In this sermon, Prophet who led Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land and received the law at Sinai urges Israel to remember their dependence upon God and warns them about pride and self-sufficiency when they reach the promised land.
In this sermon, Moses takes as his text the people’s memory of their experience in the wilderness, especially the harshness of those conditions when compared to the relatively lush surroundings of the promised land and God’s miraculous provision of manna.
Essentially, Moses calls for Israel to remember their dependence upon God and reminds them that their faithful observance of the commandments is the proper way to foster that relationship. In God’s plan, the difficulties of the wilderness prepared Israel for their life in the land by teaching them that nature alone cannot provide for their every need (vv. 1-6). Upon their arrival in the promised land, its relatively prosperous abundance will tempt Israel to forget their dependence upon God’s nurture (vv. 7-17). Their proper response is to remember and to “thank” (literally “bless”) the Lord their God (vv. 18-20).
The sermon in its entirety (the lectionary utilizes only a snippet) has a concentric arrangement illustrative of its message:
A Observe the commandments and prosper (v. 1)
B “Remember the long way that the LORD your God has led you” (v. 2a)
C The wilderness and the manna (vv. 2b-6)
D Prosperity in the land (vv. 7-10)
X “Do not forget the LORD your God” (v. 11)
D′ Prosperity in the land (vv. 12-14)
C′ The wilderness and the manna (vv. 15-17)
B′ “Remember the LORD your God” (v. 18)
A′ “Forget the LORD…and…you shall surely perish” (vv. 19-20)
The paired sections are tied together with repeated vocabulary (in Hebrew, at least; NRSV translations vary):
- A A′: that the LORD promised to your ancestors (vv. 1, 18); today (vv. 1, 19; also in X, v. 11)
- B B′: remember (vv. 2a, 18); the LORD your God (vv. 2a, 18)
- C C′: heart (vv. 2, 5, 14); which your ancestors had never known (vv. 3, 16); wilderness (vv. 2, 15, 16); manna (vv. 3, 16)
- D D′: eat your fill (vv. 10, 12); good/fine (vv. 7, 10, 12); land (vv. 7 [2x], 8 [2x], 9 [2x], 10, 14).
In this way, the sermon encapsulates a major theme of the book, namely the principle of retributive justice in which, stated somewhat crassly, obedience brings Blessing is the asking for or the giving of God's favor. Isaac was tricked into blessing Jacob instead of his firstborn Esau. At the Last Supper Jesus offered a blessing over bread and wine. To be blessed is to be favored by God. (as seen in verses 1-10) and disobedience brings judgment (as seen in verses 12-20). It is best to “take care that you do not forget the LORD your God” (v. 11).