"Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His rules and His statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt...Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.' You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He... " Deut. 8:11-17
Have you ever been on the verge of something great? Perhaps you know this feeling, that it is just within reach, your hand grasping for this new and exciting change in life. At any moment, you will take hold of greatness that is life-changing and life-giving. The anticipation of such a precipice is almost too much to bear.
The Israelites experienced such a moment. Delivered from the hands of the Egyptians, they had wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Though this wandering may sound aimless and pointless, it was purposeful and in God's hands. Having disobeyed the Lord through mistrust and fear, an entire generation of Israelites needed time to die before the Israelites would be granted the blessing of entering their Promised Land (Num.13-14). But at last, after forty years they were on the verge of just that - claiming their Promised Land. There had been physical redemption from slavery, and now a physical blessing was coming into fruition. The above passage begs a question, though: is there a danger in redemption?
It almost seems preposterous to propose such a question. Redemption, such a beautiful and hopeful concept...dangerous? Ah, but there is a danger in redemption, and Moses spelled it out clearly for the Israelites before they took hold of the physical and spiritual blessings God offered them. "Take care lest you forget the Lord your God..." warned Moses in Deuteronomy 8. The danger of God's blessing, he cautioned, is that "you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.' The danger of redemption, then, was that they might forget God.
Moses offered the Israelites the way to avoid this pitfall: "You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He...." As a matter of fact, Moses filled his sermons to the Israelites with constant directives to remember the Lord their God, to tell their stories of deliverance through God's hand, and to keep His promises always on their lips (Deut. 5:15). Through the law of Moses, God established yearly festivals and the weekly Sabbath to serve as times for the Israelites to remember God's goodness in the past and to celebrate Him in the present (Ex. 12; 20:8). Even as the Israelites were to look to God's work in the past, though, God also directed them toward the future redemption that would come at the hand of their Messiah. Furthermore, God gave “His commandments and His rules and His statutes” as the means by which they could daily know Him, follow Him, and remember Him (Deut. 8:11). The Israelites were called to a constant state of remembering God.
The Hebraic concept of "remembering" enlightens our study more. When we hear the word "remember," we think of a purely intellectual or mental exercise; however, it is much more than that. In Hebrew thought, the act of remembering was a mental process that also brought about action. Remembering was experiential. Festivals and days of celebration were established to be an experiential process of remembering God's goodness. Telling of His redemption and faithfulness allowed the necessary repetition that their feeble minds needed to keep the truth in the forefront of their memories, so that they might live righteous lives (Josh. 1:8).
The danger of redemption is the same now as it was then. Pride, always threatening to take hold of our hearts, confuses our memories. We love the benefits of God, but we shun the discipline of knowing Him. In the comfort and contentment of our earthly and spiritual blessings, self-devotion seeps into our hearts and deceives us. We forget the One through whom we have been blessed, and we esteem ourselves as the source of our blessings.
We largely do not celebrate the many festivals and days of celebration that the Israelites have with their rich heritage as God's people. We do have a few days of celebration and remembrance, though, Christmas being one of them. How are we doing at keeping this day of remembrance holy? Are we remembering God's work in such a way that it brings about holy and righteous living?
It isn't as if we are fighting to keep the nativity scene as a part of "the holidays." We aren't really just fighting against Santa Claus, either. It is much greater than that. We are fighting to keep the miracle of God's redemptive work on our behalf fresh in our minds, starting in our homes. The cultural shift toward a secularized Christmas is only symptomatic of the quiet shifts that have occurred in the homes of believers all over our nation.
But the call is clear. We must remember the Lord our God, for it is He... It is He who has redeemed us. It is He who blesses us with every spiritual blessing. It is He who has defeated sin and conquered death. It is He who is holy, and it is He who makes us holy.
It. Is. He.
Remember Him this Christmas season. Let Him change you. It is He!