Deuteronomy 8: Comments, Questions, and Challenges

1 “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.

There’s something interesting about the reasons that are often given to God-following folk in biblical texts: these reasons often appeal to consequentialist type concerns. They often look something like this: Do X because that’ll result in some good consequence for you. A part of me feels kind of weird about these sorts of reasons. It kind of seems like God is inviting a view of himself as a divine doggie-treat dispenser here. It seems like it’d be better if the ultimate justification for our doing something is because of our love for God. We should obey regardless of our interests…kind of like Shadrach and folk.

These sentiments can all be translated into more moral language. The distinction between “do X because of good consequences for you and your kin” and “do X our of a love for God roughly tracks the kind of distinction between enlightened egoism and true morality.” In metaethics class, I often wonder about how we can get someone motivated to be truly moral. I think there are some parallel wonderings to be had about how to get someone to be truly motivated to love God. Depending on which kind of day I’m having, these wonderings are actually identical.

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[a] that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

This is just interesting. I didn’t know that “man does not live by bread alone…from the mouth of the Lord” was the upshot of a particular kind of experience, an experience of God humbling us. I wonder if Jesus meant to bring in the association of Israelites wondering in the desert when he dropped this quote in his convo with Satan.

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. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

These words strike me as providing a vision of the potential Good. There’s an analogous vision going on in the gospel: the vision of the coming of the kingdom. The importance of vision for both the wondering Israelites and for Jesus and his follower folk seems to say something about my tradition: vision plays a big role in the religious life within this tradition. Vision is something that I have been lacking lately.

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