Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Deuteronomy Chapter Four: Complacency is to Idolatry as Remembrance is to Thankfulness
"But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your mind, make them known to your children and your children's children" (4:9).
Idolatry happens when our hearts become complacent "After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time —if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol..." (4:25). It is after they settle in the land that Israel risks idolatry, is what we hear from this verse. Andrew Walls, former Missionary to Nigeria and now professor at the University of Edinburgh, says, "Hunters and Gatherers are the most likely to be aware of the High God," meaning that once a tribe settles it is able to cultivate and prepare its own food and therefore risks degenerating spiritually into local-agricultural Deity worship. Whereas the hunter and gatherers were immediately aware of their need for provision bringing them to worship an omniscient-sovereign God, the agriculturalists, or settlers, become in a sense complacent. They forget the God who provided for them while they were at their greatest need.
This statement rings true for Israel, that is why Moses tells Israel in Deuteronomy 4:9, "To [not] forget these things your eyes have seen nor let them slip from your mind." Israel has seen great displays of provision from an omniscient-sovereign God: freedom from slavery to a world power, water pouring out from rocks, bread from heaven, and the list goes on. If the Israelites let these great events of provision and freedom "slip from their mind" they will then regress into complacency, thus giving the perfect soil for idolatry and pride.
So, once Israel settles in the land of promise in one sense the sojourn will end in another it begins on a more significant level. The new journey that will begin is one of the heart; the Israelites must hold up what God has done for them above all other things. The true test for Israel is remaining faithful while living comfortably. Anyone will agree, it is only after having something that you risk taking it for granted, again, it is for this reason that Moses tells Israel, not to forget what God has done for them but to hold it up to the eyes of their heart.
As Christians we rest in another promised land, a new salvation has been given to us. Like Israel we risk idolatry and self-exaltation if we do not continually hold up what God has done on our behalf before the eyes of our heart. Complacency is the first step to sin, but remembrance of what God has done is the beginning of true peace and honest worship.