Fundamental to the Abrahamic covenant is the promise of a good land for the patriarch’s seed (Gen. 12:1–3; 15; 17:1–8). In context, the promise of land referred first to the land of Canaan (17:8), the territory of which corresponds roughly to the borders of the modern nation-state of Israel. The Old Testament, especially the Pentateuch (Genesis–Deuteronomy), frequently mentions this land, and it is a foretaste of the inheritance promised to God’s church (Rev. 21:1–4).
Scripture is full of references to Canaan as a “good land,” one “flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:7–8). Our passage for today’s study characterizes Canaan in this way, emphasizing the agricultural bounty that the Israelites would find once they took possession of the land (Deut. 8:7–10). In comparison to the wilderness wanderings that Moses recalls earlier in Deuteronomy 8, the land of Canaan was indeed a land of plenty, a land where the grain of the fields and fruit of the trees were more than enough to satisfy the needs of the hungry nation. The wilderness had been a time of scarcity, a period in which the Israelites lived almost entirely on manna (vv. 1–6). Yet as Israel dwelt in Canaan and obeyed Yahweh, the true creator God, the people would enjoy a wide variety of foods and resources.
It is important to note the emphasis on obedience in Deuteronomy 8, especially His call for gratitude in verse 10. The Lord knew that a wealthy and satisfied people might quickly forget that their abundance was a gift of God, and so they were to “bless” the Lord for His gifts — they were to praise Him for His generosity and thank Him for His kindness. Such gratitude would help ensure that they would remember God and keep His covenant (vv. 11–20; Jer. 18:15).
As an illustration of how thankfulness promotes a God-honoring lifestyle we may turn to the following quote from the pen of John Milton, the celebrated English poet: “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” If we thank God, we will revere Him, and such reverence will help us look at all of life as that which we are to live coram Deo — before the Lord’s face in a way that pleases Him, with no reason to be ashamed.
In Romans 1:18–32, Paul locates humanity’s most basic sin in our refusal as fallen creatures to honor God “or give thanks to him.” Lack of gratitude for all of God’s blessings is the first step toward idolatry, and the more we have the easier it can be to forget that all we have comes from the Lord’s hand. Spend some time today thanking God for His blessings and always endeavor to acknowledge that your success is due ultimately to His kindness.