Monday, June 1, 2015

Spiritual Amnesia: A Silent Killer

I would probably be hiding flame-colored cheeks could I remember how many things I have actually forgotten over the past 24-hours, much less over the course of my entire life.  There has never been a time that I was good at remembering numbers or (since I teach so many students) people's names.  But almost seven years ago when squawling babes #2 and #3 took up residence down the hall, my ability to remember even the largest of things became next to impossible.

Ever since then, the art of forgetting is something I have worked hard to master, as is evidenced by the dozens of lists that litter my desk, walls, fridge, doors, and most every other horizontal surface in the house. 

To not forget, I must actively choose to remember.

Before Moses' death, he examined this problem of forgetting; yet, whereas we may think of forgetting as typically being a mere nuisance, Moses warned Israel that forgetting was deadly.

As Israel listened to Moses' final words, the nation was placed at a major turning point between its past and its future.  Literally, only a few steps and a stream of water lay between "what was" and "what would be."

Behind their backs was the sandy boneyard of the Wilderness where their forefathers had lived and died in their unbelief.  In front of them lay the Jordan River, just waiting for thousands of sandalled feet to cross and claim life in the Promised Land.

Before they could move into this land of promise, however, Moses reminded Israel "The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers" (Deut. 8:1). 

Israel's success or failure in this land depended wholly on whether or not they obeyed God's commandments.  It was all about loving the Lord with their entire heart, soul, and mind.

Yet, Moses knew God's people well enough to understand how fickle they were, how fast friends became enemies, how quickly joy became grumbling .  And so, he warned them: "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. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him" (Deut. 8:2-6).


Remember how God showed you the hard times to teach you that He alone provides all your needs.  Remember that He, alone, feeds, clothes, and sustains your very days.  Remember that apart from Him, you are nothing.  Because, you must follow His commands.

A few verses later, Moses reminds the Israelites again,  "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" (v. 11-14).

Twice....don't forget.

Moses warns in the verses above that the forgetting will be caused by one simple thing--pride in their self sufficiency.  With full bellies, comfortable houses, and wealth untold, Moses knew the Israelites would begin to rely on themselves...would begin to believe that they, not God, had provided this wealth by the hard work of their hands.   

In their proud minds, they tended the flocks.  They tended the soil.  They built the houses. They multiplied their silver and gold by the sweat of their brow....all the while forgetting Who provided the increase. 

Moses sums this knowledge up with another request to remember: "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" (v. 17-18).

You shall remember....forget....remember...forget--Moses foresaw this cycle of Israel forgetting to love the Lord thy God in their prideful self-sufficiency.  Then, when God would judge them by withdrawing His hand of protection and productivity from the land of promise, Israel would once again remember...only to forget again once they grew comfortable in their success.

Sadly, the end of the passage concludes not with a joyous remembering and unity, but with a forgetting unto separation and death.  Moses warns, "And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God" (v. 19-20).

For Israel, the end game of forgetting to obey the first commandment of God was certain, eternal death.  There was no middle ground where Israel could remember and forget at the same time.  It was either one or the other.

This side of the cross, there is still no middle ground.  We either remember to love the Lord with our everything or we forget to obey the first and greatest commandment. 

This side of the cross, the consequence for spiritual amnesia is still death.  While it may not be physical death that results from not obeying the commands of Scripture, there are equally damaging ways forgetting can kill.  

Forgetting the commandments to not commit adultery, to not lie, to not steal, to not murder (even if only in anger) can kill marriages, friendships, families, churches, teaching opportunities with our children, and one's witness.  Even something that may seem more innocent like forgetting the commandment to not covet can kill a person's joy, peace, and, ultimately, entire relationships when one is not content with what he has.

To be an effective light for Jesus in this world, we simply cannot afford to forget His commands, and yes, the forgetting and the remembering are something we especially must struggle with in our American (and, increasingly, world-wide) culture of self-sufficiency!  But, in the end, we can't blame our forgetting on our wealth, comfort, and prosperity. 

Remembering to obey God's Word as He spoke ever so clearly through The Holy Bible is a choice.

Remembering is a choice.

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