Take Care, and be Earnestly on Your Guard…

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“Take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9). These words of Moses are as important for us to hear today as they were when he spoke them those thousands of years ago. The message is the same.

What was given to the Chosen People in words and deeds on the part of God, was beyond measure. That they would be chosen out from all the peoples of the world was incredible enough, but God was not done with them. Though they had fallen into the hands of Pharaoh, enslaved, forced to build his monuments, stripped of their dignity and freedom, God would call Moses and speak to him and send him to tell Pharaoh to, “Let my people go.” As they wandered for forty years in the desert, he would remain with them, even when they complained and faltered. And there was more. God gave them the gift of the “ten words,” that is, the Ten Commandments, to be their law to guide them and to protect them. It is these things that Moses, guided by the Spirit, was admonishing the people to remember. They had seen the mighty works of God on their behalf in the desert during their long wanderings. And yet, even in the short time of their own life spans, they did forget, often.

What the Chosen People saw and experienced during those long years in the desert we might think would have been so impressive that they would have been impossible to forget. Yet, what we who call ourselves Christians have seen was greater yet than the parting of the Red Sea, or the pillar of fire that the people followed at night and the cloud they followed during the day. The great gift of the law that they were given, was made even greater for us and more enduring. What is it that we have seen? While they saw God in mighty works like bringing water out of a rock, or manna in the desert, we have seen, the Living Water, the Bread of Life, that has come down from heaven in Jesus Christ. While they experienced, over and over again, the mercy and the fidelity of God, we have seen the ultimate depths of God’s love in human flesh through Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection. What they knew only as the promise of the Messiah, we have seen and heard the Messiah in person. While they were freed from physical, political, and economic slavery under Moses’ leadership, we and they and all of humanity from here to the end of time, have been freed from the slavery of sin and death, once and for all, forever through Jesus.

All of these things are worthy of being remembered. They are the truth, our reality. What has been done for us, must be remembered, not just in church on Sunday, but with the actions and words of our daily lives. We are to teach these things to our children and to our grandchildren. These are the things, and this is the relationship, that gives meaning to all of history and to each one of our lives. God is love. His mercy endures forever. His law is the very essence of freedom and justice. This is worthy of being taught. Of course we should remember what God has done, but there is no better way to keep these memories alive than to give them life with our words and our deeds. We are to teach what we have learned from Jesus, by loving all others as he loved us. If we Christians really believed and lived accordingly, memory and the teaching of it would no longer be necessary. But, like the Chosen People that Moses is speaking to here in this passage from Deuteronomy, we are still sinners. We do forget, just like they did. We lose faith, or get lost in our passions, just as they did. So this passage still speaks directly to us, admonishing us today. We have an even greater responsibility to remember what God has done in Jesus Christ and to teach as he taught. Our words must match our deeds. We are to keep the memory alive and teach it to others, by our lives.

Lord, we believe, help our unbelief. Help us when we become fearful, or when we let our faith become dulled by the demands and the temporal pleasures of this world. Give us eyes to see your Presence in our surroundings and in all the people we meet. And give us the courage to teach others about your love and your saving power through our words and our actions. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.