Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The power of remembering

Deuteronomy 32:1 – 7

The power of remembering

 

Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  It is a day we set aside to remember those who have lived before us.  For many of us they are good examples and a reminder of a simpler, better lived world.

 

At the end of Moses’ life, he recalls the ups and downs of his relationship with Israel.  He ends with a poem that has been called “Moses’ song.”  Except for final blessings and instructions, these are the last words, put into poem, so the people would remember them.

 

His main concern it that God’s people remember…

 

I.          Remember what God is like.

 

“He is the Rock, His works are perfect” shows up five times in this song.

 

            A.        God’s works are “perfect.”  [v 4]

 

                        1.         “Perfect” means “entire, complete” (not flawless). (Hebrew text)

 

a.         We are so used to thinking about God (and God’s work) as “flawless” that we miss there is something more important.

 

b.         God’s work is “entire” and complete.  Nothing more is needed, required, or even asked.

 

                        2.         God has done the work.

 

                                    a.         We see this in the concept of faith.

 

“What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." [4] Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. [5] However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” [Romans 4:3 – 5]

 

“You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. [23] And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. [24] You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” [James 2:22 – 24]

 

b.         It is the “initiative – response sequence” we see throughout Scripture.  God makes the covenant with an open invitation for us to participate.  We are invited to co-operate with God.

 

“..continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, [13] for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” [Philippians 2:13c – 13]

 

            B.        God’s ways are “just.” [v 4]

 

                        1.         “Just” means “verdict.”

 

                                    a.         Image of courtroom.  All the evidence has been considered. 

 

b.         The verdict is not based on personal desire, it is… “all things considered” what we would call fair.  (Ironically this may be the only thing in this world that is “fair.”)

 

                        2.         There is a sense of “legal” and following procedure.

 

                                    a.         God does not deal with us in a vacuum. 

 

                                    b.         There are reasons God does what He does.

 

“God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- [26] he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” [Romans 3:25 – 26]

 

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. [1 Timothy 1:13]

 

            C.        God does no wrong. (two ideas) [v 4]

 

                        1.         God does NOT act with injustice.

 

a.         Too many people in this world are doing things simply because they can do it, and it profits them.

 

                                    b.         God acts for our good.  Why?

 

                                                1.)        We are ignorant… (Don’t know any better)

 

                                                2.)        We act in unbelief… (Without understanding)

 

                        2.         God acts in an “upright” way.

 

                                    a.         The Hebrew word is “straight.”

 

                                    b.         We used to have an expression “straight as an arrow.”

 

II.        Remember what we are like.

 

Our sin becomes very ugly in contrast to God’s righteousness and love.

 

            A.        We act “corruptly” with God. [v 5]

 

                        1.         Two images here:

 

                                    a.         “Warped” literally means “distorted.”

 

1.)        We talk about God in absolute ignorance, never thinking to read the Bible.

 

                                                2.)        This word is often translated “perverse.”

 

b.         “Twisted” literally means “crooked.”  Notice how this contrasts with God being “straight” (upright).

 

John Wesley, “forward (presumptuous, impertinent, or bold), intractable (not easily controlled or directed; not docile or manageable), irregular, and disorderly.  [Definitions from dictionary.com]

 

                        2.         How?

 

                                    a.         We say we walk in the light but actually walk in darkness.

 

b.         We have a half-hearted love and zeal, or at least when it is convenient.

 

Fact: sin is self-willed, irrational, ungrateful, and foolish.

 

            B.        We repay God with foolishness and senselessness.

 

                        1.         Two truths:

 

                                    a.         God created you.

 

                                    b.         God formed you.

 

                        2.         If God is the designer, why do we not listen?

 

III.       Remembering is the cure!

 

            A.        “Remember the days of old” [v 7]

 

                        1.         The word translated “remember” means to mark or memorialize.

 

                        2.         History has much to teach us… examples, inspiration, warning.

 

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” [George Santayana]

 

“Activate yourself to duty by remembering your position, who you are, and what you
have obliged yourself to be.” [Thomas Kempis]

 

            B.        “Consider the generations long past.” [v 7]

 

                        1.         The word translated “consider” means to discern, to understand.

 

2.         This is generational thinking…  (something lost in our mad rush for “new and improved” or the “latest and greatest”)

 

            C.        “Ask your father…your elders…” [v 7]

 

1.         The image here is that your father and your elders will “stand boldly out opposite”

 

2.         Somehow in the mad rush for change, we have to stop and remember the lessons of our forefathers. 

 

“The acknowledgment of our weakness is the first step toward repairing our loss.” [Thomas Kempis]

 

“United we stand, divided we fall.” [Aesop – Greek slave]

 

“God helps them that help themselves.” [adapted from Aesop]

 

“The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law.” [Aristotle]

 

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”  [Sir Winston Churchill]

 

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”  [Albert Einstein]

 

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.’  [Abraham Lincoln]

 

If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists - to protect them and to promote their common welfare - all else is lost.” [Barack Obama]

 

“Chew before you swallow.”  [George W. Bush]

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