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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The People of God, Bible Literacy, and Forgetfulness

Moses issues a number of warnings to Israel as they prepare to move into houses that they did not build and harvest vineyards and olive groves that they did not plant.  
  1. “Do not forget God.” While slavery to the Egyptians caused Israel to cry out to God, prosperity in the land of Canaan may cause Israel to forget God. Bible literacy will keep gratitude alive as Israel remembers her former years of slavery and God’s great deliverance.
  2. “Do what is good and right in the LORD’s sight.” Road signs remind people to drive responsibly so Bible literacy keeps God’s righteous standards before the people. 
  3. “Do not follow the gods of the peoples around you.” Bible literacy reminds Israel of the powerlessness of the gods of Egypt in preventing their departure. 
  4. “Make no treaty with the Canaanites” and “Do not intermarry with the Canaanites.” Bible literacy reminds Israel of God’s promise to judge the Canaanites for their wickedness. 
  5. “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years.” Hunger taught Israel that they could trust the Lord to meet their needs. Both hunger and prosperity are a test. Hunger requires trust, while prosperity requires gratitude. Bible literacy reminds Israel of both God’s provision in the wilderness and their impoverished state as slaves in Egypt.  

Moses unearths the root of forgetfulness, “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” (Deuteronomy 8:12-14). Pride built on top of prosperity is the culprit. Gratitude and remembering are disciplines of the heart and mind. Feeding on God’s Word, therefore, reminds His people, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3).


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"Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to obey 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" (Deuteronomy 8:11-14).


As I read these verses I think of the request found in Proverbs 30:7-8 " . . . I request of You . . . give me neither poverty nor riches--feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say "Who is the Lord?" or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God." The wisdom writer recognizes the dangers that accompany both wealth and poverty.



That God longs to bless His people with good is obvious, but there is something in the heart of man that often chooses good over God. Adam, along with his wife, chooses good over God. The beautiful fruit offered good as did an alternate source of wisdom. The enemy loves it when God's children become enamored with good and choose it over God. Man forgets that "it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth" and becomes proud.


Moses has already established that man can not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" (8:3). So, how does one protect himself from setting his heart on his accumulations?
  1. Man protects his heart from idolizing his "stuff" by constantly acknowledging that it is "He who gives you the ability to produce wealth" (8:18). I have what I have because God has allowed me to have a good education and a good job with satisfying rewards. I use what He has given me to invest in the lives of others.
  2. Man protects his heart by constantly referring to God's commands, laws, and decrees (8:11). Jesus refers to this relationship with the Word as one of abiding, "If you abide in Me and My words abide in you . . . " (John 15:7). "More to be desired are they than fine gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (Psalm 19:10).
Guarding your heart from clinging to good stuff instead of to God is an interior problem. It is an intentional focus on the Lord Himself. It is living in an intimate relationship with Him. It is keeping the first thing the first thing.


Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Deuteronomy 6:1-8:20
  • List the commands God gives to the children of Israel that will ensure His continual blessing in today's reading.
  • What all does this command entail?
  • Why, out of all the people in the earth, does the Lord set His affection on Israel?
  • What has God done for Israel in the past that will encourage them to completely destroy the Canaanites in the future?
  • What kind of help does God promise to give them as they attack the nations living in Canaan?
  • How does God explain Israel's wilderness experience?
Turning truth into prayer
Lord, I am declaring to You that Your Word is eternal and more satisfying to me than anything I could ever possess this side of heaven.