Church attendance in America has dropped from 34% in 1970 to 17% in 2021. The United States is the largest Christian nation in the world, but it is also the third-largest non-Christian nation.
God instructed the people to not forget what he had done for them. Forgetting has two immediate impacts.
(1) To forget what God has done results in disobedience.
(2) When people forget the experiences they have had with God, they fail to transmit them to their children. The result is the kind of drop in church attendance that we have seen in one generation of people.
A Much Needed Message
We need to pay close attention to Moses’ message to the Israelites when they were poised to enter the promised land.
He said, “But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children. (Deuteronomy 4.9).
If you are anything like me, you will agree that it is easy to forget what God has done for us.
It is sad to say, but I have to admit that God’s complaint through the prophet too often applies to me: “Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early” (Hosea 6.4).
God has a remedy for our forgetfulness. His message to the church in Ephesus should be heeded by us all.
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
“Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Revelation 2.4-5).
God is calling this generation to remember the experiences he has showered upon us. Then, we are to change our behavior and live in obedience to him.
Teach Your Children
Teaching children is a theme of Deuteronomy. As generations transition from one to the other, the experiences of the Israelites with God faded from memory.
It was the responsibility of one generation to teach their children the wonderful benefits of a relationship with God.
If we fail to convey a desire to know God to our children, the knowledge of God will diminish just as it has in America over the past 50 years.
I recently listened to an interview with Russel Moore, a former Southern Baptist leader. In his current work with Christianity Today, Moore is attempting to change what he calls a “crisis of credibility” in the church.
If we fail to teach our children through a credible lifestyle and a relevant message, the number of Christians will further diminish in America. We run the risk of becoming how one author described Europe, “the graveyard of the church.”
The message of Revelation is appropriate and desperately needed. We need to remember, repent and return to our first love.
The Fear of the Lord
When people encountered the living God at Horeb (Mt. Sinai), they learned through first-hand experience the “fear of the Lord.”
One generation is commanded to communicate to the next generation the great things of God, so they will live in the “fear of the Lord.”
The fear of the Lord should be taught to each generation.
Moses said, “How you once stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people for me, and I will let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me as long as they live on the earth, and may teach their children so'” (Deuteronomy 4.10).
One of my favorite authors defines the “fear of the Lord” by quoting Deuteronomy 6.5. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
That is an intriguing way to think of the fear of the Lord.
In today’s YouTube video, Rudy Ross states that “fear of the Lord” involves fear of separation from God. Once you have lived in an intimate, friendship relationship with God, you certainly fear any distance from God.
I don’t believe that we have to have an either/or understanding of “fear of the Lord.” God’s goal for our lives is that we experience his love in a profound and meaningful way that is reciprocated by our behavior.
When we live with God in a love relationship, we certainly want to do everything to keep from being separated from that connection.
We may be speaking of two sides of the same coin with these thoughts. The conclusion of the matter is that God deeply desires to live with us in love. If we are wise, we will respond to his love with love and faithfulness.
Experience and Language
The faith of the Hebrew people was challenged, when they entered the land. The Canaanite customs of agriculture involved sacrifice to and appeasement of pagan gods.
God refused to allow his people to make an image of him, as was prevalent among the Hebrew neighbors. He was never to be reduced to an image or a form of any kind.
God was to be known through experience and language.
Moses taught the people this truth and said, “You approached and stood at the foot of the mountain while the mountain was blazing up to the very heavens, shrouded in dark clouds.
Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice” (Deuteronomy 4.11-12).
How did God communicate with his people? He used language and experience.
John noted the same means of God’s ultimate communication through Jesus.
He wrote, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
“No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1.14, 18).
God’s eternal Word became a human and communicated his will to us. By God’s grace, we are able to know God’s word and experience his presence.
That is a gift that we must communicate to each generation.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on my YouTube channel. Rudy is an excellent Bible student and lover of God. He brings his Jewish heritage and years of Bible study to the discussion.
I am indebted to Peter Craigie’s excellent commentary on Deuteronomy for insights into this book of the Bible.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.