Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Deuteronomy 8:10-18

Sermon Exegesis for Thanksgiving (Nov. 24-25) 2010
Service theme: "Give Thanks to the Lord" (Hymns CW 229, 238, 242)
Other lessons: Psalm 100:1-5 (read), Luke 17:11-19.

Context: After a look at Israel's recent history (Deut. 1-3), Moses preached about the consequences of God's deliverance (chapter 4:1-40); this was followed by the establishment of the first three cities of refuge in the Transjordan (4:41-43) and an introduction to the giving of the law (4:44-49). Moses then proclaimed the Ten Commandment once again, identical in content to the original Ten in Exodus 20 with the exception that the order of the ninth and tenth are somewhat different in Dt. 5, perhaps to call attention to the proper frame of mind for what is coming in chapter 7. Following this was the exhortation to love God (along with the Shema, Deut. 6:4), and an account of the battle plan for driving out the nations exactly according to God's instructions in chapter 7, where special attention is made to destruction of their possessions rather than confiscation of false gods, etc., due to the disastrous consequences of introducing any false worship within Israel. In chapter 8, Moses once again preaches about Israel's past, calling attention to the importance of obeying God and falling prey to the temptations of religious backsliding due to prosperity.


וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ עַל־הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן־לָךְ׃

10 You will eat and be satisfied, and bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ You will eat and be satisfied, וְאָכַלְתָּ qal waw-consecutive perfect (2 m sg); וְשָׂבָעְתָּ also a qal waw-consecutive perfect (2 m sg). The second form completes the thought of the first expressing result.

וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ and bless the LORD your God, וּבֵרַכְתָּ piel waw-consecutive perfect expressing yet another result of the preceding. The effect of the string of consecutive forms is much the same as the ascensive use of καί in the New Testament (and note the string of καί's in the LXX rather than dropping to δέ as in Deut. 10:22. Recall the words of old liturgy: "Bless we the Lord / Thanks be to God."

עַל־הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן־לָךְ for the good land he has given you. הַטֹּבָה is the articularized feminine form of טוֹב, "good." The qal perfect נָתַן reminds us that what God has promised is already an accomplished fact in his eyes, even if it has not yet taken place in time. This affects his promises to us about everything, including heave. Just because we haven't experienced heaven yet doesn't mean that it isn't a certainty.

Mp: הַטֹּבָה occurs three times written defectively (Dt 6:18; 8:10 and 11:17).


הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן־תִּשְׁכַּח אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְבִלְתִּי שְׁמֹר מִצְו‍ֹתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו וְחֻקֹּתָיו אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם׃

11 "Watch out, that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his statutes and his statutes which I am commanding you today;

הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן־תִּשְׁכַּח אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ Watch out, that you do not forget the LORD your God. This warning is only possible with reminders. We teach one another, we remind one another, and we study them ourselves. It is a fine thing to memorize the Ten Commandments; it is better to read them regularly, to remember their seriousness, and to remember the Savior who has forgiven our mistakes and our sins against them all.

לְבִלְתִּי שְׁמֹר מִצְו‍ֹתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו וְחֻקֹּתָיו by not keeping his commands and his laws and his decrees (NIV commands, laws, decrees). A command (מִצְו‍ֹתָיו) is any judgment or rule given by men or God. The NIV does well to translate "command" rather than "commandment" here. The "Ten Commandments" in Hebrew are simply the "Ten Words" (עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים). A law (וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו) is a legal decision handed down after arbitration; it is a "decision" in a legal sense, made by a judge with authority. A decree (וְחֻקֹּתָיו) is something inscribed, especially in stone but also from a very early date on paper (Job 19:23). Decrees are permanent laws. Is there a progression here in these words? Are commands any old rule (keep off the grass)? Are laws more seriously thought out judgments given by the elders in the gate (pay fifteen shekels)? Are decrees serious and permanent national regulations (the boundary runs from this well to that mountain over there)? The answer is "no." There can be no difference in the gravity of any of these rules, since each one ends the same way (תָיו- or טָיו-), "HIS." What says, is. A rule from God is no different from a command from God or a guideline from God. We keep them out of love and respect and because they are from God.

אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם which I am commanding you today; This statement brings us back into the moment, to remind us of the time when God was actually first giving these commands. For Moses, this was the second time he went through them all with the people (hence, "deutero-nomos," the second giving of the law).


פֶּן־תֹּאכַל וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבָתִּים טוֹבִים תִּבְנֶה וְיָשָׁבְתָּ׃

12 otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them,

The conjunction פֶּן־ means "lest, so that not." The "otherwise" of translations like the NIV and NASB does a good job of warning us that a change in thought is taking place. תֹּאכַל qal imperfect "eat." וְשָׂבָעְתָּ qal waw-consecutive imperfect, "and are satisfied," showing the result of the previous verb. שָׂבֵעַ is stative.

טוֹבִים is the masculine plural of טוֹב. The Mp notes says that it is written defectively: טֹבִים (Mp, "one of five times this is written defectively"), and this is why Weil placed a sub loco note in the lower margin. Evidently the defective form was before the eyes of the Masoretes in this verse when the note was being made. Gen. 27:9, 1 Sam 25:15, 1 Kings 2:32 (וְטֹבִים) and Joel 4:5 (הַטֹּבִים) are marked with the same Mp note in BHS. The 1 Kings 2:32 reference is also marked "three times defectively in the Prophets."


וּבְקָרְךָ וְצֹאנְךָ יִרְבְּיֻן וְכֶסֶף וְזָהָב יִרְבֶּה־לָּךְ וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר־לְךָ יִרְבֶּה׃

13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies,

The idea of increasing wealth is shown here in the way wealth was counted: first in terms of livestock, which was a genuine indication of wealth for nomads. Then silver and gold, though probably not in coins as we think of money today, but in valuable items made of these precious metals. Coins would come later. Finally, wealth in every nook and cranny of their lives, "all that you have" (וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר־לְךָ).

This does not mean that genuine faith will bring earthly wealth. Keep in mind that this is a warning, not a promise: If your pockets fill up, don't forget the Lord who gave it to you.


וְרָם לְבָבֶךָ וְשָׁכַחְתָּ אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ הַמּוֹצִיאֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים׃ 

14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. וְרָם is a qal waw-consecutive perfect from רוּם, "lift up, exalt" (object, "your heart"). The waw-consecutive perfect is always connected to what precedes it in temporal or logical sequence (GK par. 112a). Here וְרָם לְבָבֶךָ forms the apodosis of the warning expressed by "Watch out, do not forget..." in verse 11 and the prosperity described in the intermediate passage. There is an ominous significance to the reminder of the exodus here; the implied consequence of forgetting the Lord "who brought you out of the house of slavery" is the return to slavery--which would in fact happen to Israel.


הַמּוֹלִיכְךָ בַּמִּדְבָּר הַגָּדֹל וְהַנּוֹרָא נָחָשׁ שָׂרָף וְעַקְרָב וְצִמָּאוֹן אֲשֶׁר אֵין־מָיִם הַמּוֹצִיא לְךָ מַיִם מִצּוּר הַחַלָּמִישׁ׃

15 "He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint.

These additional consequences continue the warning of what would happen to the nation if they forgot the Lord because of the prosperity he was going to permit in their lives.

A danger here for Christians is to apply the subject as well as the object of this warning to our own present circumstances. God was addressing Israel as a chosen nation, but we have no basis to think that any one nation is the specially chosen nation of God, no matter what we print or fail to print on our money. We as individuals are the people of God, but Germany, England, America, East Timor? Canada, Denmark, Indonesia, France, Israel? None of these are God's chosen people today. The Holy Christian church, with all her members all over the world, are the people belonging to God (Hosea 2:23; 1 Peter 2:9).


הַמַּאֲכִלְךָ מָן בַּמִּדְבָּר אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָ לְמַעַן עַנֹּתְךָ וּלְמַעַן נַסֹּתֶךָ לְהֵיטִבְךָ בְּאַחֲרִיתֶךָ׃

16 "In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.

The experience of the manna in the desert (מָן בַּמִּדְבָּר) was also a reminder of God's goodness. Just as they did not become conceited about that constant but humble blessing, they should not become conceited about the quality or quantity of any blessing. The proper response to God's blessings is to that God, and to ask his guidance is best using that blessing in his service. This is one way that God tests us, to do good for us "in the end," (בְּאַחֲרִיתֶךָ). That means that whatever the outcome of a test (whether we pass or fail), after we repent of our failures and praise God for our failure to fail, our faith is deepened and our relationship with God grows. That is the purpose (לְמַעַן) of such testing, to refine us like gold.


וְאָמַרְתָּ בִּלְבָבֶךָ כֹּחִי וְעֹצֶם יָדִי עָשָׂה לִי אֶת־הַחַיִל הַזֶּה׃

17 "Otherwise, you may say in your heart, 'My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.' This thought, so common throughout the law of Moses, is carried to a new level in the latter part of Isaiah (40-66). There, one cannot turn a page between chapters 40 and 48 without coming upon a specific reference to the futility of worshiping idols of any kind, from the carved image to the subtlety of relying on magic and occultic divination.


וְזָכַרְתָּ אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ כִּי הוּא הַנֹּתֵן לְךָ כֹּחַ לַעֲשׂוֹת חָיִל לְמַעַן הָקִים אֶת־בְּרִיתוֹ אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה׃

18 "But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who is giving you power to make wealth, that he may confirm his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

True wealth comes from the Lord, even when his blessings appear to have put the creation of that wealth into our own hands.

Analysis of the passage:

10. When you have eaten (enjoyed blessings), praise the Lord.
11. Be careful, do not forget the Lord...
12. Otherwise, when you eat and build,
13. and when your property increases,
14. then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord
15. who led you out of slavery,
16. who gave you manna.
17. You will say, "My own power has produced this."
18. But don't! Remember the Lord who gave you this power, so that he may confirm his covenant.

Although this passage could be taken synthetically, it would be better to walk the listener through it so that the full impact of the grammar will be understood. "When x, do not forget, or otherwise y and z." This is a straightforward prophetic warning, not a conditional structure. The Hebrew participles are temporal, and the "conditional" flavor of the text is entirely reliant on the "otherwise when..." of verse 12. Here the reminder of God's former blessings and the warning itself both form part of the law application; Jesus himself is the only Gospel. The manna, the exodus, the release from slavery -- all of these things are only shadows of the greater Exodus that came through Christ, and for that, we owe God every thanks, and we bless his holy name.

The service theme, "Give thanks to the Lord," is a good theme for the sermon. A good point of focus here would be to bring out the error of assuming that our political nation is equivalent to the spiritual nation of God, and to remind ourselves of exactly what makes us God's people, what his promised blessings are, and what the consequences are of rejecting those specific blessings -- and of God's forgiveness for that sin.

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