Deuteronomy 8: 6-14a (NIV)
6 Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig-trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God …
As I was preparing to leave Ethiopia after a ministry visit there among Ethiopian Christian leaders, one prayed for me that, on my return to Australia, affluence would not distract me or divert my focus from the Lord. His prayer was wise and insightful. That prayer continues to be appropriate for me as I am sure it is for others who have experienced some of the issues confronting the Christian church in developing countries. His prayer was also soundly based on Scripture.
A major section of the Book of Deuteronomy is devoted to Moses’ address to the children of Israel as they prepared to enter the promised land (Deuteronomy 5: 1):
Moses summoned all Israel and said: “Hear, O Israel, the decrees and the laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them.”
Three chapters later, in the passage above, God through Moses warned of the dangers and temptations that arise when our physical needs are satisfied and when we begin to feel very comfortable. These words describe attitudes common in Australia today and probably just as common in other Western nations where comfort has led to complacency:
12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God …
As we celebrate Australia Day, can we be attentive to a call back to the Lord, a call that requires of us even greater loyalty and faithfulness than we owe to the nation of which we are citizens? Again the words of Moses are appropriate for guidance and prayer (Deuteronomy 10: 12-13).
And now, O Israel (O Australia), what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
Let us pledge to live out verse 10 of chapter 8 today:
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.