We are looking at a passage this morning which is familiar for many reasons. The Lord Jesus quotes it when He tells us what the greatest commandment in all Scripture is (Luke 10:27). This passage contains the great Shema, recited by the Jews constantly—“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” This is the passage that led many of us to undertake the high calling of Christian education for our children—when you walk along the road, and when you are sitting in your house. But there is another jewel here for us.
“ . . . Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage . . .” (Deut. 6:4-13).
Summary of the Text
Hear, O Israel, the YHWH our Elohim, is one YHWH (v. 4). In paraphrase, we might say the Jehovah, our Gods, is one Jehovah. And you shall love the YHWH your Elohim with everything you’ve got (v. 5). These words that Moses is delivering shall reside in your heart (v. 6). As a result, they must also be in your mouth as you teach your children in every setting (v. 7). Tie them on your hand, bind them to your forehead (v. 8). These two locations indicate behavior and thought. Be careful, little hand, what you do. Be careful, little head, what you think. Write them down on your doorposts and gates (v. 9). Then, when God gives you an abundance of His goodness (vv. 10-11), you must watch out lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the house of slavery (v. 12). You shall fear the Lord, and serve the Lord, and take your oaths in His name (v. 13).
A Takeaway Summary
There are a number of verbs in the imperative in this passage—hear, love, teach, talk, bind, write, fear, serve, and swear. But we should be able to see that they all come together in this—remember. Do not forget (v. 12). We know from the New Testament, that the highest form our obedience takes is in submission to the great command to love. But what do you do exactly when you love? Should you grit your teeth and radiate love rays? No . . . we love by remembering.
Remembering Grace is Not a Work
With a message like this, one of the first things we might forget is that God loved us first. If we love because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19), then we remember Him because He first remembered us. This means that God remembers us, and it is only because He remembers us that we can remember Him. There are numerous examples of God’s remembrance, so let’s just point to a few. God remembered Noah (Gen. 8:1). God remembered Rachel (Gen. 30:22). God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex. 2:24). God remembered the house of Israel (Ps. 98:3). What is all this but to say that God loved His people? So remember, then, salvation is by grace through faith, from first to last.
How Then Shall We Love?
When forgetfulness begins, love is then in decline. Do not forget all the Lord’s benefits (Ps. 103:2). The Israelites did evil when they forgot (Judg. 3:7). Paul loved the poor by remembering them (Gal. 2:10).
The blood of Jesus is the only possible covering for our sin. A cloak of forgetfulness can’t cover sin, because forgetfulness is one of the greatest of sins. Never hide your dirty sins under a pile of bigger, dirty sins. Never hide your crud under worse crud. Not smart.
Walk Backwards into the Future
Samuel Johnson once observed that we more often need to be reminded than we need to be instructed. Instructing someone on what he already knows is an irritation. Reminding someone of what we all confess is a needed reminder is a blessing.
“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder . . . This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles” (2 Pet. 1:12-13, 3:1-2).
What are we to remember? We have a Bible full of things to remember, not to mention a creation full of them. But let us set our loves in order.
* We are to remember the law of God. We have this in our text. God delivered us from the house of slavery, and His law is our life. Love is defined by the law (Rom. 13:8). Of course, if we have forgotten God and His Word, that same law condemns us . . . and drives us to Christ.
* We are to remember the salvation of God. We see this through the Passover in the Old Testament (Ex. 12:14), and the Lord’s Supper in the New (1 Cor. 11:24-26). We are to eat this bread, and drink this cup as a remembrance (anamnesis).
* We are to remember the process of sanctification in the course of our pilgrimage through this world. We have a duty in perseverance, and perseverance in any kind of long haul is that which enables you to remember when the thought comes into your head . . . why am I doing this again?
The Greatest Threat
Returning to our text, what is the great eraser? We have written all the goodness of God up on the board, to remind ourselves, up in front of the class. We have memorialized His great kindnesses to us. What is most frequently used to wipe it all away? What makes us forget the goodness of God? The answer is . . . the goodness of God. He gives us wealth (Deut. 6:10-12), and our minds instantly start to wander. He gives us a good land (Deut. 8:7-18), and we take all the credit for ourselves (Deut. 8:18), as though we arranged for it all ourselves.
“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Ps.9:17).