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Lest We Forget
We remember a verse which reads, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
There are some who desire to hold themselves completely to the New Testament message for the Church. This, however, cannot be right, in view of the Scripture we have just quoted.
The Old Testament is filled with messages to Israel, or, concerning Israel, which have a most vital bearing upon the Church.
We grant that the Church is distinct from Israel, and yet, God dealt with His people of old, along the line of the same general principle as He deals with His people today. First century messages are given to the twentieth century Church with all authority. So, also, do messages given centuries before Christ, carry tremendous authority to the Church, which lives so many centuries since Christ.
In the 8th chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses is addressing the Children of Israel by way of remembrance. He is telling them of how the Lord led them through the wilderness forty years, testing them, and proving them. He then looks forward and reminds them of the good land into which the Lord their God is about to bring them. Then he gives abundant warning lest they should forget God, and begin to feel that they had themselves accomplished the great fete of their safe arrival on the borders of Canaan.
The Christian of today needs also to remember how the Lord has led him. He, too, has had many testings by the way and has been proved of God. He, too, has had a present-day experience of the good land, in the deeper life which God has given him. He, too, is in danger of imagining that his own hand brought him forth. into so large a place. Therefore he needs to remember God's dealings with Israel.
There is a Scripture in Romans which says, "If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee." If God cast Israel off because of unbelief, unfaithfulness, and ingratitude; shall He deal differently with us, who live with enlarged vision, and fuller life? In the Book of Hebrews God brings up these very experiences, reminding us how the fathers tempted Him during the forty years, and how He was grieved with that generation, and sware in His wrath that they should not enter into His rest. He said, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the Living God."
If God gave Israel a promise of rest, and they entered not in because of unbelief; should not we, therefore, fear, "Lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it"?
We sincerely hope that those who read this will not feel that God is speaking to a people who were led by Moses 1500 years before Christ; we trust that they will realize that God is speaking through them unto us upon whom the end of the ages is come.
I. OBEDIENCE BRINGS BLESSING (Deuteronomy 8:1 )
Moses told Israel that all the Commandments, which he had commanded them, they should observe and do, that they might live and multiply and go in and possess their land.
If there are some who would argue that Israel was saved by Law, and Law-works, and that we are saved by Grace; we answer, that the question of salvation is not being discussed here at all. Observing the Commandments of the Lord was to be followed by life and multiplication and possession. The life of this verse is not eternal life. God was speaking to them about how they might be prospered in their earth life.
Is this not true with us as well as with them? Salvation is by grace, but grace gives no license for men to live as they list. If believers, under Law to Christ, fail to walk in the Spirit, they will not be under the blessing. Love is the fulfillment of the Law, but not its breaking. Grace teaches men how to live soberly, righteously, and godly, but not how to luxuriate in licentiousness and lust.
Christians are urged to mortify their members upon the earth. They are told to put off anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communications. Christians are not to lie one to another, or to evilly entreat one another.
Shall we think for one moment that we can wander into by-paths of shameful sinning, and still prosper in life, and be multiplied, and possess our possessions in the realms of spiritual victory; that is impossible?
Christ spoke blessing to the pure in heart, to the merciful, to the meek, to the peacemakers, to those who thirst after righteousness, and He still speaks blessing upon the same.
Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." He also said, "To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." In these words the Holy Ghost, through Paul, was not giving "a method by which sinners could be saved, but a method by which saints could be blest.
II. TIMES OF TESTING (Deuteronomy 8:2 )
Our verse tells us that God led Israel through forty years in the wilderness to accomplish four things.
1. He sought to humble them. We should realize the heinousness of pride. Even after the wilderness experiences were completed, God gave further warning through Moses; "Lest * * thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God." We suppose that after the deliverance from Pharaoh, although the Children of Israel had no more than "stood still," beholding the salvation of the Lord; yet, they were lifted up in pride, as though their own hand had gotten them the victory. Therefore, God had to humble them.
2. He sought to prove them. An untried servant cannot be trusted with important service. In Timothy, we are warned not to lay hands suddenly on any man. The deacons who are chosen must "first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless."
Even the men of this world will prove one another before they trust one another. When Daniel spoke to Melzar he said, "Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days."
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent in many things."
When God proves us, and finds us faithful in that which is least, He can trust us with that which is much.
3. He sought to know what was in their heart. Man looketh upon the outward appearances, God looketh on the heart. God's eye searcheth all things. He knoweth what is in the heart of man. At times we may fail the Lord through the weakness of our flesh, or through ignorance, but God doth not judge us wrongfully. He can look beyond a seeming failure to the intents and thoughts of the heart. Sometimes to all outward appearances a servant of the Lord may appear to be most faithful, even though he has covered up the real purpose of his heart. Let not that man think that he can deceive the Lord. "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do," He who would deceive God is warned not to be deceived, for "God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
4. He sought to know if Israel would keep His Commandments. Disobedience is black with the frown of God. The very essence of sin is lawlessness. Sin is the trangression of the Law that is, the going across the Law.
"We have turned every one to his own way." He that saith, "Lord, Lord," but doeth not the commandments of the Lord, will be disrobed of his falsity. If God were a demagogue enforcing on men commandments that were evil, and hurtful, it would be different. But the commandments of the Lord are not only right, but beneficent. God asks us to do only that which is for our good.
III. GOD'S PURPOSE IN PROVING (Deuteronomy 8:3 )
1. He caused Israel to hunger, that He might give her His manna. The disciples asked, "Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" Christ replied, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."
God caused Israel to hunger, that Israel might behold His care in providing the manna from Heaven. They had been used to the onions and garlic of Egypt; now even that, was cut off that He might provide them food from heaven. In their distress, and hunger, and thirst, Israel cried, "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?" That is just what God did do. He gave them water from the flinty rock, yea, He brought forth streams from the rock; He commanded the clouds from above and opened the doors of Heaven, and rained down manna for them to eat, and gave them the corn of Heaven: man did eat angel's food; He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea. "So they did eat and were filled."
Sometimes God lets us hunger that He may feed us. Elijah was fed by the ravens. The multitude were fed by the Lord from the scanty supply of a few small loaves and fishes; while twelve baskets full were left over after all were filled.
"My God shall supply all your need" Is still workable and true.
2. He caused Israel to hunger that He might show that man should not live by bread alone. One of Christ's great messages, centered around the Heavenly manna. Israel in her hunger was affording God the opportunity, not only to show to her, but also to her descendents, centuries beyond her time, that Christ was the Bread from Heaven.
The Jews said, "Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from Heaven to eat." Jesus replied to the Jews, "My Father giveth you the true Bread from Heaven. For the Bread of God is He which cometh down from Heaven, and giveth life unto the world." Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life; He that cometh unto Me shall never hunger."
It is wonderful to stand three thousand years down the shores of time, and to look back over three millenniums and behold in Israel's hunger and God's supply of the Heavenly manna, one of the greatest messages of gospel truth, "Christ the Bread of Life."
IV. GOD'S MANIFESTATION OF MERCIES (Deuteronomy 8:4-5 )
1. The mercy of physical provision. "Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell." Traveling through a wilderness filled with pitfalls, and beset with unseen dangers, is not conducive either to the protection of clothes, or to the preservation of foot-ease. Some mock at these words, thinking that the mark of unbelievable fiction and fairy tales is plainly manifested. Let them mock on. For our part we believe God. Was it harder for God to keep garments from waxing old, and feet from becoming swollen, than it was to provide manna from Heaven and streams from the rock?
God may not use the supernatural, where the natural is easily operative; but God is able to work all things after the counsel of His will.
The Holy Spirit through the Psalmist wrote, "Marvellous things did He in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt." Then He recounts events including the dividing of the sea, and the subsequent cleaving of the rock and the manna, and the quails.
We stand with the Holy Spirit in accepting all of these things as they are written. We stagger not because of unbelief. "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight."
2. The mercy of physical chastening. On the one hand God showed His power in protecting Israel from all manner of diseases and from ravenous beasts, and from swelling feet and threadbare clothes. On the other hand, God chastened Israel with fiery serpents, which killed the thousands, and with terrific judgments.
Here are some of the statements in 1 Corinthians 10:1-33 , which sum up a number of God's chastenings.
"They were overthrown in the wilderness."
There "fell in one day three and twenty thousand."
"Were destroyed of the serpents."
"Were destroyed of the destroyer."
How was this chastening done? "As a man chasteneth his son." Not for one. moment should we think that God chastened Israel to spite Himself upon them. "Like as a father" is the message of the Bible. In all of God's chastenings He was but seeking to awaken Israel to her need, and to recall her back to His heart of mercy and love.
"No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
V. GOD'S FINAL OBJECTIVE (Deuteronomy 8:7-9 )
Whether God was dealing in mercies or in chastening, He had but one final objective in it all He was leading Israel to "a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills." This was to be the lot of a people, who had dwelt where there were no pools and no water.
The ones who had been hungry and crying for meat, God was leading to a land of "wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil, and honey."
The ones who had dwelt without houses, He was leading "to a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass."
And what does the Christian have in view? A City whose Builder and Maker is God. Here, we have no abiding place, but we seek one to come. Here, we have tribulation, there, we have peace. Here, we have sorrow and sickness and death; there, we have no more pain, no sickness, no death.
VI. GOD'S WARNING WORD (Deuteronomy 8:11-13 )
"Lord, help us to remember our sacred debt;
Oh, by the love that sought us,
Oh, by the Blood that bought us,
Oh, by the grace that brought us to the fold,
Lord, let us not forget,
Oh, let us not forget."
God's warning to Israel was, "Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping His Commandments, and His judgments," etc.
When was Israel in danger of forgetting God? It was when she had eaten and was full; when she had built goodly houses, and dwelt therein. It was when her herds and flocks, her silver and her gold, and all that she had was multiplied: then she would be in danger of forgetting, and of lifting up her heart in pride. How strange this seems in danger of forgetting God, when crowned with blessings from God! Yet, such is the case. How many there are who cannot thrive, spiritually, under Divine favor and blessing!
Persecution and penury, sickness and sorrow, darkness and distress seem to drive us to God. The house of mourning proves better than the house of feasting.
VII. GOD'S PUNISHMENT FOR THE UNGRATEFUL AND DISOBEDIENT (Deuteronomy 8:19-20 )
Moses' final word was fulfilled to the letter in the days when Israel turned her back upon God. God's people became proud and self-centered. They forgot to thank God. They remembered not that He had blessed them with all that they possessed. They even went so far as to serve other gods, and walked in the abominations of the nations. The result was that they perished in their evil ways. Today they are driven among all nations. Their land is trodden down of the Gentiles. They have suffered untold anguish because of their disobedience. For twenty-three hundred years, they have been wanderers among the nations.
The same judgment will rest upon the church if she dares to forget her God. He will punish her backslidings. It is always an evil thing, and bitter, to forget the Lord our God.
A FLOWER PARABLE
The following aptly illustrates the danger of "forgetting" the Lord and delaying salvation to some future date.
"As Fred Barlow came up the walk, he saw through the open door his pretty cousin, Lois, standing with a bouquet of roses in her hands, the picture of perplexity.
'Well,' he said inquiringly.
She turned quickly.
'Well,' she repeated, 'what do you think of that?' and she handed him the flowers.
He saw at a glance that the bouquet had been one of rare beauty, but now the flowers were withered. From many of them the petals were fallen, and the ferns and smilax were yellow and drooping. Even as he took it a shower of rose leaves fell at his feet 'With the love of Mrs. Maiden,' he read from the card attached, 'She hasn't just sent it, of course?' he said, in a questioning tone.
'Sambo brought it in that box not five minutes ago,' she answered.
Fred picked up the box and looked it over carefully, as if to find some explanation of the strange gift, 'Depend upon it,' he said at length, 'she must have sent it by him several days ago, and the rascal forgot to bring it. Of course she wouldn't insult you by sending you such a specimen.' And he tossed the bouquet contemptuously on the table. 'Come,' he said, 'let's have a game of tennis.'
In the interest of the game Lois forgot the matter, but when she was alone again her perplexity returned.
'I don't believe Sambo could have forgotten it,' she said. 'How beautiful it must have been! I don't understand it at all, and when I get a chance I am going to ask Mrs. Maiden.'
The chance came sooner than she expected, for that very afternoon Mrs. Maiden called and invited her to ride. For a little while they talked on different matters, and then Lois said:
'Those were very rare roses you sent me this morning,' thinking as she emphasized 'this morning' that she would find out whether they had been sent before.
'Yes,' said Mrs. Maiden, 'they were beautiful. I gathered and arranged them for you on Monday, but I enjoyed their beauty and fragrance so much I kept them myself as long as I could.'
She spoke seriously, but when she saw the look of astonishment on Lois' face she could not conceal a smile.
'If it wasn't a mistake, Mrs. Maiden, it must have been a parable,' said Lois, decidedly. 'Please tell me quick.'
'Dear Lois,' said her friend, 'I wanted to show you how you mean to treat your best Friend.'
If Lois was perplexed before she was wholly mystified now, and begged for an explanation.
'Last week,' said Mrs. Maiden, 'I passed a group of high school girls on the street. I think they were talking about Annie Temple's joining the church the week before, for I heard her name, and then I heard one of them say, 'Oh, of course, I mean to be a Christian when I get to be an old woman, but now I am young I mean to enjoy myself, and have a good time.'
'I said that myself,' said Lois, 'but surely '
She paused, and after waiting a moment for her to conclude her sentence, Mrs. Maiden said:
'There never was a greater mistake than the idea that becoming a Christian lessens the enjoyment of life; but it is not that I wish to show you. Life lies before you, bright with promise like those budding roses when I gathered them. Beauty and health are yours, mental faculties alert and active, and unnumbered opportunities, and the energy and enthusiasm of youth. And from the Friend who has given it all to you, and says, 'Give Me thine heart,' you turn away and answer, 'Not yet, O Lord not yet; wait until I am old and feeble, when bodily strength is failing, when mental powers are waning, when my life can be of no pleasure to myself and no service to Thee, then I will give it to Thee.' Were not these fading flowers a fit emblem of such a gift, dear Lois?'
The young girl bowed her head in assent, but she made no reply."
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Deuteronomy 8". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19