“And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you–with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant–and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Deuteronomy 6:10-12 (ESV)
Before the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land, they paused. Moses had one last set of instructions to give them.
This would have driven me crazy. When I am poised to enter a promised opportunity or path the Lord has shown me, I don’t generally want to wait around. I want to rush in the minute I am aware that the Lord is beginning to move me in that direction, full of my own expectations of what is ahead, not bothering to be still, wait and listen to His instruction.
Which is precisely why I have been disappointed so many times that I now cringe whenever the word “promise” comes up. Not that He is unfaithful to His word. But I run out the door before He has even finished His sentence, thinking I know what He has in store because I caught a few words, confident that my overactive imagination can supply the rest of the plan.
But it’s all in the details with God. It’s the ONE thing He puts in front of us, the ONE person He asks us to minister to, the ONE attitude He asks us to change. It’s never everything at once. We never see the big picture right away. And His way never involves fudging the corners, putting a shiny cover on it and shrugging it off by saying it’s “close enough for jazz.”
In Genesis 4:3-5, Cain’s sacrifice was not acceptable. It looked like a nice sacrifice, but his heart was not in the right place when he put it together, so God was not pleased with it.
In Leviticus 10:1-2, Aaron’s eldest two sons were burnt up with holy fire because they got creative on their first day on the job in the Tabernacle and decided to offer incense in a way not specified by God.
In 1 Samuel 2:6-7, Uzzah was killed because he reached out his hand to steady the Ark of the Covenant; they had missed the detail where you don’t load the Ark on a cart.
So why do I think I can skip the details, or add my own expectations, or assume there’s nothing more to it than what my eye can see? Why do I think I don’t need to seek Him for further instructions once the first clear word is spoken?
To make matters worse, those vital last instructions are usually nothing like what I’m expecting.
And so it was with the Israelites. You would think the instructions would simply be not to fear, to fight well against the giants, to build a temple once they got there — some tip about the winning the impending battles, at the very least. And those things were covered, eventually, but Moses’ first instruction in this address, after He covered loving the LORD first, and after reminding them to teach this to their children, was that they needed to be careful not to forget where they came from and Who it was that rescued them from it.
Because the LORD knows us, and He knows that a little prosperity can instantly go to our heads, and that we very quickly fall into an attitude of entitlement. So before it even started, He wanted to make sure they understood the dangers inherent in the blessing. He wanted to make sure that they remembered that they didn’t plant those vineyards and dig those wells and build those cities, because the minute they started to take credit where credit wasn’t due, they would think they could turn their eyes from Him and worship more convenient, portable gods. The cool gods that “everyone else” was worshiping.
When poised on the brink of something new, I’m so concerned about whether my expectations are going to be met. I’m so sensitive about my agenda not being considered, about being disappointed again (conveniently forgetting that I made those expectations up out of whole cloth in the first place). Rather than trying not to disappoint me, however, the LORD is far more concerned that I not spoil the blessing He has prepared for me. He is far more concerned that I remember His mighty works, that I remember that he has defeated my enemies and moved them aside and that there but for the grace of God go I. Because like the Israelites, if I lose hold of gratitude, if I forget that I got where I am because of His hand and that I can claim little more than somewhat nearsighted and reluctant obedience as my contribution to the situation, I will get my eyes off Him and start to look for the short-term thrill, the enticing quick fix, the controllable pleasure.
There are giants in the land, yes. But the ones with which I need to concern myself the most are the ones inside my own foolish heart.