When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in a not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day (Deut. 8:10-18)
The theocentric focus of this law is God as the gracious Provider. God demands thankfulness on the part of the recipients of His grace. The message here is clear: covenant-keepers can become spiritually forgetful as a direct result of the visible blessings of God. As a result of the gift, they forget the Giver. That covenant-breakers forget the God who gave them their blessings should come as no shock, but this warning was directed at covenant-keepers.
Because the sin of covenantal forgetfulness is universal, this law was not a seed law or land law. Those theologians who argue that this was exclusively a land law want to escape from its implications: God brings sanctions in history against those who forget Him. The problem is, when they argue this way, they strip the covenant of its predictability and therefore also its authority in history. Those who forget God are supposedly in no worse shape in history, and perhaps far better shape, than those who remember Him.
Forgetfulness is an aspect of point two of the biblical covenant model: hierarchy. The covenantally forgetful man forgets something quite specific: his complete dependence on the grace of God. Moses here listed the external blessings that God had given them in the wilderness, a hostile place that would not sustain a large population. They had received water out of the rock and a daily supply of food. In the wilderness, they had been kept humble and subordinate by their reliance on God’s miracles. God would soon give them blessings after they conquered the Promised Land. The transfer of inheritance from Canaan to Israel would be an aspect of God’s comprehensive deliverance of the nation out of bondage and into freedom. Their freedom would initially be accompanied by a discontinuous increase in their external wealth: military victory. Then this wealth would multiply.
Miracles as Welfare
The move from Egypt to Canaan is a model of the move from slavery lo freedom. The model of a free society is not Israel’s miraculous wilderness experience, where God gave, them manna and removed many burdens of entropy. The predictable miracles of the wilderness era were designed to humble them, not raise them up. The wilderness experience was not marked by economic growth but by economic stagnation and total dependence. They were not allowed to saver extra portions of manna, which rotted (Ex. 16:20). On the move continually, they could not dig wells, plant crops, or build houses. At best, they may have been able to increase their herds, as nomads do (Num. 3:45; 20:4; 32:1). The wilderness experience was a means of teaching them that God acts in history to sustain His people. The wilderness economy with its regular miracles was not to become an ideal toward which covenant-keepers should strive. Israel longed for escape from the wilderness. It was God’s curse on the exodus generation that they would die in the wilderness.
The wilderness economy was a welfare economy. The Israelites were supplied with basic necessities even though the people did not work. But they lacked variety. People without the ability to feed themselves were fed by God: same old diet. People without the ability to clothe themselves were clothed by God: same old fashions. Israel wandered aimlessly because the nation had refused to march into war. They were not fit to lead, and so they had to follow. They were welfare clients; they had no authority over the conditions of their existence. They took what was handed out to them. And like welfare clients generally, they constantly complained that their lifestyle just wasn’t good enough (Num. 11). They had been unwilling to pay the price of freedom: conquest (Num. 14). God therefore cursed them to endure four decades of welfare economics. The only good thing about the wilderness welfare program was that it did not use the State as the agency of positive blessings. No one was coerced into paying for anyone else’s lifestyle. God used a series of miracles to sustain them all. There was no coercive program of wealth redistribution. Israel was a welfare society, not a welfare State.
The lure of the welfare State remains with responsibility-avoiding men in every era. It was this lure which attracted the crowds to Jesus. “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (John 6:26). They wanted a king who would feed them. They viewed Jesus as a potential candidate for king because He could multiply, bread. They associated free food with political authority. He knew this, and He departed from them (John 6:11-15).
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)