Sunday, November 20, 2011

Remember Well

“You may say to yourselves,
‘These nations are stronger then we are. How can we drive them out?’
But do not be afraid of them;
remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.
You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the miraculous signs and wonders,
the mighty hand and outstretched arm,
with which the LORD your God brought you out.
The LORD your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear.”
(Deuteronomy 7:17-19)

Moses knew the Israelites well. He had led them for forty years and had listened to their grumbling and complaining in the desert. His heart longed to see them trust in their God whose promises were sure and whose power was limitless.

Moses urged this younger generation of Israelites not to forget all that He had done for them, to remember all that they had seen with their own eyes. If they remembered well, they would not shrink back in fear of the peoples in the land they were about to enter, as their fathers had when the ten spies came back with this report of the Promised Land:

“We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large…We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are…The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size…We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13: 27-33)

Two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, gave a much different report: “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (14:7-9)

But the people listened to the bad report of the ten. “That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, ‘If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ And they said to each other, ‘We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’” (14:1-4)

They had lost heart and had forgotten the song they sang with Moses just after they crossed the Red Sea. “And when the Israelites saw the great power of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” (Exodus 14:31)

“I will sing to the LORD for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea.
 The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.
By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood firm like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils;
I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’
But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
Who among the gods is like you, O LORD?
Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.
In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
The chiefs of Edom will be terrified; the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall upon them.
By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone—until your people pass by, O LORD,
until the people you bought pass by.
You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your inheritance—the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling,
the sanctuary, O LORD, your hands established.
 The LORD will reign forever and ever.”
(Exodus 15:1-18)

Out of the older generation of Israelites who sang this song of praise and promise, only Caleb and Joshua were allowed to enter the Promised Land because they fully believed that what God had promised, He would do. As the younger generation prepared to enter this land of promise, Moses exhorted them to remember well who God was and all that He had done.

God, help us of this generation to remember well so that we don’t repeat past sins of disbelief,
so that we are not gripped with a fear of the unknown and so refuse to claim what you have promised,
so that we are awed by your glory and by your holiness,
so that we believe that you are with us and are fighting for us,
and so that we trust you with all that we have and all that we are.

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