Temptation to Forget
Temptation to Forget (Deuteronomy 8:1-11)
"How soon they forget" is more than a proverb. Sports fans forget that a coach won last year. Children forget the sacrifices of parents. Students forget who taught them. We suffer many kinds of amnesia. We forget names, dates, places, and even the names of old friends. Fortunately, most of what we forget is not all that serious.
Forgetfulness in the spiritual realm is more serious. In Deuteronomy Moses gave his farewell words to God's people. He warned them of forgetting God's activity in their past in the affluence of their present. God sustains us when we are nobody and have nothing. Many forget Him when we are somebody and have something. When life is very good, beware the temptation to forget God.
Beware of Forgetting God When Life Gets Good
The reality of forgetfulness is in the words, "Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God" (v. 11). This does not refer to mere absentmindedness. Facts about God can be remembered while we forget God. Even in the midst of church the living reality of God can fade and cease to be a governing principle. Abundance blunts the edge of your awareness of God. It is the ultimate contradiction that we can forget the One who is always and everywhere present.
The reason for forgetfulness of God is the present abundance of life. We can forget Him because of the very gifts He gives us. When our hands are full, we can forget what we learned when our hands were empty. For four decades the Hebrews had wandered as nomads, like modern Bedouins. They were about to settle down in permanent locations. They would begin to accumulate. Inwardly, they would be sated with more than enough food. Outwardly, their cattle, sheep, and camels would be stouter and more powerful than those of their wandering life. They would begin to accumulate precious metals which they never had as nomads. For years as wanderers they had been on the edge of poverty and never accumulated anything. Now they would accumulate and forget God.
You can count on it. When you have little you live in dependence on God. When you have a big house, a big car, and big bank balance you can easily forget God.
The Result of Forgetting God Is Arrogant Self-Sufficiency
Spiritual forgetfulness leads to an arrogant attitude: "Your heart will become proud" (v. 14). Pride is lodged in the seat of your personality, the heart. Pride grows in the heart when you forget your past absolute dependence on God. Israel had forgotten the pit and the pathway of its past. Israel's very life had depended on God's protection and provision. God had protected Israel from the dryness and the dangers of a desert existence. He had provided for them when it appeared no provision could be made. Water and food came out of impossibility. The strength to wander came from God alone.
Most of us have an early wilderness experience. Resources are short, we live from day to day, the future is insecure. God's provision is a living reality. But then things get good. We forget that God sustained us when we had little.
Spiritual forgetfulness leads to an arrogant confession: You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me" (v. 17). Notice that you say this "to yourself." You may still go through the motions of worshiping God and thanking Him in public, but "to yourself" you offer congratulations. You studied while others were playing, you worked while others were sleeping, you were shrewd while others were dumb, etc., etc. Outwardly, you may go through the motions of praising God, but inwardly you congratulate yourself. Your energy and your ability did it. God fades and disappears. Instead of "How Great Thou Art" you hum inwardly "How Great I Am."
The Recovery from Forgetting God Is a Deliberate Recollection
How do you get over spiritual amnesia? A deliberate effort at memory begins the recovery. Remember that God alone sustains your life (v. 18). You should sit down and if necessary write out the provisions for your life. If you will relive your life in memory, you will rediscover that it was God alone who provided when provision was needed. The central message of Deuteronomy is that God alone is the author of life's provision. Further remember that God sustains you because of His faithfulness, not your performance. God "confirms his covenant which he swore to your forefathers" (v. 18b). God's blessings in life are the result of His own promise, not our changing performance. He blesses because He is true to His own word and name. We recover from spiritual forgetfulness when we remember that all we are and have is the result of His faithfulness to His word and covenant.