“All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers.” (Deuteronomy 8:1)
Most people want to pick and choose which rules they want to follow. In Jesus’ day, the Scribes and Pharisees focused on minor details while ignoring major provisions according to Matthew 23:23. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” We tend to pick the rules that require little sacrifice or effort and ignore those that are harder to do. Israel’s contract with God required fulfilling all the commands, not just the ones they liked.
James 2:10-11 is quite specific. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” A minor infraction is just as much a violation as a major one, even though it‘s immediate effect may be different. Failure to keep it all trivializes the value of any of the law.
The final responsibility in the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 is “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” Unless they know what God expects, they cannot be the people God wants them to be. I Peter 1:14-16 describes what is expected. “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”
Romans 2:5-11 contrasts the different results from obedience and disobedience. “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God.” God is not going to change the rules to satisfy our desires or situation.
“And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.
Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee. Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-6)
If Israel would remember how God had worked through the forty years in the wilderness, supplying their needs and bringing judgment when they disobeyed they would know how to please him and conduct themselves. They would also understand his ability to supply whatever they needed.
“For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.
When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10)
The land God was going to give them would provide everything they needed to live, from the water to drink and the necessary fruits and vegetables and grazing for livestock and even the metal to make tools, both brass and iron. There would be no reason for them to go without. It was critical they take the time to be thankful for what they had. Most of the time discontented people do not have less than others, they just don’t appreciate what they have.
“Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in 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.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-17)
When ones only source of food is his garden, it is easy for him to remember to water it, but as he becomes able to obtain food other places it becomes easier to neglect waterin the garden because he is less aware of the need. In the same way, as Israel became more prosperous, it would be easy to neglect the very things that made them prosperous. Many times a business fails because they adopt a new philosophy that neglects the attitude that drew customers to them in the first place. Israel might well decide their success was the result of their skill in management rather than of God’s blessing their obedience.
“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.” (Deuteronomy 8:18)
Just as a successful business often finds it necessary to constantly remind their employees of the company philosophy of service and quality that made them successful, Israel would need to constantly remind themselves that it was God’s blessing that made them prosperous.
“And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 8:19-20)
Just as forgetting what set them apart from their competitors leads to the decline and collapse of a business, failure to maintain their distinctive obedience to God would surely lead to the decline and collapse of Israel because they would no longer be different. Different results cannot be expected unless something has been done differently.