You know a lot of things, don’t you? You know the stove is hot (when it’s turned on); you know that speeding will likely earn you a ticket and a fine; you know that spending more money than you make will result in oppressive debt. And yet, you have likely acted contrary to what you know on numerous occasions. Have you ever burned yourself on the stove? Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket? Have you ever wondered how you were going to get out from under a mountain of debt? If you are honest, the answer is likely “yes” to at least one of these.
There are many ways we might demonstrate the reality that we often forget what we know. Just because we know something doesn’t mean we act accordingly with any consistency. In fact, the opposite is actually true for most people. We often act inconsistently and out of step with what we know to be true. Generally, we act based on feelings and circumstances much more than we act on known truth and thoughtful consideration.
Christians are not immune from this way of acting out of step with knowing, and that is why the Bible is full of occasions when the people of God are forcefully reminded about what they already know to be true. As a matter of fact, the whole book of Deuteronomy is just such an occasion. Let’s briefly consider the setting, and then let’s consider what the people of God were reminded about.
The Hebrew people had been slaves to an Egyptian Pharaoh for a long time, and they had lost all hope in the promise God had made to their forefather, Abraham. God had promised prosperity, land, and (most importantly) His presence among them. But their experience was the opposite.
Then God sends Moses to be His instrument of deliverance from bondage, and the Hebrew people were free from the oppression they once endured. On their way into this new era of fulfilled promise, the Hebrew people demonstrate skepticism and obstinance all along the way. For these reasons, God delayed their entry into the land He had promised them. For an entire generation, the Hebrew people wondered about the desert, and God graciously continued to provide for their every need.
Finally, the time came for the Hebrew people to enter into the land of promise, and the book of Deuteronomy records the speech Moses gave them prior to entry. Before they went in, there were things they knew, but these things would need to be remembered. In particular, there were two big reminders.
Moses reminded God’s people of their history and of God’s law. Both of these are important to prepare them to enter the Promised Land. The people of God would face significant opposition, experiences that would test their trust in God’s character. Is God truly faithful? Is God really holy? These were questions that they would need to answer with conviction in the face of their trying circumstances.
God is faithful. He had demonstrated His faithfulness in delivering the Hebrew people from bondage in Egypt, in His provision in the wilderness, and in His miraculous defeat of worldly powers that might have threatened His people. Not only had God been incredibly faithful, but He had demonstrated His fidelity in direct contrast to the infidelity of His people. They were ungrateful, promiscuous, and rebellious. These were all powerful and vivid reminders of God’s past faithfulness, and these would be important reasons to trust that God would remain faithful in the future.
God is holy. He had demonstrated His holiness in the separation of Himself from creation and in the separation of His people from other groups. God made His presence near to the Hebrew people, but this was not an unqualified intimacy. At Mt. Sinai only a select few representatives were allowed into the presence of God, and when God’s presence came to dwell among His people in the tent of meeting Moses and Aaron were still commissioned with the task of protecting the people from God’s holy presence. Furthermore, God had issues a litany of specific laws and ceremonial observances that would make His people stand out among the rest of humanity. God is holy, and His people are to be holy too; and this would prove an important reminder of such things when the people of God would be tempted to think otherwise.
Be Reminded Today
God is faithful. All believers will do well to remember what God has done and what they have done. God has been faithful and they have not. In our lives we are most consistently faithless and rebellious. And yet, God is faithful! He has promised to save guilty sinners, He has performed the task of salvation in real human history, and He has applied that work to the hearts and lives of all those who love and trust Him. God is truly faithful.
God is holy. All believers will also do well to remember the holiness of God (particularly as observed in the moral law or 10 commandments). Here is where we behold the character and nature of God (among other things). It is a travesty today that many Christians seem utterly oblivious to the beauty and benefits of knowing and observing the moral law of God. Want to know what God thinks is important? Want to know what God is like? Check out the 10 commandments… Carefully read the preamble, opening at Exodus 20… Thoughtfully consider what is commanded and what is forbidden in each of these… There you will see the character and nature of God on display.
Do not give in to the temptation to believe that this world’s patterns are for God’s people to follow, and do not distrust the promises of God simply because your circumstances are difficult.
Remember that God is faithful and God is holy.