temple being destroyed.
But around two thousand years ago, before the final destruction of the earthly temple, we
know that our Saviour Jesus Christ, the son of God, was incarnate – made flesh –and as we
say in the creed, was crucified, and rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven.
And as we know, he proclaimed a new relationship between God and Man – replacing that
which had been given by God to Moses. A source of his key sayings was from Deuteronomy.
When challenged by the religious lawyer about the Commandments, Jesus responded that
the greatest commandment was still:
“ You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
might” (Matt 22:37).
This is in all important respects identical to Moses’s summary of the law which we noted
earlier in Deuteronomy Chapter 6 v 4.
If you’ve got your Bibles with you, take a look at Matthew Chapter 4, verse 4. Here it says:
4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And
after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to
him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he
answered, “It is written,“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes
from the mouth of God.’”
You’ll remember that last sentence came from Deuteronomy Chapter 8 v 3. And you’ll spot
that Jesus fasted for 40 days in the same desert as the tribes wandered in for 40 years,
preparing for his journey to Jerusalem and his impending death and resurrection. We
remember his fasting today (literally) as the Church season of Lent – a time of spiritual self
examination over – yes, you’ve got it! Forty days!
Jesus expands on this quotation in John Chapter 6: 32-35
32…. “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes
down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread
always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not
hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
And significantly at the last supper, as described in Luke Ch 22 v 19:
19 …… he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is
my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Notice how Jesus himself thanked God the Father for the meal they were eating, not even
taking that for granted. And then – critically – he said do this in remembrance of me.
So Jesus is saying that the very basic tenets of the faith are unchanged, despite the New
Covenant – Remember God, depend on God, and obey God.
4. Remember God- in the here & now
Living in the UK today has parallels with living in the promised land. It’s one of the ten
richest countries in the world and I’m told that these have more wealth than the remaining
90% put together.
Jane sometimes sends me off to buy our groceries. When I get back home she says “where
have you been?” and I explain that I’ve only been at the supermarket and didn’t go via the
pub. It’s just that there is such a massive choice there, it takes me AGES to select what we
need. For example there are dozens of types of milk – skimmed, semi-skimmed, full fat. And
these come in Organic, Farmer Friendly, and Westcountry produced types. Then there’s
buttermilk, Channel island milk, soya milk, buffalo milk, powdered milk. In all different sizes.
And that’s only the milk! Imagine how dazed I am by the other sections, honey included.
Yes, our country really is a land flowing with milk and honey
This is only an example of the wonderful things we have in this country. As we know, there
are many others: Peace, a stable political system, freedom of speech. Libraries, The NHS,
social services, Free schooling and so much more. Oh yes, and freedom to practice our
As a nation, do we have the attitude that we deserve all this because we’re British, and it’s
happened because of generations of our hard work, and our importance in the world?
From an individual perspective I’m tempted to look at my own personal circumstances –
our house, the car, my pension, our family – and think; I’ve worked hard for all this and I
deserve it. I often have to make a special effort to remember that everything that I have has
come from God – including my very being.
OOPS! Do you remember in verse 17 Moses’s warning to the Israellites before they went to
the promised land?
“Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me
And again remember Moses’s warnings in verses 19 and 20 about the very serious results of
These still apply to us all here and now.
I’m often distracted by my busy-ness, doing this and that, and thinking that I don’t have
enough time to pray, or go to house-group. Or I’m tempted to watch a film, do the
crossword, or look up something interesting on the internet rather than read my Bible. I
confess that at the end of some days I realise that I have not even thought about God. And
when I do pray and my prayers are answered, or if I am especially blessed, I find that –
shamefully – I soon forget.
But I’m sure none of that stuff applies to you good people here tonight.
However, we are fortunate these days to have lots of prompts to remind us of God, if we
choose to heed them.
There are physical prompts like crosses on buildings, or worn as pendants, and even on buns
at Easter – reminding us of Christ’s death and resurrection.
There is the food which we eat each mealtime, which should at least prompt us to say
We have easy access to the word of God through printed and on-line Bibles, and there are
websites from which we can be sent a bible verse each day – free of charge!
There is our church year – with all the festivals such as Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, to
name a few, which help us remember what God had done for us. And of course Lent, to
remind us do our own spiritual audit.
The are our Church Services, our songs of worship, and our bible teaching. There’s our
house groups, and prayer meetings, and prayer diaries.
There is the communion where we remember Jesus’s death and resurrection.
There are many other prompts to aid our remembering, so we have no excuses!
We are really well equipped, living here and now, in this land of milk and honey to
remember what God has done for us, and to remember his commands. It’s easy to be
distracted by our busy lives in a materialistic culture, and become distanced from God.
We may well remember what God has done for us and what his laws are, but the bigger
question is to what extent are we going be truly dependent on him, and remember to obey
him. Those are the points that I find the most challenging in this Chapter.
Lent is a good time to reflect on these issues.