When considering the Old Testament, the books may seem daunting, outdated, and boring, which is exactly why I challenged myself to read through the Old Testament. As I launched into my reading of Genesis, I dreaded getting to books like Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. However, as I continue working my way through the Old Testament, I have found beauty in some of the most complex parts of Israel’s history. Their story points to a God who keeps his promises, walks in the wilderness with his people, and chooses to love despite disobedience. While I can easily point my fingers at the Israelites in judgment thinking I would live so differently if God showed up for me as he did for them, I must also take moments to pause and see my own life as similar to the story of the Israelites. The book of Deuteronomy has been convicting and challenging because I so often forget the goodness of God in my life and my own tendencies to disobey.
In order to understand the timeline of Deuteronomy, we must first understand the context in which we find this book. Moses led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. God showed up in tangible, supernatural ways to rescue his people from the oppression of Pharaoh. Once they escaped Egypt, Israel quickly let fear overcome them and their unbelief swallowed their obedience to the point of contemplating heading back to Egypt. As God led them on the path to the Promised Land, Moses sent a group of men to inspect the land before entering. Out of twelve spies, only two came back with a good report (Joshua and Caleb). Again, fear overwhelmed the Israelites and they refused to enter the land despite Joshua and Caleb’s encouragement. This sent the Israelites into forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Numbers records their journey in the wilderness. In Deuteronomy, we find Israel at the end of their wilderness experience as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. Moses delivers a series of final teachings before Israel moves into the Promised Land.
When I focus on my enemies more than the table God has prepared before me (Psalm 23), I get sucked into self-preservation and other forms of selfishness. When I forget his goodness, I can so easily complain and wish I could return to my “Egypt.” Moses instructs, “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:18-19, ESV). On my journey on this side of Heaven, I want to remember how God has shown up for us. In remembering, I develop gratitude. In remembering, I speak truth over myself. In remembering, I am choosing to look at the table prepared before me in the presence of my enemies (Psalm 23).
From a secular perspective, we are often encouraged to remain grateful, which I think goes hand-in-hand with remembering. One suggestion for overcoming anxiety and depression is to keep a gratitude journal. 1 This helps us maintain a different and more positive perspective. From a biblical perspective, we have the added richness of remembering the things to be thankful for as specific ways God has shown up in our own lives on our behalf. He is a personal God, who comes close. In order to remember, it can be helpful to make a list of specific events or situations we give thanks for. Or, we might create a timeline specific to ways we’ve seen God show up in our own lives. As we foster gratitude through remembrance, we remind ourselves that God is present. He is near. And, he is working even if it might take a journey through the wilderness before entering the Promised Land.
After graduating from Cairn University, Elizabeth Selle took a live-in position at a maternity home for single, pregnant women in crisis.