Learn to Remember
A sermon based on Deuteronomy 8:10-18
November 24, 2010 - Thanksgiving Eve Worship
John ran into an old friend in the grocery store. But for the life of him, he couldn't remember his name. "Hey, it's... the man! If it isn't... you? How've you been... buddy?" After a somewhat awkward conversation he went back to his shopping, but the encounter left him a bit frazzled, "Why couldn't he remember that guy's name?"
In fact, he was so distracted, now John couldn't remember what his wife sent to the store for in the first place. It was only five items and four were already in the cart. But what was that fifth thing? He just couldn't remember! He went to call her, but realized he'd forgotten his cell in the car. Well, four out of five wasn't too bad. That was 80%, a passing grade. He just hoped it would pass with his wife.
John paid for his groceries and went out to his car. But... where was it? He forgot where he'd parked. He hated these superstore parking lots. Every row looked the same. So he walked up and down the rows hitting the alarm button on his car remote, knowing that once he was in range he'd have a loud audio cue to help him find his vehicle. As people watched and snickered, John cursed his bad memory.
So what's your memory like? Never forget a face or the name that goes with it after meeting a person once? Or do you often forget your kids' names? Remember your to-do's and shopping lists easily without writing them down? Or do you forget where you left the list? Remember birthdays and anniversary's easily? Or do you often forget your own?
Wouldn't it be great to have a photographic memory? To hear a name or number and never forget it? To instantly remember all the birthdays and all the anniversaries of all your friends. Well, the good news is that no matter how you'd rate your memory, everyone can take steps to improve their memory. And with time and practice and mental exercise everyone can get a stronger, faster, and sharper memory than they currently have now. And all of us could stand to improve our memory a bit. You see, too often we forget what God says. We forget what he's told us and what he wants us to do. We forget about what he's done for us. And that forgetfulness is dangerous.
This Thanksgiving though, God gives us a reminder of the things he's done. And he helps us to learn how to remember by looking to him again and again. Listen now to Moses warning and encouragement to the Israelites and to us, recorded for us in Deuteronomy 8:10-18...
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 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. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 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. 15 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. 16 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. 17 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 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.
I. That the Lord Rescued You
The Israelites had a pretty bad memory. Before they even settled in the land God promised to them, they forgot what God had done for them. A quick skim of the book of Numbers will show how much they forgot. They began to complain about the water, it was too bitter. They complained that they had no food, like they had when they were slaves in Egypt. When God provided, they complained that all they got was manna. When God gave them meat they complained it was too much! When they saw the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, they complained that the people there were too large and too numerous to displace.
And gripe after gripe, they showed how they forgot all about the Lord and his grace to them, in delivering them from slavery in Egypt, in giving them food and water in wilderness, in keeping them safe from harm, in promising them a rich land of their own, and in promising them a Savior from sin typified in the sacrificial system. What rotten memories they had!
And what rotten memories we have! How often we forget all about the Lord and his grace to us! Do you rejoice in the rich blessings God has given you? Or do you more often complain about the few things you don't have than give thanks for the many things you do? And I don't mean just stuff. Do you complain to God that don't have the job you want, the relationship you want, the financial security you want, the problem-free life you want, while all the while forgetting about the blessings he has given you?
"No" you object, "I remember those blessings, it's just that..." Stop! If you and I were always thinking about the rich spiritual blessings God lavishes on us, we'd find contentment and have nothing to complain about no matter how tough things got here. We deserve hell. And anything short of that is only by God's grace! And ironically, it's the very blessings that God gives that often lead us to forget the one who gave them. "When you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your [possessions] grow large and your [savings and assets] increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then [our hearts]... become proud and [we] forget the LORD [our] God..." And for forgetting about the Lord and all he's done for us, even for a moment, we deserve to have God forget about us. We deserve to have him abandon us to our slavery to satan, to sin, to death, to leave us as slaves in hell forever.
But God doesn't forget us. Instead he forgets our sins. In Jeremiah 31(:34) he declares, "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." God sent Jesus to take our ingratitude, our whining and complaining, and our forgetful attitudes on himself. And he took the punishment our sins deserve. So now when you confess your sins to God -- including those you forget you've even done -- God looks at you and says, "Cruel name you called that other driver? Hmmm... I don't remember that. Selfish attitude that sought your own good above helping others? No... No. I don't recall that. Impure thought that used one of my children in your head? ...Doesn't ring a bell. I remember Jesus doing all those things. And I remember damning him to hell for them. But you doing them? Nope. I don't remember any of that."
And remembering that blessing alone is plenty of reason to give thanks to God with all our hearts, regardless of any other relationship, any food, any financial security, or any other blessings. It was said well that we Americans have it all backwards! We set aside one day to give thanks and then spend the other 364 days of the year in complaint. But here we find the reason to give thanks every moment of every day, 24-7-365: The Lord has rescued us from our slavery to satan, sin, death and hell! He's set us free and won for us a heaven that we can never lose! Don't forget it! But give thanks!
II. That the Lord Provides for You
Now God could have rescued the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt and said, "There you go. Now, just head up the coast that's heavily guarded by your enemies, or cross the desert, whatever. Then head on up to the promised land and drive out the nations there and the land's all yours. Well... good luck to you. See you later." He could have done that and still no one could call him anything but a gracious and loving God for rescuing them.
But he didn't do that. God not only rescued them, but continued to provide for them and care for them. He led them and showed them exactly where to go. He gave them water out of a rock when they had nothing to drink. He gave them bread from heaven when they had nothing to eat. He protected them from the dangers that surrounded them in the desert. And he even gave them the ability to produce wealth and increase their herds and flocks, their silver and gold.
And God's done the same for us. He could have rescued us from hell and said, "There you go. That's way more than you deserve already. Now you're on your own to tough it out for the rest of your life until I bring you to heaven." He could have done that and we couldn't call him anything but a gracious and loving God for rescuing us. But God has given us so much more.
God's given us not only water to drink when we're thirsty and food to eat when we're hungry, but he's given us spiritual water and spiritual food. In 1 Corinthians 10(:3-4) Paul talks about the water from the rock in this way: "They all... drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." This is the same drink he gives us: The Living Water of his Word. The Word of Christ that quenches our thirst for forgiveness, for comfort, for encouragement when times are tough. When we drink from his Word Jesus promises in John 4(:14), "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." And thorough ordinary water attached to his Word he gives us the gift of Baptism to create and strengthen our faith.
And Jesus gives us bread from heaven too. No, we don't get manna that falls from the sky, but even better. When Jesus fed well over 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two small fish, the people wanted to know if Jesus would feed them manna like God did through Moses. Jesus told them in John 6(:32-33,35,48-51), "My Father... give you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world... I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry... I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." And Jesus continues to satisfy our hunger for righteousness and our hunger to be close to God. And through ordinary bread attached to his Word he gives us the gift of his very body given for us for the forgiveness of sins.
And as if all these greater gifts weren't enough -- rescue from satan, sin, death, and hell, living water and bread from heaven, Baptism, the Lord's Supper, the Word of God -- well, he gives us even more. He "gives you the ability to produce wealth." He let's "you eat and [be] satisfied... build fine houses and settle down..." He lets "your [possessions] grow large and your [savings and assets] increase [so that] all you have is multiplied."
Now, let's remember where all this comes from. Don't forget that it's not "[our] power and the strength of [our] hands [that] have produced [these things] for [us]. But... the LORD [our] God, for it is he who gives [them]." So let's gather together to worship often to get the reminder we need! Let's decorate our homes and offices with reminders from God's Word. Let's spend some time in the Word every day to get the spiritual exercise we need to have a stronger, faster, sharper memory than we currently have.
If we do that, we may still forget a name or a list, a birthday or anniversary, or where we've parked the car. But we won't forget what God says. We won't forget what he's told us in his Word and what he wants us to do. We won't forget what he's done to rescue us from our slavery to satan, sin, death, and hell. We won't forget what he still does to provide for us—body and soul—every day. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.