Deuteronomy 4 “And now, Israel, listen carefully to these decrees and regulations that I am about to teach you. Obey them so that you may live, so you may enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you. You saw for yourself what the LORD did to you at Baal-peor. There the LORD your God destroyed everyone who had worshiped Baal, the god of Peor. But all of you who were faithful to the LORD your God are still alive today—every one of you."… “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren."… “But be very careful! You did not see the LORD’s form on the day he spoke to you from the heart of the fire at Mount Sinai. So do not corrupt yourselves by making an idol in any form—whether of a man or a woman, an animal on the ground, a bird in the sky, a small animal that scurries along the ground, or a fish in the deepest sea. And when you look up into the sky and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the forces of heaven—don’t be seduced into worshiping them. The LORD your God gave them to all the peoples of the earth. Remember that the LORD rescued you from the iron-smelting furnace of Egypt in order to make you his very own people and his special possession, which is what you are today."… “Today I call on heaven and earth as witnesses against you. If you break my covenant, you will quickly disappear from the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy. You will live there only a short time; then you will be utterly destroyed. For the LORD will scatter you among the nations, where only a few of you will survive. There, in a foreign land, you will worship idols made from wood and stone—gods that neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will search again for the LORD your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him."… “He showed you these things so you would know that the LORD is God and there is no other. He let you hear his voice from heaven so he could instruct you. He let you see his great fire here on earth so he could speak to you from it. Because he loved your ancestors, he chose to bless their descendants, and he personally brought you out of Egypt with a great display of power. He drove out nations far greater than you, so he could bring you in and give you their land as your special possession, as it is today. “So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The LORD is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other. If you obey all the decrees and commands I am giving you today, all will be well with you and your children. I am giving you these instructions so you will enjoy a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”
Moses sure likes to repeat Himself and I'm sure the Israelites soon lost interest in listening to him rehash their long and treacherous journey and their brokenness, but all the while reiterating God's faithfulness. This must be the sound of many Christian teachers today including myself who live in a parallel universe (mentally) and cannot relate to the present reality. What is God really speaking to us through this long and arduous message?
Either because of lack of sleep or a bored disposition, my first reading of this chapter amounted to simply glossing over the words with the question, is there really anything in this chapter for me? I am often caught in this rut and don't make much of it because I simply look for the next interesting thing to grab my mind. Much like watching TV where I shuffle through channels to find something exciting to watch and simply gloss over anything that I don't consider exciting. Is that true for you too?
On reading this chapter again and doing a bit of research, I found that there was really a wealth of information in it that we could draw from and like it often happens, I am again humbled and ashamed about my poor attitude to life, especially God's word. How different am I from the Israelites, who journeyed from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Israel, whom we have often referred to or thought of as hard-hearted, disobedient, self-serving, forgetful…?
God challenged them through 3 real incidents that they recently underwent in this same regard to help them shake off their forgetfulness. First was a challenge to learn from the example of Baal-Peor. When the Israelites were camped at Acacia Grove, some of the Israelite men had sexual relations with the local Moabite women who invited them to attend sacrifices to their idols and God issued Moses a command to execute the ringleaders to avert God's wrath on the people of Israel but eventually 24,000 Israelites and a Moabite woman lost their lives as a consequence of disobedience.
As the Israelites were preparing to enter the promised land, God wanted them to understand their need for present obedience in light of their past rebellions. One of satan's great strategies is to make us remember what we should forget and forget what we should remember. Falling in our false sense of confidence is painful but for the grace of God, as we are reminded in this passage:
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT)
The second challenge was to learn from the example at Mount Sinai (Horeb) when God revealed the ten commandments and the people of Israel responded by saying two times, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded." God reminded them not to forget and to always teach their children of it. There was also clear instructions about never worshipping any image or creation but rather that we were to only worship God and not ascribe form or factor to Him. Contorting the truth of God for a lie we can live with has significant consequences as we are reminded here:
They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. Romans 1:25 (NLT)
The last challenge was to learn from the example of Moses' own failures. While we hold Moses in great regard, God's punishment of Moses is an important lesson for us who esteem great men before God because no man is above the law of God, forget God Himself. We need God more than anyone or anything else and Moses' prevention from entering Israel is how God reminds us of our need of Him.
There is much more we can draw from this chapter but to respect your time, I pray that these 3 challenges will remind you and I to never forget our past brokenness, God's hand of grace, His leading and our desperate need for Him. Call on Jesus Christ today if you sense the need to be reminded, refreshed and redirected.
In His Loving Service,