What is written in this chapter is one of the things that led to the break-up the Worldwide Church of God, and why its members are scattered all over. Its members forgot a great deal about God's requirements of obedience. This theme of not forgetting runs through the book of Deuteronomy.
Virtually every family of people on earth considers themselves to be the recipients of God's favor. They usually designate themselves by a title to indicate this, especially to themselves. The Germans call themselves Herrenvolk. The Japanese call themselves "sons of heaven." China calls itself "the good earth," and Americans, "God's country."
The Israelites were the recipients of the knowledge of God's purpose, then they were given a land in which to prosper and to use that knowledge. However, whatever Israel received, it was miniscule by comparison to what the church was given. Yet, Israel forgot what God had so graciously bestowed, and what happened to the Israelites? They were scattered to the four corners of the earth. Is it possible, then, that the church forgot what God had given it? It became less and less aware that it, too, had been given the knowledge of God and of His purpose being worked out in its members lives. What did we call ourselves? "God's church"!
However, there is a common byproduct of prosperity: "Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; then your heart be lifted up, and you forget. . . ."
Yes, a common byproduct of prosperity—one that could destroy the gift of knowledge of God's purpose for mankind—is forgetfulness! Pride in one's prosperity can gradually persuade a person that he gained it himself, but the fact is that the real reason for the prosperity is what he was given.
There are a number of reasons for the Old Covenant rituals, but undoubtedly, one of them is to remind the sanctified ones who they are and what they are to do with their lives. They are a separated people, called to make right use of their gifts and to glorify God in the use of them.
Being aware of our separation is supremely important to us because it is one of the few ways that gives sense to why God requires certain things. The laws of clean and unclean meats should be a constant reminder of this separation. So should the removing of leaven from our homes before Unleavened Bread. It is clear from the Old Testament rituals that cleanliness—spiritual, moral, and physical cleanliness—and purity are the realities that differentiate us from the world, making us distinctive from others.
This is something, though, that is so easy to forget or to overlook, which is why God gives this warning in Deuteronomy 8. Being spiritually undefiled or uncontaminated is a responsibility because it is in maintaining the cleanliness that a visible witness is made—one that can be seen and evaluated by the world. If we allow ourselves to run amok with the rest of the world, then we share the world's contamination through sin, and no witness is made. Who can see the difference? There is no difference, or so little difference that it is unrecognizable.
Thus, it is in the efforts to be made clean and to maintain cleanliness that many of the sacrificial aspects of priesthood are most clearly seen.
John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part 2)
There is no doubt that prosperity is good, but unless one is sufficiently focused in the right direction and disciplined enough, it can also be a demanding master because of its power to distract one into idolatry.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year
Every Christian needs to be aware of this principle. God does not condemn wealth. He wants us to prosper, but He also wants us to be aware that wealth can powerfully distract us from Him. In one sense, it is dangerous for Him to give His people wealth because it can turn us away from Him without our being aware of it happening. The Laodicean looks at his wealth and thinks, maybe in all sincerity, "God has blessed me with this, and therefore, God is pleased with the way I am." But God is not pleased in the least! He is incensed by his self-satisfaction, not the fact that he has wealth.
When God says that Israel's "heart is lifted up," its sense is the same as the Laodicean saying, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17). He could just as well have said, "I don't need you, God!" When he looks at his wealth, he judges that God loves him. Does not his prosperity prove that God is with him? Christ judges just the opposite!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Deuteronomy 8:19: