I knew my last (whiny) post would lead me to a response from God that would set me straight. Tom and I are preparing to lead a study on fasting for our church over the next four weeks. In preparing for that study, I did some reading on manna. That’s the flaky, white bread-like food that God provided to the Israelites as they journeyed out of Egypt to the Promised Land. For 40 years that’s what they ate. 40 years! At one point, the “rabble” among the Israelites began to “crave other food.” They wanted meat. They remembered that they had access to lots of tasty food in Egypt. They got what they asked for…an overrun of quail. They gathered obscene amounts of the little birds, had quail in their mouths (“between their teeth” to be precise), were struck by plague before swallowing, and died (see Numbers 11).
So the first thing God laid on my heart was a humble perspective. I only had 4 weeks of 7 foods that could be combined in lots of different ways. I’ve only had 3 out of 4 weeks of wearing the same 7 clothes that also can be combined in a few different ways. So, I got the “quit your whining” message loud and clear.
I kept reading into Deuteronomy, and I’m glad I did. For me, God made a much bigger point than to just grow up and quit whining. What I got to was a stark, clear message: don’t forget. Don’t forget that fasting from excess means something to the Lord. Don’t forget that fasting from excess is taking us somewhere different than where we’re at today. Don’t forget that this fast – this life -- is temporary. Don’t forget that we are not our providers – He is. Don’t forget that it is by Him and through Him that we receive our portion.
This don’t forget message came to me as I continued reading about the 40 years in the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8, just as the Israelites are about to enter the promised land, they received a vital “don’t forget” message. God knew the bounty that lay before them. He knew their humanness, despite their “chosen” status, and their tendencies. Among these tendencies were some that seem just as relevant today as they were to the ancients. Here’s a rundown of the many things that we are likely to forget about:
While He is testing what's in our hearts, He actively protects us
Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
We should use our hunger as a reminder that we need Him more than bread to truly live
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3)
As we wander, He keeps us clothed and kept from undue suffering
Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. (Deuteronomy 8:4)
God’s discipline is necessary, valuable and rooted in love
Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. (Deuteronomy 8:5)
We are to praise God when we are satisfied
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. (Deuteronomy 8:10)
We must take care not to forget about God altogether and replace Him with selfish pride
Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deuteronomy 8:11-14)
God’s testing leaves us better off
He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. (Deuteronomy 8:15)
Since God is the means, He deserves the credit for the outcomes
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. (Deuteronomy 8:16-18)
There are consequences when we put idols (money, stuff, busy-ness – all forms of excess) ahead of God
If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 8:19-20)
This passage really, deeply, profoundly grabbed my attention – heart, mind and soul. I am forgetful of these things and more. I repent. And I will repent again because I will stumble again. I am so grateful for my loving, forgiving God, who is abounding in steadfast love. I praise His holy name.