March 15, 2018 Chapel Service — Tyler Kenney
Posted On March 19, 2018
Tyler Kenney is digital content manager at Ligonier Ministries and a graduate of Bethlehem Seminary in Minneapolis.
I’ve been around a few decades now, I’m in my thirties, and it wasn’t until recently though that I realized that basically for my entire life, I have been in a state of waiting. As a child I remember waiting every year for Christmas; at the start of the month we would make one of these paper chains counting down the days of Christmas, and every day you’d rip one off in class and it would just take forever. And, you’re just always waiting for that chain to get shorter and shorter. And before too long, Christmas would come, but then it would also be gone again just as quickly. And then, you find yourself waiting for the next holiday, the next stash of candy to come in through Easter, then summer vacation, or then finishing class first, or waiting for my birthday to come around; it’s this cycle through my younger years, I was always just waiting for the next thing. And then, you see this happening as you grow up, too, and later in life. I began to wait for some of the bigger life events; getting my driver’s license, finishing high school, finishing college, landing my first full-time job, meeting my wife, and so on. And, this is really the story of all of our lives. We are always in a state of waiting, it seems, if you think about it that way; Christians and non-Christians. We go through life from one thing to the next, and almost as soon as we reach one, we find ourselves waiting for the next, and there seems to be no end to it.
I mentioned a few other things that I waited for in my life, and we all share some common things that we wait for. For some of us, there are more particular things we wait for, or we wait for things that other people don’t. So, for some, the wait for a spouse is much longer than they had hoped. Others, once they do marry, they wait for children; that doesn’t come immediately. Others who have children quickly, are really eager, waiting for them to grow up and get out of the house before too long. Some of us find ourselves waiting for healing from a physical or mental illness. Or, waiting for reconciliation in a broken relationship or for a sense of calling, of vocation for our lives. Some of us are waiting for retirement after that point. And then, some in retirement are waiting for death. And as Christians, we also find ourselves waiting for other things in addition to these that are common to every man. We’re waiting for progress in our sanctification, growth, the death of sins that beleaguer us. We wait for the salvation of family and friends and ultimately for the return of our savior. Some of you are waiting for me to be done listing out the things that we wait for. But, you get my point, and that is, each of our lives could be described as waiting from one thing to the next until the end of our days.
And, I should point out the obvious thing that some of these things are good things. We are not waiting for things that are bad. These are, in some cases, things that the Lord even commands of us; “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth,” is one of the oldest commands, the first command we see in Scripture towards man. And, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” And so, we know that the things we wait for aren’t necessarily bad, and yet, we find that God doesn’t always give them to us when we hope for them or when we would expect them, and in some cases, we wait for things that never come.
But, we still have to wait. And, we don’t know exactly what God is going to give, when He’s going to give it, how, or even if. And, this is why waiting can be a precarious thing. Because, when it gets tough, Satan loves to come and sow doubts in our hearts and discord between God’s people. We begin to doubt God’s goodness. We begin to wonder, “will God even provide for me?”, “ I can’t see how this will end well”, “My life certainly won’t be as good as I had hoped it would be.” Or, we experience division with other people. We see God blessing them, giving them good gifts, and the ones we’re waiting for, and we begin to envy them, even in some cases to despise their happiness. We turn inward in self pity and we isolate ourselves to avoid the pain. So, unbelief, envy, ill-will, self-pity, hopelessness, anxiety, and other traps are all strewn about as we are waiting for the Lord through different phases of our lives. And, I imagine you all can relate to some of these traps that you may have gotten snared in along your path. And so, we really need God’s help in our waiting, not just to endure the wait, but to wait well. We’re all aware of people who do not wait well. Children who ask in the back of the car, “how much longer, how much longer, how much longer?” And it doesn’t make it any easier.
So, the passage I want to look at today in Deuteronomy is one that I think can really help us in waiting well. Just a quick note on why I chose this, I spent a year of my college days serving with a Christian ministry in the middle of Eastern Europe, in Slovakia. It was a very lonely time for me, a very difficult time for me, there was division on our team, and I found myself just waiting, longing to go home, to be back in America. And, the Lord used this verse to convict me, this passage to convict me, to encourage me, and I hope that it might have the same effect for you today. So, please turn with me to Deuteronomy 8 and we’re going to read the first ten verses. Deuteronomy 8:1-10:
“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”
Let me pray before we go any further. “Heavenly Father I give you thanks for this opportunity for us to look into your word. I pray that you’d grant me faithfulness as one who endeavors to teach, that I would speak truly and be a servant to these your people gathered. And, that you would grant them grace to listen and to hear and to obey. I ask in Christ’s name, amen.
So, what’s going on here in this passage? You’re probably aware, Deuteronomy, Greek for “deuteros namas”, the second law, this is Moses on the edge of the Jordan with the people of Israel. They are across the Jordan, ready to enter into the Promised Land and Moses is finishing his ministry. He is capping off years of serving the people of Israel, having been the mediator between them and God on Mount Sinai, and having received the law, he is now delivering it again to the people of Israel, and also with the law, exhorting them to obey it. Because they are going to pass over and he is not. We are aware that Moses disbelieved God, he did not honor Him and glorify Him in their eyes at the waters of Meribah and he was kept from entering the Promised Land. But, these people are going over.
And, it’s important to remember that these aren’t the same people who came out of Egypt. The people that came out of Egypt have all died in the wilderness, at least those who were 20 years old and older. They, like Moses, rebelled against God, they disbelieved God, and were punished with the consignment to live out the rest of their days in the wilderness; not to enter the Promised Land like they were initially able to do if they were to believe in God. And so, this new generation that Moses is speaking to are the children of those who died in the wilderness. And this generation, has survived to this point. They have in fact, trusted God. They did not succumb to the subsequent rebellions after the initial rebellion at Kadesh Barnea where the spies came back and gave the bad report and that generation was consigned to never enter the Promised Land. There were subsequent rebellions after that. Korah, his rebellion, we’re aware of, or the grumbling in the wilderness about not having food, and God sent the fiery serpents. And there was also the incident with the Midianites at the Baal of Peor. And in each of those cases, thousands of Israelites died. But, this generation, as Deuteronomy 4 says, are those who have held fast to the Lord. So, until this point this is a believing people. And so, what’s going on here is Moses is restating the law, the terms of the Sinai covenant to a new and, up to this point, faithful generation, and charging them to obey God’s law.
I want to consider also here, what is Moses’ argument? So, we have kind of the scene, we understand what’s going on here. Now, what is Moses arguing with them for? Because we see here it’s more than just stating the law, he is making a case. He is giving them reasons and trying to persuade them to obey this law. So, let’s look at it starting in verse 1: “The whole commandment I command you today you shall be careful to do that you may live and multiply and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers.” We see here a simple charge by Moses for the people to do, “to do the whole commandment that I command you.” But in addition, we also see that he’s giving them some motivation, some rationale as to why you should do this. And, he’s talking about the great blessings that would come to them if they were to obey. They will live and multiply and go in and possess the land. And, this promise blessing is a wonderful and gracious offer to Israel, in and of itself. Why should they receive such a great thing for obeying the Lord? He’s the Creator, they owe it to Him to obey. And yet, He has promised to reward them so generously for obeying. And of course we know that this offer is not just new to them but this is the promise to Abraham and his descendants forever. And so it ties this back to the covenant of grace of a God promised to Abraham.
But, consider also, that these are the children of those who rebelled in the wilderness, and so there is a second level of graciousness here, I think, from the Lord, where He has given this generation a second chance to enter the Promised Land. Where they were totally undeserving of that, in addition to being totally undeserving of the promise to begin with. So, we see God’s abundant graciousness even in offering this opportunity for them to obey again and have another chance to enter the Promised Land. And yet, we see as we go a little further, that Moses doesn’t stop here by promising this blessing, or focusing on the future blessing that they can receive. He doesn’t just appeal to the future award. It’s as if he sees the need for something more, for something stronger than just a promise of future blessing to motivate the people to obey. Perhaps because, like us, they are prone to disbelieve that God will in fact deliver on something He’s promised. “Aren’t there still giants living in Canaan? Aren’t there still the same fearful things that our fathers heard about and rebelled against because of that?” It’s not going to be easy going into the Promised Land now, it wasn’t before. And so, there are the same doubts and questions and uncertainties that they, too, will face as a new generation approaching the Promised Land.
So, I think this is why in verses 2-5, Moses strengthens his case for them about why it’s good for them to obey by turning them actually not to the future, but to look to the past. He calls them to remember their past, and in doing so he wants to shine a lot on some of the lessons from that past that should fuel their continued obedience now and into the future. So, verses 2-4:
“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these 40 years in the wilderness, that He might humble you. Testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not and He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with mana which you did not know nor did your fathers know that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone. But man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
What do we see in these verses that Moses wants them to remember? I see two things essentially. First, he wants them to remember the hardship they’ve endured; the difficulty of their days, what he has led them through in the wilderness. And, we see this in verse 2 and the beginning of verse 3 with the: “humbling you, testing you to know what was in your heart, letting you hunger.” Moses wants them to remember the dire straits that they were in. He calls it, “the great and terrifying wilderness” down in verse 15, referring to what they’ve just come through. This has not been an easy path. He wants them to remember that, it was hard. Remember that it was tough. How difficult and hopeless that situation was. This is two million people approximately, six hundred thousand males who came out of Egypt, and all of their wives and children. This is a lot of people, they’re in the desert, there are no wells, they have no fields, no crops, they are camping and they don’t have equipment, essentially, maybe a few items they’ve brought with them from Egypt— such an unlikely case for survival. And God wants them to remember that. Remember what a tough situation you were in.
And, the second thing He wants them to remember is how He provided for them in that situation. We see this in verses 3 and 4. He said, “He let you hunger but He fed you with mana which you did not know nor did your fathers know.” And then in verse 4, “your clothing didn’t wear out and your foot did not swell.” He maintained their lives in remarkable ways. He provided for them in ways that were miraculous, that no other people would have survived in this wilderness. They would have died without God’s provision, and he wants them to remember that here.
So, in these two things that he calls them to remember he also states the particular lessons from them, those two things that they are remembering that he wants them to draw out. We see that here in the text as well. So, the first lesson, looking at their predicament, he wants them to see, at the end of verse 2, he wants them to “know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandment or not.” He tested them in order to bring to light the heart of the Israelites. So, the lesson in the testing was to reveal the condition of their hearts; whether they had hearts that would obey, or whether they would, like their fathers, rebel in a time of trial, whether they would abandon their faith. And, the apparent outcome of that was they indeed had faith, at least for those who have now survived to hear Moses tell them that. The other’s who did not have faith perished in the wilderness.
But, there’s a question here in who’s learning this? Doesn’t God already know that they have hearts? Doesn’t He know where their hearts are? He doesn’t have to test them to know that. I think there’s kind of a two fold effect here. In one sense, the language accommodates a little bit to paint God as if He is in some ways learning what their heart is like. And, not because He is deficient in knowledge about what would happen, in fact, He’s the one who would even put faith in there in the first place to cause them to believe. But, I think it’s to underscore the fact that He is indeed looking for faith in the heart of His people, in that such faith is required of them to be keepers of His covenant. And, this is an opportunity for them to prove, in a sense, to God that they are faithful. But, in the same sense, it’s proving it to them as well. They are learning about themselves, they’re seeing that they endure and they’re seeing the work of God in their hearts, to give them faith and to enable them to continue believing and obeying despite trial and hardship. They’re seeing that they are not rocky soil that springs up with joy then perishes because of the sun, but they’re good soil that has roots and that can endure hardship; that they’re not like their fathers. And so, that was the lesson of the hunger and the testing and the hardship that God wanted them to remember; that it proved their hearts caused them to know, and in a sense, for God to know, or to prove it to the Lord that they are those who have hearts of faith.
Secondly, referring to God’s provision, what’s the lesson in what God provided for them? This second thing that he calls them to remember, His provision, and he makes that clear here in verse 3: “He fed you with mana which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” So, the lesson here is that Israel would learn that they don’t live solely on their own, or solely by natural means, but that God Himself is sustaining them and giving them life. Notice that this is taught, in this verse by the mana in particular. “He fed you with mana that He might make you know,” and he uses language here, “you didn’t know mana, your fathers didn’t know mana, but I wanted you to know on account of the mana that man doesn’t live by bread alone.” And, it actually kind of perplexed me as I thought about it because mana is called bread in Exodus 16, “and so you fed them with bread so that they would learn that man does not live by bread,” and I was a little – I don’t quite see what is going on here?
I was able to consult a little bit of Calvin on that and it helped me to get some clarity there and I think really what Moses is getting at here is that bread, in this case when he’s referring to man does not live by bread alone, he’s referring to bread as simply bread. This is the stuff that Israel has enjoyed in Egypt; you get wheat out of the field, you mill it, you bake it, this is calories and vitamins, it’s bread and he’s referring to it simply as that. And, he’s saying that you don’t live simply by bread alone but by something more than bread. So, you do have bread, but you need more than that and that’s what mana is a picture of. Mana is unlike any other bread that Israel has ever had and that’s why it’s called to their attention. “You didn’t know this, your fathers didn’t know it.” This is a unique provision from the Lord and it was provided daily from no apparent natural cause. It even skipped Saturdays. The Lord provided it six days a week in the morning but not one day a week, and it rotted every night if you kept it in a pot except for Friday night; it stayed so you had food on Saturday morning. And so, it’s just remarkable provision from the Lord so uniquely designed and provided that it could not be explained away by some naturalistic cause, some deistic, or atheistic Israelite saying: “well, this could have happened another away.” God could have provided for them by them stumbling upon some abandoned field of wheat. Some lost civilization with all these wells dug and all these things but He didn’t. He provided for them in this very unique way to show them His particular care for them in the wilderness; that He was sustaining them and providing for them.
And, this seems to be confirmed by how Christ quotes the same verse. We’re aware of when He’s tempted in the wilderness by Satan to turn stones into bread to have food to satisfy His physical hunger, He says, “Man doesn’t live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” He was not given mana like Israel was, at least we’re not aware that He was, but God provided for Him in another unique and remarkable way by sending angels to minister to Him. We see that in Matthew and Mark that that’s how God provided for Him in a moment of weakness and of trial. And then, we see in verse 4 that God calls out other special provisions here with their clothing— they didn’t wear out, remarkable. Forty years, I mean, how many pairs of clothes do we go through? I mean, none of us are even – you know like, I’m not 40 and I’ve gone through a lot of clothes. So, it’s just remarkable, that provision, and that their feet did not swell and it seems to imply that they maintained health, that their wandering did not wear them out or bring them to death.
So, the lesson here in God’s special provision for Israel is that Israel does not live by their earthly provisions alone, the ones that they so often pine for back in Egypt, pots of meat and leeks, and onions and all these things, even the protections perhaps of a standing army in the land. Even if they were slaves there was some comfort there and God says, “you don’t live by those things alone, but you live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. I sustain, I provide for you.” And Moses really summarizes these three verses, 2-4, in verse 5 when he gives this illustration saying: “Know then in your heart, that as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.” So, in the same way that a father shows tough love to his son and puts him through difficulty, let’s him endure hardship, disciplines his son, lets him face adversity, all the while ensuring that he has everything he needs in the midst of it, he feels the tension, he feels the trial, but he never lets him go. In that same way, the Lord was doing that for Israel. The Lord was testing Israel, but at the same time, underneath them, maintaining them, sustaining them, holding them. And, the purpose was that they might be strengthened as we think about an earthly father. He lets his children go through these things, even leads his children into difficulty to strengthen them, to mature them, and ultimately to see that they are better off in every way. And then, any son who has a father like this, in time, comes to appreciate and love and trust their father more on account of it.
Hebrews 12 talks about this where no discipline at the time is pleasant but it “yields the fruit of righteousness,” and that God disciplines His people for their good that they might share in His holiness. And, it says that we learn to respect our fathers that treated us that way when we grow older. We don’t appreciate it in the moment, but later on we consider the investment of time and effort that it was for them. The intentionality that they had to lead us in that way, and the care to sustain us, and we love them and we trust them more for it. That’s the mindset that Moses is appealing to by calling them to remember these things in the wilderness.
So, to summarize where we’ve come in the first five verses, there’s this call to obey because if you obey, you’ll get blessings in the land. Maybe you doubt that that might happen—step back, look at already what’s happened in the wilderness here. Remember what God has done for you here in the wilderness. He tested you to prove you, to reveal a heart of faith in you and he has provided for you all the way to show His special love and to teach you, ultimately, that He is your loving Father and to prove that He will care for you, not just in the past, but going into the future. That these blessings will be yours if you trust in Him. And in so doing, that encourages them to continue trusting Him. And so, when we get to verse 6, he goes back to talking about keeping the commandments. He goes back to his thing in verse 1. “So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him.” And then, he follows that by another appeal to all the blessings that will come in this Promised Land, but in much more depth, talking about all the kinds of riches they will experience there, the bread without scarcity and fountains and springs and wheat and barley and fig trees and pomegranates and all these things. But, notice what’s different here at the very end in verse 10, he doesn’t end with just saying that they’re going to have all these great things. Notice carefully how he finishes that: “You shall eat and be full and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land that He has given you.” What does he add here that you didn’t see in verse 1? What’s distinct about a humbled, tested, and faithful people’s enjoyment of God’s good blessings to them? They respond by blessing the Lord in return. They have hearts that have been softened and purified and made grateful so they’re able to see through the gifts, through the bread, through the wine, through the wells, and the wives and the children, and the health and the ministry, and the profitable job, and whatever it is that you’re waiting for God for. They’re able to see through that whenever they receive it to enjoy, above all else, the Giver of those gifts. And this is in fact the greatest blessedness, to have a heart that blesses God. More than all the pleasures of Canaan, this is the richest and most lasting, to be able to see and enjoy God Himself. No other blessing exceeds it, nor is any other blessing secure without it.
As we’ll see in the future of Israel, those who don’t bless the Lord, do not last. The Promised Land is lost and they’re exiled. They enjoyed all the good things but failed to bless the Lord their God. And so, when we consider what God is doing here in the wilderness, He’s preparing them not to be like that. And, this generation is a generation that believed in God and trusted Him. They took the Promised Land, sure there were failings, but it says in the beginning of Judges that that generation feared the Lord and Joshua led them, he feared the Lord all of his days, passed away, and they feared the Lord all of their days and passed away. But, it was the next generation that started to turn away from the Lord. That’s really what God is doing here. He is using the wilderness, He’s using the waiting and the trial and the difficulty, and also His provision in what He teaches them in all these things, to test and teach and train them to obey Him, and to bless Him for their many years to come in the wilderness.
So, back to us and how this applies to us. We’re all waiting on the Lord for certain things. Our whole life is waiting, right? we established that at the beginning, waiting for one thing or another. Individually we wait for God’s blessing in every new phase of our lives. Even as the body of Christ, we wait. We call out with the apostle John at the end of his revelation, “Come Lord Jesus!” We’re waiting for Him to return. I wanted to note that that’s really kind of a theme of our lives as Christians and it’s really kind of similar as to when we talk about the Christian life as a race of faith or as a, “good fight” as Paul refers to it in Timothy, and; that waiting is also a way to think about the Christian life. If you saw my title in the invitation to the chapel message, or the notice about what I was going to be talking about, I titled it: “The Wait of Faith.” In a sense to try to play on the word, we talked about the race of faith, because it sounds active, we’re doing something, we’re moving, we’re going somewhere, where waiting doesn’t really feel like that. You feel like, “I’m not bearing fruit, I’m just sitting here waiting for the Lord to provide,” and that’s not really the case. God is using your waiting, and your waiting is a very active thing. You are actively trusting in God’s promises, looking to Him to provide what you desire. And, ultimately in the end, when you receive it, if you’ve waited well, you’ll bless Him for it and not idolize the thing He’s given you. The good news for all of those who hope in Christ is that all of our waiting bears fruit, all of our waiting on the Lord has God’s intended effect. And, one day our wait will be over. We won’t wait forever, our whole lives is a series of waiting, but one day it will be over. Our salvation is closer now than when we first believed, and on the day that you enter into glory, you will bless God for every single step that He has led you on the way to His side and to His company; and that will be for your everlasting joy and His everlasting glory.
Transcripts are lightly edited.