If you have read the Book of Isaiah, you know that God threatened his people with exile to distant lands because of their sin. In 586 B.C. the exile to Babylon took place and the people didn’t return to the land until 538 B.C.
In the 1300’s B.C. Moses gave Hebrew people instructions that were designed to keep them faithful to God. Like the prophets, Moses taught that faithfulness to God would ensure the military and economic success of the nation.
On the other hand, Moses taught that unfaithfulness would result in defeat and exile.
There are several applications of Moses’ message that are appropriate for 2021.
The Danger of Complacency
The farther we are removed from powerful acts of God the easier it is to become complacent. The failure to guard our relationship with God is a danger to be avoided.
Moses said this about complacency: “When you have had children and children’s children, and become complacent in the land, if you act corruptly by making an idol in the form of anything, thus doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, and provoking him to anger . . . (Deuteronomy 4.25).
Webster’s Dictionary defines complacency as being “marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”
Isaiah frequently challenged his audience to renounce pride and self-sufficiency. As God’s people were about to enter the land, Moses warned them to avoid self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction. He knew the danger of that kind of behavior.
It is a small step to move from self-sufficiency to devotion to things of our own making. Why does God consider this behavior so offensive?
In 2002 a Kansas City pharmacist diluted 98,000 doses of chemotherapy drugs. His behavior affected the lives of 4,200 patients.
Robert Courtney’s drugs pretended to be the “real” thing, but they were a murderous imitation. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his actions.
Like diluted chemotherapy drugs, idolatry pretends to be a “real” god but is a disastrous dilution of the One True God.
Self-satisfaction leads to self-sufficiency, which leads to the making of diluted substitutes for God, which leads to disaster.
What God Said He’d Do
Complacency fails to take notice of the dangers of some behavior. Deuteronomy was Moses’ speech to the Hebrew nation, warning them to remain in a faithful relationship with the God who freed them from slavery in Egypt.
— Verse 26 – I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to occupy; you will not live long on it but will be utterly destroyed.
I am currently reading a book, “Why Nations Fail.” I have only read about one-third of the book, but the core theme is evident. From the earliest available records, nations fail because people disregard God’s fundamental guidance.
My interpretation of the book’s theme fits Moses’ message. Observance of the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5) is essential to the health of a nation. To disregard God’s direction is dangerous to individuals and nations.
— Verse 27-28 – The Lord will scatter you among the peoples; only a few of you will be left among the nations where the Lord will lead you.
There you will serve other gods made by human hands, objects of wood and stone that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.
The slide of devotion into idolatry resulted in the exile of God’s people. The worship of human self-sufficiency became the forced worship of pagan gods in exile.
There is a parallel between what happened to the Hebrew people and addiction. I don’t know of anyone who began their experiment with drugs or alcohol with the idea of becoming an addict.
However, what began as an act of prideful self-interest became a forced addiction. They became unable to live without drugs or alcohol.
Praise God, there is a solution for addicts to our idols.
There is a Solution
Moses told the people of God’s solution for their exile and forced idol worship.
He said, “From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul.
“In your distress, when all these things have happened to you in time to come, you will return to the Lord your God and heed him.
“Because the Lord your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them” (Deuteronomy 4.29-31).
Like the story of the Prodigal Son, God is ready to rejoice over our return to him. As we seek for him with our whole heart and soul, he will be found.
I have a deep appreciation for addicts. They have educated me about addiction and the powerful grip alcohol and drugs have on humans.
They also are great examples of these verses. Many of my friends sought God at a place of “rock bottom” in their lives.
God heard their prayer, did not abandon them and set them free from their addiction. Some of the most vibrant Christians I know are those who have experienced God’s grace like that of the Prodigal Son.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I discuss this section of Deuteronomy 4 on today’s YouTube Video. You can view it on the Bob Spradling channel. Rudy will add outstanding insights from his Jewish background and love of God.
I am indebted to Peter Craigie for his commentary on Deuteronomy.
Please email your prayer requests to email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.