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The intention of "the way in the wilderness" is twofold: humiliation and probation.
I. All things are humbling. A much shorter period than forty years will be enough to make every one feel the deep humiliation of life, (1) It is a very humbling thing to receive kindness. (2) There are very humbling sorrows: sickness and bereavement; nothing can be more humiliating than these. (3) Sin is the great abaser. Failure is marked upon a thousand things. No thought is more humbling to the Christian man than the remembrance of his sins.
II. With humiliation is probation. "To humble thee, and to prove thee." It was God's plan when He made this world to make it a probationary world. Probation is God's putting a man to the test to see whether He loves Him, and how much he loves Him. That which is a temptation on the part of Satan for the malevolence with which he uses it is a probation on God's part for the love wherewith He permits it. God always proves His child, and the more He gives him, the more He proves him. Whenever He bestows a grace, He puts that grace to the test.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 14th series, p. 156.
(1) Emphasise the word all, for on that word the emphasis of the sentence truly lies. (2) Consider that it is a way. The character of the path is to be estimated, not by present difficulty or danger, but by the importance of the end. (3) Consider the infinite variety of the way. (4) Consider the beauty of the way. (5) Consider the bread of the wilderness. The miracle of the manna is repeated every day before our eyes. (6) Remember the perils of the wilderness. (7) Remember the sins of the wilderness. (8) Remember the chastisements of the wilderness. (9) Remember the Elims of the way. (10) Consider the end of the way.
J. Baldwin Brown, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 371.
There are two main considerations suggested by this passage.
I. What we should be chiefly occupied with as we look back. (1) Let memory work under the distinct recognition of Divine guidance in every part of the past. (2) We are to judge of the things that we remember by their tendency to make character, to make us humble, to reveal us to ourselves, and to knit us in glad obedience to our Father God.
II. Turn now to the other consideration which may help to make remembrance a good, viz., the issues to which our retrospect must tend if it is to be anything more than sentimental recollection. (1) Let us remember and be thankful. (2) Let us remember and let the memory lead to contrition. (3) Let us remember in order that from the retrospect we may get practical wisdom. (4) Let us remember that we may hope.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 1st series, p. 151.
References: Deuteronomy 8:2 . Congregationalist, vol. vii., p. 530; T. Binney, Weighhouse Chapel Sermons, 1st series, p. 13; T. Kelly, Pulpit Trees, p. 309.
I. The text shows us what God did with Israel. (1) He sent them back to wander in the desert through forty years, sent them back from entering the land which He eventually intended to give them. We see only brief time before us as our day in which to work. God does not hasten, for eternity is before Him as His working day. (2) God exposed His people to much difficulty and hardship, but He did not suffer them to sink under their troubles. They were long kept from Canaan, but God did not forsake His people.
II. What did God mean by dealing thus with Israel? (1) He treated them in this way to humble them. (2) He dealt with them thus to show them what material they were made of. (3) He wished to show them further what He could do. (4) His end in His dealings with Israel was instruction and correction, and all the spiritual advantages to be derived from it.
III. Notice what God requires in respect of that instruction and correction. "Thou shalt remember." What a mighty effect memory has upon life! Through the power of memory man finds in the past and present one continuous life. Remember the way the Lord hath led thee. Every man has a way to himself, and every man of God sees God choosing that way, and leading him in that way.
S. Martin, The Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 4th series, No. ix.
This is the lesson of our lives. This is God's training, not only for the Jews, but for us. We read these verses to teach us that God's ways with man do not change; that His fatherly hand is over us, as well as over the people of Israel; that their blessings are our blessings, their dangers are our dangers; that, as St. Paul says, all these things are written for our example.
I. "He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger." How true to life that is; how often there comes to a man, at his setting out in life, a time which humbles him, when his fine plans fail him, and he has to go through a time of want and struggle. His very want, and struggles, and anxiety may be God's help to him. If he be earnest and honest, patient and God-fearing, he prospers; God brings him through. God holds him up, strengthens and refreshes him, and so the man learns that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
II. There is another danger which awaits us, as it awaited those old Jews: the danger of prosperity in old age. It is easy for a man who has fought the battle with the world, and conquered more or less, to say in his heart, as Moses feared that those old Jews would say, "My might and the power of my wit hath gotten me this wealth," and to forget the Lord his God, who guided him and trained him through all the struggles and storms of early life, and so to become vainly confident, worldly and hard-hearted, undevoted and ungodly, even though he may keep himself respectable enough, and fall into no open sin.
III. Old age itself is a most wholesome and blessed medicine for the soul of man. Anything is good which humbles us, makes us feel our own ignorance, weakness, nothingness, and cast ourselves on that God in whom we live, and move, and have our being, and on the mercy of that Saviour who died for us on the Cross, and on that Spirit of God from whose holy inspiration alone all good desires and good actions come.
C. Kingsley, Discipline, and Other Sermons, p. 40.
If this text be true, what a strange comment on it is the world at the present hour! Turn to whatever class of our countrymen you like, and in every accent of their voices you will hear uttered their practical belief that they can live by bread alone. It is for bread that is, for material things that men toil, and strive, and exhaust their finest energies. Now, if ever, it is needful to thunder in the ears of our countrymen, "Man shall not live by bread alone." And as statesmen, and philosophers, and priests behold these things, each comes forward with his Gospel for mankind.
I. We have the "Gospel of education:" Let us take care that each child learns the elementary principles of knowledge, and we must hope that the coming generation shall have a higher form of national and social life. Education is good, but if men look to it as a panacea for the evils around them, they will assuredly one day find out their terrible mistake. Man doth not live by the fruits of the tree of knowledge alone.
II. We have then the message of the philosophers: Let us eat of the tree of science and live for ever. But science is not the bread for sorrowing, sinning humanity. This is not the tree whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.
III. The only power that can win souls from their selfishness and sin is the preaching of a personal, crucified Christ; the Incarnate Word of God is still and ever the bread by which nations and men must live. It was not a new science, it was not an improved philosophy, it was not the idyllic life of a Galilean peasant, that men preached in the early days, in the purple dawn, of Christianity, and by the preaching of it shook the empire and revolutionised the world. And it is not by a vague, "accommodating theology," with no doctrinal articulation which, polype-like, floats on the tides of human thought, rising as they rise, falling as they fall, that men and nations can be saved now. It is as of old by the preaching of the Word, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. "I am the Bread of life," said Christ.
I. Teignmouth Shore, The Life of the World to Come, p. 39.
References: Deuteronomy 8:3 . A. Macleod, The Gentle Heart, p. 211; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 418. Deuteronomy 8:3-6 . Ibid., vol. xvi., No. 939; Parker, Christian Chronicle, June 4th, 1885.
In the text we have Moses' answer to the first great question in politics: What makes a nation prosperous?
To that wise men have always answered, as Moses answered, "Good government is government according to the laws of God." That alone makes a nation prosperous. But the multitude, who are not wise men, give a different answer. They say, "What makes a nation prosperous is its wealth."
I. Moses does not deny that wealth is a good thing. He takes for granted that the Jews will grow very rich, but he warns them that their riches, like all other earthly things, may be a curse or a blessing to them. When riches multiplied, they might forget God, and say, "My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth."
II. God gives power to get wealth in two ways: (1) He gives the raw material; (2) He gives the wit to use it. Moses bade the people remember that they owed all to God. What they had, they had of God's free gift What they were, they were of God's free grace. Therefore they were not to boast of themselves, their numbers, their wealth, their armies, their fair and fertile land. They were to make their boast of God, of God's goodness.
III. If we as a nation go on trusting in ourselves rather than God; if we keep within us the hard, self-sufficient spirit, and boast to ourselves, "My power and the strength of my hands have got me this and that," and, in fact, live under the notion, which too many have, that we could do very well without God's help if God would let us alone then we are heaping up ruin and shame for ourselves, and for our children after us. In this sense God is indeed a jealous God, who will not give His honour to another, but will punish those who trust in anything except Himself.
C. Kingsley, Gospel of the Pentateuch, p. 197.
References: Deuteronomy 8:15 . J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 336. Deuteronomy 8:16 . Parker, vol. iv., p. 168. Deuteronomy 8:18 . Ibid., p. 188; Hidden Springs, p. 254.Deuteronomy 8:19 . W. J. Butler, Sermons for Working Men, p. 353.Deuteronomy 8:0 Parker, vol. iv., p. 160.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 8". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany