Remember where you came from.
Good advice, Deuteronomy. It’s all too easy to claim that we’re here because we worked hard or because we deserve to be here. It’s easy to forget the helping hands that others offered. Self-advancement, self-creation, self-help, and self-care are lies.
At the end of Deuteronomy, entering the land of promise, the Israelites are urged to remember how they got there: We were starving, enslaved, immigrants without land or hope. We “cried out for help,” and the Lord with “outstretched hand” brought us out and gave us land. Remember you would not be here, you would not have the life you are living, if not for God. Your life—everything that you call your own and all that makes your life joyful and worthwhile—has come to you as gift, as grace.
Remember: You wouldn’t be Christian—reading these scriptures, thinking these thoughts, walking this way—if not for the gifts of others. No one is born Christian. If you have faith, if you believe that the story Deuteronomy tells is truthful about what God is up to and who you are, then that is gift. Someone had to love Christ and love you enough to tell you the story to show you the way.
“When I discovered Christ . . .” “When I gave my life to Christ . . .” No! We must remember how we got here and where we came from. Our relationship to God is a gift from God.
We wouldn’t have life if it were not for the God we have—the giver of gifts, the protector of immigrants, the Savior of the enslaved—and if that God had not relentlessly, constantly reached out to us and put us where we are, without much assistance from us. That’s the God that Deuteronomy names, the same God who comes to us in Christ, giving us the life we didn’t earn or deserve.
Remember the people who gifted and guided you to where you are today.
As we begin the season of Lent, the readings provide several images of how we might prepare our hearts. Deuteronomy focuses on gratitude with a recitation of the history of God’s faithfulness. The people are instructed to offer their gifts to God as a response to God’s generosity. The psalmist focuses on faithfulness. If we put our confidence in God, God will protect and sustain us. In Romans, Paul emphasizes faith. Our confession of faith from the mouth should come from the heart, and this heart confession saves us. The story of the temptation of Jesus admonishes us to know biblical truth. The devil tempts Jesus with half-truths—even scriptural quotes—but Jesus counters with correct understanding of God’s Word and God’s character.
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11. We no longer offer physical sacrifices to God. How do you give the “first fruits” of your labor to God in thanksgiving?
Read Psalm 91:2, 9-16. Recall a time you have felt abandoned or insecure. How did God respond to your call?
Read Romans 10:8b-13. Paul learned to see those he once despised as his equals in Christ. Whom does God call you to learn to love?
Read Luke 4:1-13. How do you follow Jesus’ example to use scripture to resist temptation?
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