Sometimes we need reminders — it’s biblical.
“Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders” (Deuteronomy 29:2-3, NRSV).
And then Moses said something that caught my attention this morning.
“I have led you forty years in the wilderness” (v. 5).
Forty years ago I was 25, pretty newly married, managing editor of a daily newspaper, and still trying to figure out my way in the world. At times, it did feel as if I was in a wilderness — not one long one but a few shorter ones.
Taking in the memories of those forty years, I can attest with Moses that God has cared for Trese, the kids, and me. I remember Trese and me praying in bed together every night — for all kinds of things, including the blessing of someday being parents, which turned out to be a little tricky.
Trese eventually gave birth to six children (not all at once), and we now have five grandchildren.
Back there in those early years I prayed that God would help me to be a good husband and father and not put my work ahead of my family. Now, sometimes I find myself wishing I had done more with my professional life. (Mom thought I would be president.) But then I remember my own prayers — to put family ahead of job.
I hope I have balanced the family-job thing well. I do feel God has blessed Trese and me wonderfully, not only with family but with friends and churches and professional opportunities. And, my travel-loving wife has gotten to travel more than we could have ever hoped for.
So, remembering God’s grace and blessings are good. But, it is important not to stop there. Moses was talking about a covenant between God and God’s people — an agreement to cooperate.
In Deuteronomy 29:19-20, Moses says this:
“All who hear the words of this oath and bless themselves, thinking in their hearts, ‘We are safe even though we go our own stubborn ways’ (thus bringing disaster on moist and dry alike) the LORD will be unwilling to pardon them, for the LORD ’s anger and passion will smoke against them. All the curses written in this book will descend on them, and the LORD will blot out their names from under heaven.”
Protestant Christians have a special problem with this. “Once saved always saved” may be true, but it is very, very dangerous. It can produce an arrogance in the face of the living God. It can make a person feel “safe even though we go our own stubborn ways,” as Moses said.
I don’t know about curses, but when we take God’s grace, love, and forgiveness for granted, we are playing with our own destruction. You end up with preachers acting holier than thou but doing despicable things, and people in their congregations doing likewise.
It is so good to remember, but it is equally good to recommit our now. A covenant with the Divine, I think, is nothing to take lightly.