Deuteronomy - The Preservation of the Saints (Part 2)

Joel Portman

To continue considering some of the themes in Deuteronomy, we notice that the book is marked by God’s constant reminder to God’s people of what is past in their experience. They, as well as we, surely gain much from some remembering, though there is much we should forget! They needed to remember these things so they might be preserved in the future.

Remember their Deliverance

Of the fourteen times we find the word "remember," it is associated five times with the bondage of Egypt that they were not to forget. Sadly, we find that they (as we) forgot the bondage of that state and remembered the things God wanted them to forget (Ex. 16:3, Num. 11:5). This caused them many great problems and hindered their progress. An attitude that desires "attractive" things of a past life and the world around indicates failure to appreciate spiritual purposes God has for a child of God.

Observing the Sabbath (5:15) was motivated by remembering the bondage. They had entered into rest with God in contrast to the grinding toil of that former state, so they were to keep that day of rest. We do not have the Sabbath, nor is the Lord’s Day the same, yet it only behooves us to set aside one day of the week in response to Him, so it can be used for the things of the Lord instead of the occupations of an Egyptian world. It seems to indicate a failing appreciation of deliverance in salvation when every day is used for self.

Their brotherly relationships were controlled by the remembrance of their bondage (15:15). They were severely treated and oppressed in Egypt and were to remember it when showing kindness and mercy to their brethren. Some realization of the evil bondage of our world from which we have been delivered should move our hearts to show love toward others, even if undeserved.

Observing the Feasts (16:12) was with a backward glance to the days when they could not observe such festive occasions. God’s deliverance was with a view to their holding a feast unto Him in the wilderness (Ex. 5:1), so their joy at those events was partially an acknowledgment that God’s purpose had been realized. There was no true joy in Egypt for them nor us.

Remembering the unrighteousness of Pharaoh’s oppression was also the basis for administering righteous judgments in the land (24:17-18). Even in their treatment of strangers, the fatherless or the widows (their condition in Egypt), they were to remember and do the right. God’s assembly is likewise to be characterized by careful, wise justice and mercy, doing what is right according to the standard of God, not the world.

Also in that chapter (24:22), God reminds them to consider the poor in their harvests. It was to show mercy and display God’s love in a similar way that He had shown mercy to them. Hardness and grasping in material things shows a poor appreciation for the grace of God and His delivering mercy.

Remembering the Pathway

In many other ways, remembering their past was intended to direct their behavior. We cannot consider every occasion, but we can notice that they were to remember God’s delivering power (7:18) and be encouraged to go forward. They were to remember all the way God led them (8:2) so they might realize Divine purposes in that pathway. To remember it is of God’s power to give them wealth (8:18) would make them appreciate Him more than all else. Remembering God’s judgment on Miriam (24:9) would cause them to realize the awful results of sin. Many more could be cited and can be considered (9:7, 9:27, 16:3, 25:17, 32:17) but we leave the subject of remembering, trusting that we will not forget the lessons God has sought to teach us, as well as them, so that we might be preserved in our pathway for Christ.

Condition of heart emphasized

More than any other book of the Pentateuch God speaks of their hearts. He thus emphasizes what was lacking in their wilderness journey. They had the tabernacle and the ark in their midst and in its heart was the law, but they didn’t have the law in their hearts nor did they "love the Lord ... with all their hearts" (6:5). This shows that unless Christ and His Word is "hid in my heart," (Psalm 119:11) the practice of the truth will never continue long in my life.

God was looking for more than outward conformity to truth. Even on the outward level, what He saw did not please Him. For this second generation, a generation of the Spirit who are about to enter the land, He sought that their hearts might be different from the previous generation who died in the wilderness. That previous generation represents what is of the flesh; though redeemed out of Egyptian bondage, it cannot enter the land and must die in the wilderness. Those entering the land must and can only be those who have God’s law in their hearts.

Men’s hearts are mentioned 45 times in this book. Some hearts were made hard (or they hardened their hearts) against God while other hearts were made soft in His presence. Some hearts were discouraged by their brethren (1:28, 20:8) while other hearts, as Caleb and Joshua’s, fully embraced God’s promises. We learn that the things they said in their hearts influenced their actions as such attitudes always do. Unbelief expressed in their hearts in 7:17 would hinder their conquest of the land and possession of the inheritance. Pride (8:17) would attribute the blessings of God to their own worth, something God makes clear was not the case, while in 18:2 1, a lack of knowledge of how to discern what was of God would cast them on God to know what was right. We must take heed in our hearts as the wise man says in Proverbs 4:23, "Keep thy heart with all diligence (with all keeping) for out of it are the issues of life."

Importance of our Hearts

When God speaks of our hearts, He is not referring primarily to a physical organ of our body. It is an expression that indicates what is of the deepest nature of the human personality, what is of vital importance and genuine reality in each one. God is looking on the hearts of all men (1 Sam. 16:7, Prov. 17:3), and He knows all hearts (1 Thess. 2:4). He sought that they might think properly in their hearts (Deut. 4:39, 8:5) and thus have right actions in their lives.

His primary desire for them was that they might love Him with all their hearts (6:5, 10:12, 11:13, 13:3, 30:6) and as a result that they might serve the Lord with joyfulness and with gladness of heart (28:47). Certainly His desire for us is the same today! We could all certainly benefit from a heart-examination.