Deuteronomy

Do Not Forget

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Are you in a dark place right now? Are you calling out to God for some form of deliverance with great hope that your situation will change? If you are, and God delivers you, I encourage you to praise God and to use that experience to become more dedicated and more obedient to him. It is human nature to beg for something we need, and when we get it, to focus on the provision and forget about the one who gave it. Joseph experienced that when he interpreted the vision of the chief cupbearer. Once the chief cupbearer got what he wanted, he forgot Joseph. Jesus experienced it when he healed the 10 lepers. Only one came back to praise him. And Moses warned the Israelites, in Deuteronomy chapter 8, verses 10 through 14, not to fall into that trap. It says:

“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

We need to heed this warning as well. When God blesses us, or delivers us, it should encourage us to be more dedicated to him. It should encourage us to praise him, to love him more, and to become more dependent on him. We shouldn’t become proud and forget who saved us from our despair. So I challenge you to remember God when he delivers you or blesses you. Heed the warning Moses gave to the Israelites, because it is human nature to forget the one who delivers us.

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When God blesses you, or delivers you, praise him and use that experience to become more dedicated to him. Never forget what he did for you. It is human nature to beg for something in our despair, and when we get it, to forget about the one who saved us. With believers, it should never be that way; not with our fellow man, and especially not with God.

God Is Near

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When you pray, do you envision God as being way up in heaven looking down from his throne hearing your request from afar? I used to. And when I’m not focused, I still might. But when my heart is in step with the Spirit, and when my walk is strong with the Lord, I understand that when I pray to God he isn’t far, but very near. You may have experienced the presence of the Lord yourself when you’ve prayed; the feeling that God is physically with you right then and there. But even when you don’t feel him, have faith to believe that he is close. He was close to the Israelites when they prayed, and he is close to us as well. Moses said in Deuteronomy 4 verse 7:

“What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?”

I believe that God wants to be close to us. The Bible tells us that the Lord wanted to be close to the Israelites. That is why the tabernacle and the temple were built, so that he could be physically close to them. In Genesis, God was close to his creation, speaking directly to Adam. And even now, God wants to be close to us. Moses says that God is near us whenever we pray to him. Do you believe that? In the midst of your pain and sorrow, when you cry out to him, I encourage you to know that God is not far off, but he is very near. And even when you pray to him casually, I believe that God is still very near. So when you talk to God, don’t think of him as being on a phone listening to you from somewhere else. Think of it as if you are visiting him; that when you pray to him, he is in the same room with you. Because as Moses shares in Deuteronomy, God is near us whenever we pray to him.

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The Bible reminds us that where two or three are gathered together in his name, God is right there in the midst of them. And Moses encourages us that when we pray to God, he is near to us. He could’ve been referring to the tabernacle, where the ark of the covenant and the physical presence of the Lord resided; that when the Israelites prayed, the ark of the covenant was close by. But I think he was explaining that any of us; past, present and future; no matter where you are, or what time of day it is, that God is near you when you pray. Whether God is near or far may not matter to some. But I find it very comforting to know that God is near, and so did Moses.

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Pass it Down

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In Bible times, the Israelites didn’t have smartphones, tablet computers and laptops to take video, pictures or to write down important things that they would save for their children and grandchildren. Instead, they would usually pass knowledge and sentiments down through songs that they would teach their children. Other times, stories would be told and passed down through the generations. They might’ve also decorated their houses by writing important information and posting it on their doors or, even literally, wearing scripture on their wrists and foreheads as if it were a form of jewelry. Whatever the case, if something were important enough for one generation, it would be passed down to those who would be born after them. That is the way it was with the commandments that God gave them, so that future generations would continue to follow them. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 the Bible says:

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Like the Israelites, God wants us to pass down our faith to our children. We need to talk about it when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up, as the Bible says. It should be so important to us, that we should make it a part of our daily conversation. Our children shouldn’t have to wait for Sunday school to learn about God. And we shouldn’t have to attend a Bible study to get our weekly dose of Bible knowledge. Families should talk about God on a daily basis. Do you? If not, I’d encourage you to find ways to make your faith a greater part of who you are. Just as important, we need to pass our faith down to our children so that they can pass it down to theirs and so on. We’re not just talking about a neat tradition here, we’re talking about generations of souls that need to be taught the truth.

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It is our responsibility to pass what we know about God to the next generation. It could be our kids, nephews, nieces, grandkids, or even our brothers and sisters. In a world where the gospel is being silenced and treated as irrelevant, those of us who know that eternity hangs in the balance should treat it as the most precious thing we can pass down to another. It is literally more important than anything you could ever give someone. And when God is talked about consistently, the truth can be planted so deep that when they grow old, they will not depart from it. God’s command to the Israelites is his command to us as well. God should be a daily conversation within our families, because if they don’t see us valuing the gospel, they may not either.

God Carries you

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Remember the story in the Old Testament where God brings the Israelites to the promise land, but when they scout it out in preparation of taking possession of it, they lose heart because of the large people and the fortified cities? Because they lacked faith in believing that God would fight for them, they were sent to wander in the desert until the faithless generation died out. When they finally made it back, Moses recounted what happened the first time around. Deuteronomy 1:28-31 says this:

“Where can we go? Our brothers have made us lose heart. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’ Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.’”

The Israelites feared the occupants of the promised land because they were behaving as if their own strength would win or lose the fight. But Moses reminded them that God carried them through all of the hard times from Egypt to the promised land. So in reality it had never been about their strength, it was about God’s faithfulness. We have to remember that as well. When we are going through difficult times, it is God who carries us as a father carries his son the Bible says. If we put our faith and trust in him, he will carry us. Like the Israelites, we need to remember how he has carried us in the past and know that he can also carry us through whatever situation we are facing, or will face, in the future.

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God miraculously ordered 10 plagues in Egypt before delivering his chosen people. Then, he split the Red Sea to rescue them from Pharaoh. He appeared as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day to lead them. When they were hungry, he made manna appear for them in the morning. When they were thirsty, he made water gush from a rock. Time and time again, God carried the Israelites to the promised land. It was never by their own strength, but by the strength and deliverance of God. We serve the same God who did all of the things we read about in the Bible. And as the Israelites are called his children, if we believe in Jesus, we are called his children as well. If God carried the Israelites, don’t you think he can, and will, carry you as well? He will. And maybe if you consider your life up until now, you’ll realize that he has been carrying you all along.

Hold Fast

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When I read the words in Deuteronomy, it seems like a million years since they were written. But in actuality, it was only a few thousand. It seems alien because the way we live today is very different than the way they lived back then. But like us, they were human. And being human carries with it the same temptations, frailties, and needs that are common to man. In chapter 13, Moses warns the Israelites to stay focused on their devotion to God. In his time, there were prophets and seers who would reveal what would happen in the future. Some were from God and others were not. For those who were not, it was feared that they might lead the Hebrews away to other gods. But in verse 4 Moses says: 

"It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him."

Earlier, Moses says that God might allow false prophets to enter their midst in order to test them. To past the test, their eyes needed to be focused on God. In much the same way we need to have our eyes focused on God. We may not be tempted to worship other gods, but there are other temptations that could lead us away from him just as easily. But our first love, our first focus, needs to be on him. Moses says that we must follow and revere God; that we need to keep his commands and obey him; that we must serve him and hold fast to him. I encourage you to pursue these goals as well.

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Matthew warns us not to allow the seeds of God’s word to fall on thorny ground or life may choke it out. Is your life choking out your devotion to God? Moses warns us that it is the Lord our God that we must follow; that it is to him we must hold fast. It is kind of like a sailor strapping himself to the mast of his ship when a storm hits. That mast holds him fast. He is not thrown overboard. For us, God is our mast. We need to hold fast to him. We need to cling to him. We need to understand that he should be our primary focus. Matthew 6:33 tells us that if we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness then he will take care of everything else. I encourage you to do that today. I encourage you to hold fast to God.