Listen And Obey, Lest We Forget.
Deuteronomy 4: 1 – 14.
The Ten Commandments were not promulgated willy-nilly to the Israelites without a context; it would not fit into Yahweh’s normal customary preparation of His people for such an important disclosure. The groundwork began in earnest in Egypt; with their humiliation by the Egyptian overlords, the ten plagues, and their miraculous escape, just before their Negev exodus. Moses, the chosen leader, had an even more rapid orientation to what was on God’s mind than anyone else. God’s instructions for each event were specific and obedience was expected. If we are listening and relating closely to Him, we will not miss His obvious incidental signals and cues of the advent of important events. I dare say, even what may appear inconsequential to us is significant in the eyes of the Almighty. Before giving them the Law, two cautions were included in the preamble: they were to listen carefully to His laws to perform them that they might live to possess the land, and they were not to forget the things they had seen all the days of their lives (Deut 4:1; Deut 4:9).
Deuteronomy encompassed Moses’ composite legal instructions from Yahweh to the fledgling Israelite nation after they crossed over the Red Sea. None of us would ever dream of living under a lawless environment and in this case, as God had declared His love for His people as a nation, He was describing what it would entail for them to be in an intimate relationship with Him; He was, in fact, defining Himself (cf., Deut 5:6-21). The obvious impossibility for man to be godlike to be able to keep His Commandments needs no particular emphasis, hence the symbolism of blood sacrifices for their sins before the Israelites could come before the Sanctuary. There was no other way whereby fellowship with God could be secured (Heb 9:15-22; Heb 10:1-7). In gist, much later, God paid His own price with His own life on the cross, that we may access Him (Rom 5:6-11). The motive of the Commandments was to elicit humble obedience, and through it intimacy with God; and like any child who unmistakably knows the boundaries his parents have set for him, his experience of freedom and self-discipline will undergird his obedience, as he consistently observes those limits. God’s relationship with ‘the apple of His eye’ (Zech 2:8) was illustrative of His broader intent with those who would follow Him in Christ.
“Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons” (Deut 4:9; c.f., Jer 31:33). Man is prone to forgetfulness simply due to our prevailing distractedness towards the cares of this world. The Israelites were not unfamiliar with the majestic acts of God during their migration from Egypt and through the wilderness, but it is man’s default mode to focus totally on an immediate distressing or fearful incident or object, thus overlooking God’s faithfulness, thereby discounting His ongoing Presence and commitment. Otherwise there would be no necessity for this reminder by Moses (c.f., Jer 18:15; Jer 23:25-27); indubitably, Moses re-emphasised this warning six times in Deuteronomy (Deut 4:23; Deut 6:12; Deut 8:11,14,19; Deut 11:18-20).
It is significant that in Israel’s case, this forgetfulness invariably led to idolatry and into judgment (Ex 8:11-20; c.f., Ex 32:1-5), but she is not alone, as forgetting God’s faithfulness usually portents the beginning of our relational estrangement with our Creator. The antidote for spiritual malaise is to jealously guard our time with God, together with an intentional and disciplined awareness to listen and obediently follow through whatever He has for us each day. A healthy spiritual growth in Christ implies a consistent walk with His Holy Spirit during our earthly journey (c.f., Psalm 1).