Day 24  Deuteronomy 8 ... Perils of Success

“When things are bad, we are not ashamed of our God.  We are only ashamed of Him when things are going well.”  Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote those words to explain why it was in a Siberian concentration camp that he had first learned to pray.  He turned to prayer because he had no other hope.  Before his arrest, when things were going well, he had seldom given God a thought.

Moses expressed something very similar in his summary speech to the Israelites.  They had learned the habit of depending on God in the Sinai wilderness, where they had no choice; they needed his intervention each day just to eat and drink.  But now, on the banks of the Jordan River, they were about to face a more difficult test of faith.  After they entered the land of plenty, would they soon forget the God who had given it to them?

Desert-bred, the Israelites knew little about the seductions of other cultures: the alluring sensuality, the exotic religions, the glittering wealth.  Now they were preparing to march into a region known for these enticements, and Moses seemed to fear the coming prosperity far more than the rigors of the desert.  In the beautiful land, the Promised Land, the Israelites might put God behind them and credit themselves for their success.

“Remember!” Moses kept urging.  Remember the days of slavery in Egypt, and God’s acts of liberation.  Remember the trials of the vast and desolate desert, and God’s faithfulness there.  Remember your special calling as God’s peculiar treasures.  Do not forget, as a prosperous nation, what you learned as refugees in the wilderness.

Moses had good reason for concern, for God, who could see the future, had told him plainly what would happen: “When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their forefathers, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant” (31:20).  As the books following Deuteronomy relate, all of Moses’ fears came true.

Ironically, as Deuteronomy shows, success may make it harder to depend on God.  The Israelites proved less faithful to God after they moved into Promised Land.  There is a grave danger in finally getting what you want.

Point to Ponder: Do you think most about God when things are going well or when you are in trouble?