One of the recurring themes throughout the book of Deuteronomy is, “Do not forget God.” As the children of Israel were camped east of the Jordan River and moving closer to the time when they would enter the promised land of Canaan, Moses reminded them over and over not to forget Jehovah. Deuteronomy 8:7,10-20 is one extensive passage that records such a warning to Israel:
(7) For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land . . . (10) When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. (11) Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, (12) lest – when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; (13) and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; (10) when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage . . . (17) then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ (18) And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. (19) Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. (20) As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
Since the Old Testament was written for our learning (Romans 15:4), there must be some lessons in this stern warning that the Lord wants you and me to grasp and apply. What do we see about forgetting God in this lengthy statement from Deuteronomy?
The possibility of forgetting God – The fact that the Lord warned His people not to forget Him shows that such could happen. There were several cases in Israel’s history when God’s own people forgot and forsook Him. In fact, they forgot Him while they were still at Mt. Sinai: “They made a calf in Horeb . . . They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt” (Psalm 106:19,21). Israel forgot the Lord during the time of the judges (Judges 3:7) and again in the days of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:32). Let us not kid ourselves: when it comes to forgetting the Lord, it can happen in any generation, and it can happen in any family.
The foolishness of forgetting God – Think about it. Who was it that had provided for Israel’s needs during their time in the wilderness? God had. And, He promised to continue to bless them if they served Him faithfully. It makes no sense, then, for Israel to turn away from the source of their blessings! Another thought: if the Israelites would ever forget and turn away from Jehovah, would He be aware of such? Of course! He sees and knows everything, and He also holds us accountable for our choices. No, it makes no sense, no sense at all, to forget God.
The evidence of forgetting God – How do the people of God indicate when they have forgotten the Lord? Go back and look at verse eleven: “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes . . .” What do we see in this statement? That is correct: when God’s children stop obeying Him, they have forgotten Him. It does not mean that they cease remembering that He exists; they simply fail to appreciate Him, and as a consequence they fail to submit to Him. Look again at the end of the chapter. In verse nineteen, the thought is forgetting God, and in the next verse the proof of such is “not be obedient to the voice of the LORD.”
The circumstances that can lead to forgetting God – What was God’s warning to Israel? After you enter the land of Canaan and enjoy wonderful material blessings like beautiful houses, growing animal herds, and large amounts of silver and gold, do not forget Me (8:12-14). Sadly, though, that is exactly what happens in far too many cases. People enjoy an abundance of material blessings and get a full belly. They become fat and sassy, and who gets left out of the picture? That is correct: God is forgotten. Ungrateful men and women are lifted up with pride, trusting in themselves and praising themselves as the masterminds behind their wealth and blessings. Stupid humans! It is God who empowers us to get wealth in the first place (8:18).
It has happened time and again throughout history. Struggling nations, families, and individuals become wealthy, and God is forgotten. Rather than trust in the Almighty, folks begin to trust in self and material stuff. Oh, some may still go through the motions, praying to God and singing praises to Him. However, to be honest, their heart is not in such expressions of thanks and honor. They know it, and God knows it. They love their material things more than they love God. They give themselves credit for their “progress” instead of thanking Him.
Brethren, regardless of how long we have been in God’s family, we need to consider seriously the teaching of Deuteronomy 8:7-20. Its message is realistic, practical, and, yes, sobering. In the past, some of God’s people forgot Him. It can happen to anyone. Let us make sure that it does not happen in our hearts and our lives!
— Roger D. Campbell