Exeter Temple Message notes: 8th November 2015
Theme: Don’t forget
Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-15
The name Deuteronomy means “spoken twice”. Some have called it the “second law” or more appropriately, the second rendering of the law. The entire book is a reminder of the truths of God. Deuteronomy does not offer to Israel “new law,” but it gave a reminder of the established law of God that are given in the previous four books.
Despite their dramatic rescue from Egypt and God protecting and providing for them, whenever a new crisis arose, the faithfulness of God was forgotten and either turned to idols or grumbled in despair at their situation. Thus when about to enter the land that God had promised them, they refused to go in and spent the next 38 years wandering in the desert. All that generation died in the desert. The book of Deuteronomy opens with Moses near the end of his life speaking to the new generation who were being called to make the move from the desert and go into the Promised Land. Moses overall advice is that they should not forget but remember.
The word remember or remembrance appears 16 times in the book of Deuteronomy. The people are called to remember 7 distinct things:
- To remember the giving of the Covenant (4:10)
- That God delivered them from slavery (5:5 7:18 16:3)
- That God led them through the wilderness (8:2 25:17)
- That they are dependent upon God (8:18)
- How angry God was over rebellion (9:7 9:27 24:9)
- To teach next generation (11:2 32:7)
- As former slaves to treat all peoples with mercy.
(15:15 16:12 24:18 24:22)
The first invitation in Deuteronomy to remember is Chapter 4:1-15
- BE CAREFUL
Taking care of a relationship is connected with remembrance.
“Only be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen…. V 9
In advertising if a poster is left in one place too long, it becomes part of the environment and no one looks at it. It doesn’t mean the message wasn’t good, or what it revealed on it is unimportant, it’s just that people cease to give attention to it and then forget what is said. In life we have received revelation from God and seen him at work but we have a tendency to stop paying attention to it and then we forget the truth we learned.
…….. or let them slip from your heart” as long as you live” V9b
Very few of us, deliberately turn our back on God, we just let the relationship slip. We so easily do that with our relationship with our Father God. Without guarding I, paying attention to it, we forget it in the midst of a clamouring world.
- BE CLEAR
Moses urges Israel to be accurate or to be clear in their memory or what God has said and what he has done.
“Do not add to what I commanded and do not subtract from it but keep the commands of the Lord your God.” V2
How quickly we forget the way God has worked in our lives and how easily we manipulate our memory to make ourselves look better or the instructions God gave less demanding.
The Book of Deuteronomy is rich in its call to remember the words and deeds of God, not with nostalgia, not with sentimentality and not re-interpreted to ease our conscience or fit in with our prejudice.
In v 10-13 the people are to remember clearly what happened when God gave them the law and the covenant.
Revelation “Assemble the people before me to hear my words.” V10 Israel’s faith was not to be based on a feeling about God but on faithful obedience to what God had said. Their faith starts in his revelation of himself, not their idea of what he is like, what he offers and what he requires. The temptation for mankind has always been to make God in our image. Moses advised them to remember Horeb, a place to which God called them, where he spoke and they listened. Adjust your thinking to God, not the other way around.
Invisible but real “You heard the sound of words but saw not form” V12
Why only a voice?
The constant temptation in the relationship of God with Israel? It was the longing to have a God they could see and touch. It would be easy to feel that it would be so much better if Israel could have a more tangible God. As the people are standing on the edge of the Promised Land they are entering a land full of a religious cults which had gods you could touch and looked exciting because they promised material prosperity, an emotional experience and physical gratification.
When they remembered Horeb they were to remember that God is real and he speaks. They are to remember that when he spoke he offered a precious Covenant relationship with life-giving words to live by. “He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments.” V 13
“What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near whenever we pray to him? What other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” V7
Will we trade in the invisible God who speaks for the visible gods of this world who have nothing lasting to offer the empty human heart?The visible gods of this world are not just the crystals and Buddah statues that can be bought in New Age stores in Totnes High Street but can be comfort blanket habits and compromising so called romantic relationships.
The Bible shows us that there is something even greater than Horeb that we need to remember and choose. It is a place called Calvary where a crucified man speaks life to everyone who trusts in him. The world tempts us to choose something other than the foolishness of a cross, an empty tomb and the unseen Spirit of God in our hearts to give satisfaction and hope. But when we remember, when we draw near to him, we say with Peter, “To whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
O love revealed on earth in Christ
In blindness once I sacrificed
They gifts for dross, I could not see
But Jesus gives me sight of thee. (Catherine Baird)
a) BE CHANGED
The question arises, when believers remember the deeds of God and when God remembers his relation to Israel what kind of remembering is in view? Is it merely recollection of information about the past? Or is it remembering the past in such a way that the facts remembered have some impact on the present. Moses speaks to the people of Israel to help them live right in the present moment and so that they will be ready to go and
“Our memories of the past can often be destructive but Scripture outlines a pattern of remembrance that acknowledges the past in a way that is inspirational and life-giving for both the present and the future.” (John Drane)
God doesn’t intend us to live in the past. Looking back at His goodness is intended to root us firmly in the rich soil of faith, which provides the environment in which we can grow with Him into new things.