The people of God are to prepare their hearts; this is a concept woven throughout Scripture, but especially here in Deuteronomy. God alone can give you a heart to know Him; He alone will circumcise your heart. And God alone can help you know your heart, change your heart, and prepare your heart. He calls us to obey and love and serve Him with our hearts. Today we will look at the place remembering the past has in this.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 You shall remember all the way which YHWH your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
As we study Deuteronomy, and watch more of the story of redemption unfold in Moses’ three speeches, we are continually reminded of how God chose His people, loves them with His eternal steadfast love, and draws them into covenant relationship rooted in love. We must continually remember that we too have been drawn into covenant relationship with God, by God–chosen, loved, and given belonging and purpose. This is a departure from the study, a break from studying another chapter, it is time to slow down and ask:
How does my/your story start? Do you remember first realizing God was drawing you in with His steadfast love? What was the wilderness you walked through/are walking through? What about your heart was revealed to you during the wilderness wandering? What was the slavery He redeemed you from? What is your first memory of His mercy, and His work in and around you? What were the words that first plucked at your heart, His words made precious to you in that time? God is Sovereign over your wilderness wanderings–and will use that time to show you what is in your heart: fears, idols, doubts, sinful desires, wayward affections, untruths you cling to… He is gentle in His leading, trust Him to gently lead you to understanding what is truly in your heart.
The focus in this time of remembering is on God–not on the wilderness; on His power and mercy, not merely on your sin; on His compassion and not solely on your doubts or misplaced affections; on glorifying God, not glorifying your wanderings.
Hebrews 2:1 instructs believers to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.” What Scriptures have you heard, that have anchored you? Which ones have you noticed God repeating to you over and over? You read them, you hear them preached, a friend mentions them, you keep running into that same Scripture. The Spirit will guide you in this way, always back to His words, and always wooing you see them anew, see them deeper. Pay closer attention brethren, cling to His words.
Psalm 78 recounts all this vividly. God established a testimony–one meant to be shared among friends, and recalled to all future generations, one to be shared in conversation, pondered, and clung to. “The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7) Want to be refreshed, and grow in wisdom? Do not neglect His word, and the sharing of His word in true fellowship.
Listen, O my people, to my instruction; incline your ears to the words of my mouth…He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God… Psalm 78:1-8
This psalm details God’s mighty works in creating the nation of Israel, His faithfulness to the people and the people’s unfaithfulness to Him. Yet He loved, yet He provided and protected and worked miracles, He disciplined…yet they turned their backs, rebelled, worshipped false gods, did not remember His power or His testimonies. (Pause, go read that whole Psalm.)
Testimonies. O, we need them! We need them, that we would not also be a generation that did not prepare its heart. We need to remember them, to tell them. How often Israel rebelled against God in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert. They did not cling to Him, to His words or the testimony of His power. Remember what you learn of your own heart during the times of your wilderness, it is a testimony to God’s mercy and power and love. Unfailing love.
Have you pondered His resurrection power lately? We need to. Often. Paul says all his work was done by God’s power at work in him–and he taught churches to rely on that power. We can prepare our hearts only by reading, remembering, praying, and speaking these things to one another in the church. Take heed to the testimonies of the LORD.
Read this slowly, re-read it, then pray these words for yourself, your family, your church:
Ephesians 1:18-23 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at HIs right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.