I can remember several years back re-stumbling across the book of Deuteronomy and having a eureka moment if you will. Like the rest of the Bible, I had read it over and over throughout my pilgrimage as a reincarnated son of the wilderness yahoo’s called the Israelites. Nonetheless, as often happens as a wayward son of God, we miss the forest for the trees about every other Monday—and I’m being nice here. But as I stumbled across this powerful book and read and prayed through it with the desperateness of a dog in search of a good bone, there it was like salivary delight for Pavlov’s dog. What began to formulate in my mind and made itself front and center of my time spent here was a recurring theme that sounds more like a contradiction than anything to ponder, especially if you’re an English major. The very words “Remember, so you don’t forget” were so naturally flowing from Moses sermonic tone throughout, so much so that I wrote it down in the introductory page of my Bible, and from there I made the time to let it grip me for a period, and to which now…you guessed it, I had now forgotten. I’m definitely an Israelite.
As I read through this book of sermons to the people of Israel from a man preparing for his own exit stage left, the constant catchphrase from Moses lips to the people is to “remember not to forget”. And the particular thrust for me comes in chapter 4 and verse 9 where Moses writes,
“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life”
Now rather than go into some ever evasive perfect meaning for what “soul” means, I think it’s safe to say that our soul includes “who we are” as a person. It starts from the head and goes to the toes. It comprises what keeps us up at night, drives us during the day and causes us to smile at laughing babies that we can’t get enough of. It has to do with what we do with our time, what we think about and who and what we choose to listen to. It is the real you: naked, warts and all. And so to keep one’s soul diligently, means to live our lives purposefully and intentionally.
Now as Americans we get that, even though most of us don’t do it. We’ve been sold purposeful living from parents, teachers, Sunday prophets and self-improvement gurus like the surety of death and taxes. We know it’s important physically, spiritually, mentally, psychologically, etc., etc., etc., but we still don’t do it; some of us think we can’t do it; and this world for goodness sakes makes it difficult as Hell to do it. We’re waiting on the next big break, and the Israelites were waiting on manna soufflé and water from a rock, but it’s the same ole song and dance. We are all just trying to make it the best we can while Darwin’s fittest run right past us. And as a result, we complain, we bitch and moan, we ask “why”, and reach for some kind of past slavery in our own previous or future Egypt that we think will fix it. We think a change in geography, a better diet, a bigger bank account, a new hairdo, a sexier mate, a bigger job and some chocolates under our pillow and some Grey Poupon if you please might just do it. But of course you know it doesn’t. That’s for another blog. The point is, regardless of our circumstances, we pretty much do everything except…you guessed it again, “Keep our soul diligently”, and I’ve finally found the reason why, but not just yet.
First of all, Moses proceeds to remind the people so they won’t forget things like:
- Remember you were a slave in Egypt (5:15)
- Remember what God did to Pharaoh and all of Egypt (7:18)
- Remember the way God has led you in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and to know what was in your heart as to whether you would obey Him or not (8:2)
- Remember God is the one who gives you the power to get wealth (8:18)
- Remember what God hates (9:7)
- Remember you were a slave and the Lord redeemed you (15:15)
- Remember where you came from (16:3)
- Remember you were a slave and be careful to observe the statues (24:18)
- Remember the olden days, study the generations, ask your Mom and Dad and your elders (32:7)
And these are just a few. See any repetition here? If I could sum these warnings to remember into conversational Mark Prince street language it would be something like this:
- Remember where you came from girlfriend, you ain’t all that!
- God is an awesome God and will kick your butt, because He’s God and you’re not! (repeat as many times as necessary for it to sink in)
- God wants to know how your heart really beats more than anything, and what makes you tick.
- Don’t get cocky thinking you’re all that and a bag of chips, God is the one who ultimately determines whether or not to entrust you with wealth and can just as easily take it away in a New York Minute!
- Remember God saved you; you didn’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps contrary to popular demand. (That’s not Obamaspeak, that’s Godspeak, so please note the difference)
- Do what God says!
- Listen to the wisdom of Godly parents, Godly people and learn from generational stupidity and wisdom please.
And the purpose of this blog today is not to go into a detailed list of what Deuteronomy teaches, but really to emphasize one very important thing: We are forgetful to a bloody fault! Which is why Moses is telling us to keep our soul (that is who we are in every facet) diligently! And let me just go ahead and tell you that I lead the pack in “not” doing this OK. One who set out to be some kind of spiritual director or guide on the path of following Jesus has over and over again forgotten what he already knows to be true, but because of all the giants in the land; and fear; and depression (which comes from…you guessed it, the devil); and shiny rings and what they represent (Gollum); and hot chicks; and rock n roll; and triple cheeseburgers from Wendy’s; and great cigars; and good bourbon and Pecan “freakin” Pie for goodness sakes–I get sidetracked and I forget. And so do you. You dig? Oh yeah, sure God made us to love all of these things and our heavenly Father also knows we got to pay the dang rent, but here is that answer I said I finally found smack dab in chapter 8 of Deuteronomy and echoed again in Matthews gospel. Drum roll please. Moses writes in chapter 8:2 the following,
“And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD”.
Can I just say, “badabingbadaboom”? And can I get a witness up in here? And in case you were wondering if the Old Testament and New Testament were some polar opposites, we now turn our eyes to Matthew 6:33, where contextually the gospel writer has been talking about how the heavenly father knows what we need…but he says this,
 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”
You see the problem with you and I is that we are so focused on our surroundings, circumstances and very stark realties (what we see in the natural realm), but we have forgotten that we are children of the God of the Universe who has chosen to invite us to know Him, and He’s really big, and much bigger than all that stuff that is weighing us down like a fatboy suit. Or perhaps, and this is the really big one, perhaps those of us who still call ourselves Christians, or perhaps nominally and loosely so, don’t really believe that He is that big at all. Moment of silence please.
You see this is the chink in the armor at least for me, perhaps it is for you as well. You see I know where the water is and I drink properly from it regularly, but my problem is that I actually drench myself with the worlds’ realties and sidebar philosophies for nowhere men often more so, and before long I don’t hear so well God’s voice anymore, and I forget, and the next thing you know I am beaten down for awhile. And you want to know the real reason I am and you are: It is because the Preacher doesn’t really believe anymore! You see that’s how the slope gets slippery, it is a process over time where attendance to the soul is put on the backburner, or on autopilot (that does not exist), or simply “forgotten’ and left untried altogether (Chesterton).
So follow my logic here. Does it not make sense that if you and I believe that we come from God ultimately and first and foremost, and that we are made from his dust, that our very sustenance and survival, and not secondary things like water, food, clothing, sex and more stuff is what our souls need the most of (Does Jesus temptation in the wilderness, being the second Adam, have any relevance here? Hint, Hint) I mean it makes sense right? Well that’s because if you are a Christian, it is the gosh dern, honest to goodness truth! But you see the real question is whether yet we still believe God is ultimate and everything else is secondary, or if we’ve succumbed to the opposing belief that the natural world is really all there is and whoever dies with the most stuff wins this shindig! A good case in point methinks. Because I assure you, if we did truly believe in God as ultimate, a lot of things would change; drastically so. In fact, my wife just told me so this morningJ. But the real catch is: in order to keep one’s soul, it takes a lot of backbreaking work; and you can take that joker to the bank. Or shall we say it’s simple and complex. But the simple part is a decision to believe again in the God who knows us, knows what’s down the road, and who is the one bread that we should not live without. And it is he who is asking us to remember, so we don’t forget!