Remembering with gratitude

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you.

Deut 15:15

Several months ago our church ambitiously embarked on studying through the entire bible. This week we finished Deuteronomy.

Every time I read about the generation of Israelites that was delivered from Egypt I am struck by how quickly they turn from God. Almost immediately after walking on dry land between towering walls of ocean, they demand that Aaron create a god of Egypt for them. While standing in the shadow of a mountain that is literally ON FIRE with God’s presence, they give this golden calf the credit for delivering them from slavery at pharaoh’s hand. Despite having water provided from stones on multiple occasions, the next time their throats parch they are quick to remember how well hydrated they were back in Egypt. How many times did Moses hear the mutterings “we would have been better off in Egypt,” despite the fact that his people personally experienced numerous miracles of nature, healing, and conquest?

I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in many of the chronically ill patients for whom I care. There’s one homeless gentleman, Marvin, that I’ve come to know well.

Marvin is a portly, jolly fellow with unevenly trimmed facial hair and a sun-faded, orange t-shirt that is a little more threadbare every time I see him. He loves roaming the streets of Lexington and is quick to recommend great walking paths. Unfortunately, Marvin’s heart failure often prevents him from taking strolls.

Whenever I admit someone to the hospital for worsening heart failure, I have standard questions I ask: Did they stop taking their meds? Did they increase their salt or fluid intake? What made today different from every other day they live with heart failure and necessitated a trip to the hospital? However, with Marvin, I skip these and head straight to the big money question: where’d you get lunch today?

Marvin’s heart failure is always made worse by the salt load he gets when he indulges in fast food. Every time I take care of him he swears off cheeseburgers. He describes to me the healthy foods he will eat and where he intends to get them. He does well for a while, staying out of the hospital for weeks and sometimes months. But eventually he always seems to forget the way his legs swelled up and his breathing became more labored to the point where he couldn’t walk more than a dozen yards. He only remembers how nice the cheese fries were in Egypt.

The great sin of the Israelites—and Marvin’s downfall–is that they failed to remember. Moses knew this and throughout his writings urges future generations to remember. The festivals the Israelites celebrated, from Passover to the Feast of Booths, are all centered on remembering. Every week when we keep the Sabbath we are to “remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm” (Deut 5:15).

Having met the Lord in our later teens, Clark and I remember life in ‘Egypt’ without Christ. As we prepare to head to Kenya, we are trying to be intentional in remembering the ways the Lord has been faithful since delivering us: giving us a vision for missions, providing for the needed education, providing food and shelter, surrounding us with family, and allowing us to be knit in to the body of Christ.

I encourage you to stop and remember how God delivered you from Egypt. Thank him specifically for the ways he has since provided. I have found it is almost impossible to grumble or be tempted by the allures of Egypt while giving thanks.

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Our daughter Hannah, one of the many ways God has shown his faithfulness to us…

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