“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana
We see that Moses understood this when we read Deuteronomy. The word Deuteronomy literally means “second law”, and while it isn’t actually a second law, it is a repeat of the law God gave Moses and the Israelites in the desert. Moses is repeating that law to a generation that probably didn’t experience some of the earlier events, because the generation that left Egypt died in the desert as a consequence of their rebellion toward God.
Deuteronomy is a warning to the people to fulfill God’s law.
While we follow Paul’s words, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead”, there are times when we must remember the past.
It is not good to live in the past, but we must learn from it so we don’t repeat it.
This is why Moses called the people. They stood on the shores of the river Jordan – a river that separated them from the land God has promised them – and told them how God had freed the Israelite people, how they were rebellious and stubborn, and how they died int he desert.
How God’s punishment had been that a journey that should have lasted only a week and a half turned into 40 years.
Deuteronomy is a lesson for a new generation, not just so they hear God’s law but so they understand the consequences of rebellion and the blessings of obedience.
There are 4 reasons why we should remember the past
1. To see how far we’ve come. I don’t know about you but I am sometimes disappointed in myself. I fall, I get up, and I fall again. Like Paul, those things I should do I don’t seem to do, but those things I shouldn’t do are the very things I do. I look at myself and cry out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Then I look at where I was 10, 15, 20 years ago and see how far I’ve come. I am not the same person i was, I actually am becoming more like Jesus. Praise God!
2. To remember God’s goodness. When I remember how rebellious and stubborn I used to be, I am amazed at God’s goodness to me! I would have given up on me a long time ago! But God didn’t give up on me, He saw what I could be if I would just surrender to Him!
3. To recognize God’s grace. I can get really frustrated with myself and others when we don’t live this Christian life as we should. I forget to pray about things, I react in ways I shouldn’t, I get mad and say things I don’t mean, I fail to fulfill certain responsibilities. But when I look back, I see His grace to me, and to others as well, and I take comfort in that! Of course, we need to be holy as God is holy, but we can’t only be holy by His grace!
4. To remember God’s discipline. How do we raise our kids? Yes – we are good parents, we have forgiven a lot, we are sometimes merciful to them and give them desert even when they haven’t eaten their lunch. But how do children remember best not to do certain things? By discipline. When they have to sit in time out or experience other unpleasant circumstances, they remember very well not to do what resulted in undesirable consequence. God disciplines the ones He loves. That is what God’s Word tells us. And we must remember the past so we don’t forget those times when God had to discipline us. God’s discipline is one way He shows us His love, because He wants to protect us from evil.
While we read Deuteronomy, we should remember those things that God has spoken to us and done for us personally, so we don’t forget how far we’ve come; so we don’t forget his goodness and grace…and yes, even His discipline.