Sunday, July 12, 2009

Full Bellies and Forgetful Minds

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 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. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 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 forefathers, as it is today. (Deuteronomy 8:10-18, NIV)

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God had clearly done a miraculous thing for His chosen people. He had wrenched the hearts of the Egyptians until they begged them to leave and provided them with all they could possibly need for the journey. God had been infinitely patient with them as they repeatedly whined and complained in the desert. He had provided food and water, shelter and protection, leadership and guidance. He had given His Law along with an intricate system of social welfare that would ensure none of the Israelites would go wanting as long as He was left in charge.

After Israel thumbed their collective noses at God in Numbers, He caused the older generation to continue wandering while preparing the younger generation to finally enter the Promised Land. The book of Deuteronomy is a restatement of the Levitical law and covenant. In what we have as chapter eight, God reminds the people of the need to be obedient, especially given that their lives were about to change for the better. They would have a great deal of permanence where before they had only the transient. As their society grew and prospered, the warning went out to remain true lest they experience God’s judgment. In fact, if I read the passage literally, it seems as much a prophecy as it does a warning. And the historical account we read bears out that prophecy in spades.

So here I sit, in my own land of plenty. I have a nice house, a good job, and a great church family. I struggle with contentment issues just as much as any man, but still I will admit I am successful by most standards. In fact, as I write this particular segment it is Thanksgiving and we are preparing for the traditional family meal and remembrance of all we have. But (and you knew there was a “but” coming) how do I stack up against the Israelites?

If I face myself honestly, I am guilty of the same neglect. My belly is often full, my house is warm (or cool), and I don’t have to deny myself much of anything. While I am not rich, I certainly am well enough off that I don’t have to go begging for my daily bread. And in my state of satiation, I don’t think about the God who provided it all nearly as often as I should. I tend to attribute my house and provisions to the job that feeds my bank account. I attribute my health to clean sources of water, sanitary living conditions, and decent medical care. I call myself generally “happy” without usually acknowledging the true source of Joy in my life.

Oh, I’ll break with the norm and give thanks today, but will I make a habit out of thanking God as the true Provider of all? Can I possibly learn the lessons taught to the Israelites, especially since they had the opportunity to learn them over and over and over again? Am I willing to challenge my state of satiation and truly seek after the One from Whom all blessings flow?

May God convict me of my apathy and wrong thinking. May He be as patient with me as he was with the children of Israel so long ago. As I sit in my house, my car, my office, or my church, may I be prompted to ever give thanks and praise to the Lord. And may my prayer always be that I will not grow complacent because of what I have, but humbled because of what He has done. My path is crooked enough without me forgetting the One who is my constant Guide and Provider. I don’t need to pretend I walk alone.

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  1. When is the last time you truly gave thanks to God for everything He has provided? Do you feel truly rich because of it?
  2. Are you guilty of having a full belly and a forgetful mind? Are you willing to challenge yourself to think about it in a different way and ask those around you to hold you accountable?
  3. Do you have a spirit of thanksgiving even when things don’t seem to be going as you would like them to go? Do you need to remember that God is still God and that nothing happens without His knowledge?

NIV - Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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