Repenting For Forgetfulness

How’s your memory? For some of us, forgetting something is a slight inconvenience, and for others, it’s a matter of missing a deadline, being unprepared for an important event, or leaving someone hanging. Many of my older friends (80s-90s) complain about not remembering things. But, I’ve been using phone calendar reminders for many years, so it’s hard for me to relate (except when I open the fridge and wonder what I was going for). Remembering our commitments and responsibilities is essential if we are going to be trusted. We easily forget those things that we’re not wholly devoted to or when we are distracted by things of this world. God’s nation, Israel, had a memory problem that prevented them from staying in the promised land, despite God’s many warnings to them before they entered. As a result, they were exiled, and only those who faithfully remembered God returned to the holy city Jerusalem in ruins. God often uses consequences to bring us back to him if we forget that He is our only hope and source of fruit and blessings. “‘Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the Lord.’ A voice on the bare heights is heard, the weeping and pleading of Israel’s sons because they have perverted their way; they have forgotten the Lord their God. ‘Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness.’” (Jeremiah 3:20-22)

Consider Yourself Warned

The book of Deuteronomy is full of promises and warnings for God’s people who are about to experience prosperity after decades of roughing it in the wilderness with God as their guide, king, and provider. Moses spoke for him, saying, “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3) Moses reminded God’s people of his command to remember and not forget Him when they prosper to restrain their self-righteous pride to fulfill his purpose of glorifying him among the nations. The description of what might (and did) happen is vivid, leaving Israel without excuse. “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, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 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 who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-18) Perhaps today we might say, “Don’t forget the Lord who has given you people who love you, gifts, skills, education, clothing, shelter, and most of all Jesus Christ, who died and rose for your eternal reconciliation with him, to fulfill his purposes for you.” We must repent of our forgetfulness and self-centered attitudes for what God has done and is doing to serve Him with full confidence in all circumstances.

Humbled to Remember God

Why do we need to be humbled to remember the one who designed, created, and saved us? Prosperity and comfort are strong influences that cause us to become prideful. “Pride is a ‘barrier’ sin,’ and the wall that it erects in not only between the sinner and God but also between the proud sinner and other sinners. Pride guarantees broken relationships that cannot be fixed apart from contrition and humility. Pride has always been a problem of created beings. It was the sin of the fallen angels. It was the sin of Eve and then of Adam in the garden…Pride was one of the most destructive problems among the kings of Israel and Judah…The sin of pride is one of the marks of the last days. Paul warned Timothy, ‘But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.’ (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Did you notice how many of these eighteen marks relate directly to the issue of pride? Have you considered whether you personally bear any of these marks? Among the many commands that God issues to the proud are these potent words with promise: ‘Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted’ (Matthew 23:12).” (1) Why would we want to be exalted by God? We want to be useful to him in leadership, service, prayer, or encouragement of others. Have you thanked your pastor and church staff for their devotion to God during October, pastor appreciation month? Will you repent of your forgetfulness of all the good that the Lord does through them?

Remember What the Lord Has Done

Moses reminded God’s people of God’s command to remember and not forget Him when they prosper to restrain their self-righteous pride. “In the land of plenty, pride comes from forgetting the wilderness and failing to apply its lessons in the good land. Massah is where Israel tested God. In reality, Israel was being tested by God. The phrase ‘it is he who gives you power’ is an explicit corrective to the proud words in 8:17. Israel’s future wealth will be evidence of God’s faithfulness to keep covenant as it is this day.” (2) “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (8:18) “Remember is a keyword in this chapter, along with its antonym ‘forget.’ Remembrance is demonstrated in obedience. The wilderness test was to reveal the state of Israel’s heart. The testing was also to teach Israel that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Real life derives directly from God and trusting his word. This was the learning that Israel needed in its heart if it was to pass the test in the land [of prosperity].” (3) I don’t know about you, but I would rather repent than face testing by God to learn the lesson of obedience through remembrance. Let us not think this lesson was only for Israel in the Old Testament. I used to have a little calendar-type devotion on my kitchen counter and flip it every morning. I realize now that remembering God as I fixed my coffee was a good habit, even if the passage didn’t make an impression. “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 7:17-18; 9:4-6; Psalm 78:15-17; Isaiah 2:12; Hosea 12:7-9; 13:5-6; 1 Corinthians 4:7; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6.

Notes

  1. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 185, 187, Crossway, 2002.
  2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Deuteronomy 8:11-17, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  3. ESV Study Bible, Deuteronomy 8:2-3, Ibid.

October 21, 2021

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