Remembering God’s Past Dealings
Moses urged the Israelites to “remember” (8:2 and 18) and not “forget” (8:11, 14, and 19) the Lord, the Lord’s commandments, nor His deeds on their behalf. He knew that the Israelite’s possession of the Promised Land might lead them to pride and a short memory concerning God (8:14). Their success in the Promised Land was linked to their observance of God’s commands and their remembrance of God’s deeds on their behalf. Moses thus exhorted the people to remember two things.
First, Moses exhorted the people to remember “all the commandments” (8:1). There is no success apart from obedience to God’s word. The word “all” defines the scope of what they were to obey. The phrase “be careful to do” defines the method in which they were to observe God’s commands.
Second, Moses exhorted the people to remember “all the way” (8:2a). The people stood on the threshold of the Promised Land. As they prepared to enter the land Moses exhorted them to remember “all the way” in which the Lord had led them in the wilderness the past forty years. The word “all” defines the scope of what they were to remember. They were to remember both the pleasant and bitter experiences of their journey. It is often life’s most difficult experiences that can produce the most memorable lessons. Their forty-year wilderness journey was clearly marked with the evidence of God’s providential care and discipline of His people.
Practical Consideration: We can learn good lessons from bad experiences. Moses urged the Israelite’s to remember all the way in which God had led them through the wilderness. Their wilderness journey was littered with experiences of failure, frustration, and foolishness. Moses wanted for the people to remember and learn good lessons from those experiences. Their bad experiences were valuable tutors regarding the dangers of disobeying God, the heavy price of unfaithfulness, and the demand of God for loyalty, to name but a few.
Moses wanted for the people to remember several valuable lessons from their wilderness experience that would serve them well in the Promised Land.
First, Moses reminded the people that God had a purpose for allowing them to be touched by difficulties (8:2b). God was interested in the development of their characters and in knowing what the Israelites were made of. John Maxwell comments, “Nothing reveals the true self like the difficulties of life.” God developed His people through the challenges of the wilderness journey in which they faced choices between trusting in God or themselves, obeying or disobeying God, praising God or murmuring against Him, going on or returning to Egypt. The struggles and obstacles of the wilderness experience were designed to prepare and strengthen the Israelites for the challenges of the Promised Land. Someone has noted, “The path that has no obstacles leads to nowhere.”
Practical Consideration: We don’t grow in a vacuum. The things the Israelites were exposed to in the wilderness were designed to help them mature and understand that they needed God. Helen Keller said, “I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work and my God.” Every trial and affliction was designed to mold the Israelites into a distinctive people. C.N. Bovee said, “Affliction, like the iron-smith, shapes as it smites.” Henry Ward Beecher said, “Affliction comes to us, not to make us sad but sober; not to make us sorry but wise.” W.E. Channing said, “Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.”
Second, Moses reminded the Israelites that part of God’s purpose in allowing them to be touched by difficulties was to teach them humility and the value of trusting God and depending on His word (8:3). This lesson was taught as the people found themselves in situations where it was necessary for them to trust in God rather than in themselves. When they had exhausted their food supply God miraculously supplied them with “manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know.” The purpose of this was to help them understand the need to live life in dependence upon God. Note: Refer to Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4 regarding Jesus’ use of this verse when He was tempted in the wilderness.
Third, Moses reminded the people that God had made provision for them in the midst of difficulties (8:4). The wilderness experience was difficult and physically challenging. Yet, in all their wanderings their clothing did not wear out and their feet did not swell (8:4).
Fourth, Moses reminded the people that all the things they had experienced in the wilderness were designed for their good, as the discipline of a father for his son (8:5). That was reason enough to “keep the commandments … walk in His ways … fear Him” (8:6). Psalm 119:75 states, “I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness Thou hast afflicted me.” Psalm 119:71 states, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Thy statutes.”
In contrast to the hardships the Israelites experienced in the wilderness, the Promised Land held the promise of great blessings. The Israelites would be sustained by abundant resources in the new land that were no less a gift from God than the supernatural provision of manna in the wilderness (8:7-10). Moses exhorted the people to respond to God’s goodness in the new land with gratitude.
Warning Against Forgetting God
In verses 1-10 the emphasis is on remembering the leadership and provision of God through the wilderness journey. In verses 11-20 the emphasis is on the danger of forgetting God and His past deeds (8:14-16) in the midst of the new land’s bounty (8:12-13). These verses illustrate the temptation and potential to forget God when stomachs are full, bills are paid, and barns are bulging. Someone has noted that forgetfulness is the greatest mark of ingratitude. Forgetting God carries with it awful consequences (8:19-20), not the least of which is idolatry. James Wolfendale comments, “If true God forgotten, another will be chosen, for we must have a God.”
Practical Consideration: God can remind us to remember Him by removing the things that cause us to forget Him. God does not want for us allow life’s blessings and successes to cause us to forget Him. We should always keep in mind that God can easily remove anything that causes our thoughts of Him to diminish and our love for Him to cool. He can easily strip us of anything that diverts our attention away from Him.