commentary: Lest We Forget
Things Are As God Wants Them
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 10-Dec-11; Sermon #1078c; 13 minutes
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that Modern Israel has difficulty remembering God, and not remembering God's providence and His mercy, reminds us that we are descendants of this forgetful tribe. Ingratitude has been one of the most disgusting traits in the Israelitish culture, a trait that can only be corrected by thankfulness. Ingratitude is augmented by weariness and excessive business. Distraction and weariness leave us with too little time to place God in our thoughts. The entire western world is in a frantic free fall into immorality, making it increasingly hard to make contact with their Creator. We are to cultivate the mindset to be thankful in every situation, praying without ceasing. To refuse to give thanks in prayer is like clipping the wings from a bird, rendering it incapable of flying. Remember that God oversees everything that is happening.
The title that I gave to my previous commentary—the a day or two after Thanksgiving—was "A Time for a Thanksgiving," but I subtitled it, "Lest We Forget," and its purpose was to serve as an ever-so-brief reminder that God warns fairly strongly in Deuteronomy 8 and Deuteronomy 28 that we not forget that it is He who is the Giver of all good blessings.
The vast, overwhelming percentage of Americans that claim to be Christians, I believe, do not think of this very often. I'm sure that in this nation there is a small percentage of citizens that never think of it at all. Well, this is not too unusual in Israelitish cultures, because Psalm 78 tells us that in the wilderness, Israel "remembered not His power." This is a vivid illustration in forgetfulness, because in only two years, a portion of the Israelites forgot what God did in Egypt to spring them free so that they could be on their way to the Promised Land—and man, was that costly. A number of them lost their lives, and all the rest were condemned to 38 more years in the wilderness. It was almost like they went to jail because of forgetfulness.
In Psalm 106, where the context is not referring to the wilderness, it says that Israel did not remember the multitude of His mercies. There are many other references, but that's enough to get the sense here that in the course of daily life, Israelites tend to be quite able to overlook God.
We're the descendants of these Israelites, and we share with them the same proclivity. I heard Mr Armstrong say on a couple of different occasions that he believed that ingratitude is the most common of all sins. Thanksgiving is an admission of indebtedness. If Herbert Armstrong was correct, you would tend to indicate a people self-centered enough that they believe that they are indebted to no one, including God.
Part of the cause is that we suffer to some degree from the out-of-sight, out-of-mind principle. It's at work in our nature, so it's not unusual that we should have this problem. The unconverted Israelites were so weak in this regard that even though they witnessed with their own eyes in Egypt and in the wilderness on a day to day basis, including the manna every morning, the cloud by day and the fire by night, they still overlooked God's presence. They eventually took those daily miracles for granted.
I do not for a moment believe that we are that bad, but nonetheless, the nature remains that we are so sight-oriented that we must go through conversion in order to be reprogrammed to think more often of our relationship with God.
This thought is part of the underlying substructure of my frequent reminders to us, asking us whether we see God. Whether we think of our relationship often or not, it is a reality that since our calling, our lives are inextricably bound with God's purpose for us personally and individually. We are not here by random. He chose us, and He wants us to remember Him and what He's doing, what He's already done, and what He will do.
I read an article this week in which the author, who is a preacher of an independent religious organization and a man who appears to have a pretty great deal of truth, was asked by a member of his congregation what he believes is the most important command to a Christian in the Bible. Others may have different answers, but his answer was Matthew 6:33: "Seek you first the Kingdom of God . . . and all these things will be added unto you."
There is some logic to his reply, because we live in times in which so much is happening, and so fast, that our lives tend to be so busy that life almost always is both intense and distracting. It's not very difficult at all for us to lose our focus.
Daniel 12:4 prophesies that at the time of the end, many will be running to and fro. This pictures a lot of intense activity. Earlier, in Daniel 7:25, another prophecy pertaining to the end time, shows that at the end time, activities of the beast power are intended to wear out the saints.
Now here comes the pitch: Weary people—tired people—are weak people. Tiredness intensifies self-concern, and one of the most effective means discovered by those torturing people in order to extract information from a captured enemy is to deny them, by whatever means, the sleep that they need in order to recoup strength. Satan has us in a world that never stops intensifying efforts to make us weary. So you think that Satan doesn't know that?
I think that God permitted the subtle and seducing Satan to design a world that produces the opportunities for his enemies, God's children, to choose excessive busyness, and its fruit will be distraction and weariness. And he wears away at us. Both of those the distraction and the weariness will leave us with too little time and too little energy to think about God and the spiritual goal that He has put in our life.
We all do some measure of complaining about the hectic pace of life, and the constant stresses that are drumming on us from the world every day. Will there ever be any relief from the bad news of the world today? The answer is a resounding no, and it will stay no as long as Jesus Christ has not returned. The entire Western world is it a rip-roaring freefall of warfare, natural disasters, corruption in government, economic woes, and a deluge of immorality. None of those things cheer you up.
It's only the beginning of the last days, and we aren't all that far into them. Please do not overlook that these days are proceeding—this is important—exactly as our Father in heaven wants them to proceed, and we must choose to bear with them and, with His help, overcome them by and through faith. Did you get that? It wouldn't be this way if God did not want it this way.
I Thessalonians 5:1 begins by calling us to remember the times and the seasons that we live in, and this is right in context. Verse 1 is right in context, following Paul's instructions regarding Christ's return in chapter 4. So we are now moving within the beginning of the birth pangs of the Kingdom of God, and Paul warns that we are not in darkness. Then he warns us, "Do not go to sleep!" That's what tired people do. They go to sleep.
Within the same context, in I Thessalonians 5:16 Paul says, "Rejoice always." In verse 17, he says, "Pray without ceasing." And in verse 18, he commands us that "in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus." Even in these pressure packed times, we are to give thanks, and that includes the pressure because our Father has decided this is good for His children's development.
"Everything" means, more accurately, "in all circumstances." The circumstances we operate in are all subject to God's sovereignty. God is on His throne. He's aware, and He desires to see what we do with these circumstances. How will we respond? How good is our judgment?
The word "thank" is derived from the verb "to think." It requires thinking for one to give thanks, and to fail to give thanks in prayer is like clipping the wings of a bird. It will not fly. The prayer will not fly because in many cases such prayers are revealing to God that we are thinking only of ourselves, if we aren't thanking and praising Him for what He has done and what He's doing.
See, a person in that situation is not thinking of God's glory and of His purposes. Thankfulness, even in depressing circumstances, provides a strong witness to Him that we still have the right focus. We are still truly seeking God's kingdom in spite of the present circumstance.
So, lest we forget, God is overseeing what is going on, and if what is going on did not suit His purposes, He would change it. This is what He suits for His purposes for right now.