painting of people chatting by trees, lake, and mountains

Reflecting on Deuteronomy 8 1-11

In Deuteronomy 8:10, Moses (the speaker) tells the assembled Israelites that “you will eat your fill and you will bless the HOLY ONE your God for the good land he has given you.” Given the context, it may actually be a little less like a prediction, and a little more like Mom saying to our teenage selves “you will go to Your Perfect Cousin’s birthday party with us, and you will say ‘Happy Birthday’ like you mean it.” Almost all of the other verbs in the text we are studying for Sunday, March 27 – Deuteronomy 8:1-11 – behave similarly. Which raises the question: what do all of these verbs – watching and doing, remembering, knowing, keeping [God’s commandments], walking [in God’s ways], fearing [God], not forgetting – have to do with one another? Do we want to think more deeply about the connections between remembrance, and observance, and blessing or thanksgiving? This seems like a central issue to me, in this text. [Some notes on the text are here.] But here are a couple of additional questions we might want to think about or possibly discuss in class:

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[In light of the fact that Moses’s audience for this instruction is the “second generation” of Israelites liberated from Egypt] How can people remember something they have not experienced, do we think?

What does that mean for us?

[A follow-up, which might seem more theoretical – but I suspect is also practical] How is memory related to identity, our sense of who we are, do we think? How does that seem to matter in this text? How does it seem to matter to us?

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The way Moses describes “the land” here uses the same word as in Genesis 1:1, when God creates “the heavens and the earth [land].” Many elements of the description of the good land could remind us of the story of that original creation. What thoughts or feelings do we have about that? Why?

Assuming the author is trying to communicate something to us here, about God, and about reality – what do we suppose that is? How relevant is that message for us today? Why do we say that?

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A recurring theme in this thirteen-week series of lessons is “freedom.” What does this text, with its emphasis on remembering God by keeping God’s commandments, seem to us to have to do with “freedom”? How does the sense of “freedom” here seem similar to, or different from, the way people use the term “freedom” in the world around us? What do we think, or feel, about that? Why?

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Overall, we may want to work on unpacking the meaning of the dense connections made in this text between God’s creative and redemptive activity, human remembrance and identity and fidelity and gratitude and freedom and relationship, the experience of Israel on the brink of entering the land, and the human experience or condition more generally. That’s a lot, when we come to think about it.

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travellers stopping for a conversation by a wooded stream

Image: “Der Plausch am Weg” [the chat on the way], Oswald Achenbach, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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