–April of 2008
Deuteronomy – “Remember”
The first five books of the Bible are often referred to as the “Books of Moses.” Deuteronomy stands at the end of this Pentateuch as the “grand summation”—the final words of Moses to the children of Israel. His words carry a remarkable recounting of yesterday’s journeys, tomorrow’s conquests and the promises of God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that tie it all together. As in any good speech, there will be a key word or thought that encapsulates the whole. This oration can be summarized in one word: Remember!
Moses took them down the path of historical memory so that by remembering they might not repeat. How could they ever forget God’s love as long as they could remember the plagues of Egypt, the miracle of the Red Sea, the supernatural provision of manna, quail, water and raiment? How could they ever forget God’s justice as long as they could remember the ground opening up and swallowing Korah and his rebels? How could they ever doubt God’s promise to give them the land and His power to fulfill that promise if they would only remember Jericho! But as soon as the Israelites crossed Jordan, conquered Canaan, built cities, grew strong and prosperous, they promptly did just that – they forgot God!
Nothing, apparently, bothers God more than the simple act of being forgotten. And nothing, apparently, aids the forgetting process more than personal success and material prosperity. As soon as the Israelites became comfortable in houses of their own and grew plump from crops they had grown, they ceased to care for the alien and the poor. As soon as they had won enough battles for the surrounding nations to fear them, they placed their trust in their own armies and chariots instead of the God who drowned Pharaoh’s army in the sea. And by the time that Solomon had made Israel a global standard bearer of wisdom and excellence; had made silver as common as stones in the streets of Jerusalem, Israelites from Dan to Beersheba were bowing before images of wood and gold saying, “these be thy gods oh Israel.”
How does one keep from forgetting God? Moses speaks to that in the most famous words of the whole book. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might”. It is God’s love for Israel that delivered them from Egypt, but it is only a heart of love for God that will keep Egypt out of their hearts. It is only a heart of love for God that can understand that His commands have been given to us for our good! It is only a heart of love for God that will refuse to allow any thing, legitimate or otherwise, to compete for our devotion to God and God alone.
In the final analyses, it is only a heart of love for God that keeps us from forgetting Him and what He has done for us. It is impossible to forget the one that you love with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Obviously, we all know that loving and forgetting are mutually exclusive! Unless, of course, we have already forgotten!