A reflection on remembrance in Deuteronomy 1-6
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (4:9)… “When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you–a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant–then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (6:10-12)
Israel were reminded over and over again not to forget, but to remember the acts of God in their past. How He had rescued them from harsh and oppressive slavery in Egypt, how he had defeated the nations they came up against them, nations that were much stronger than them, because it was God who had fought for them.
We too are tempted with the same forgetfulness. There is a reason that we have annual ceremonies for significant events, one reason is that we hold them as significant (or we once did), another is because we are prone to forgetfulness and neglect. There is a reason in Australia we say, ‘lest we forget’, because we know that we are well able to do so. (Interestingly this very term comes from a 1897 poem written by Rudyard Kipling referring to God and appears to refer to this very passage in Deuteronomy).
Israel – by and large – did neglect the truth of God’s past faithfulness and goodness to them, and so they forgot it. They appear to do very poorly in telling of it to the next generation as they were instructed to do, and they did not delight in and value God in their lives. In the end, they were led astray from Him and gave themselves to that which was set against Him.
Paul said to his good friend: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.” (2 Timothy 2:8-9).
I know that my very own temptation is to forget what God has done for me. Far more than rescue from Egypt, He has rescued me from my slavery to sin, and death, and eternal separation from Him. God did this for me when He sent His Son Jesus to take my place for my wrongdoing. I am forgiven, even now, Jesus is my King and He is in control over all things, so I can trust Him always.
It is so easy for us not to remember. LEST WE FORGET.