“Acknowledge and take heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.”(Deut. 4:39)
Often times a simple prayer can characterize my week or even my month. Lately, I’ve found myself praying this phrase daily, “order my thoughts.” This is a prayer of reorientation for me. With constant demands on my heart and mind, I am so easily swayed “out of order.”
I find myself discontent, angry, depressed, and usually find I have been looking to someone or something to supply my deepest needs rather than God. Simply put, my heart is an idol factory. It is a daily battle to ask God to put himself first on the throne of my heart, to order my thoughts, so that I am not so easily distracted.
In the early chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses is addressing the Israelites as they prepare to enter the promised land. He is giving his parting advice, first by telling the mighty ways that God has acted on behalf of his people, imploring them to remember what God has done. He then begins to recount the law and call to obedience, so that the Israelites might live long and be prosperous in Canaan.
God knows the hearts of his people, that they too had the tendency to get wildly out of order, to begin to worship created things rather than their creator. (Rom. 1:25)
Counselor and speaker Julie Sparkman does an excellent job exposing the root cause of idolatry in Idol Addiction. Julie shares that the root of my idolatry is that I hold a false belief that God is not for me, that he will not come through for me. My idols are the things I look to to make life work for me.
Maybe it’s a successful career, the perfect family life, or peace at the holidays. I’ll be ok if… (fill in the blank). Our sinful patterns then are the behavior we employ to try to make our idols come through for us. We manipulate to get ahead at work, micro-manage our family, or sweep every conflict under the rug.
We do these things because we ultimately believe it is up to us to get what our soul needs to be happy. We don’t believe that God will provide what we need in the deepest part of our being.
The Israelites were no different, and I think this is why God uses Moses to recount again the truth of who God is and what he has done for them. There is a constant refrain in today’s passage to teach the truth and the law of the Lord to the next generation.
God’s people are called to “teach” and “remember” (Deut. 4:9-10). We teach our children so that we remember who our God is. And as we remember the character of our God, we are compelled to teach. Sometimes communicating the truth in a simple way is the best way to remind the soul yet again of our most foundational need for God and to keep idols off the throne of our hearts.
Matt Schneider is teaching a series on the gospel in children’s literature. Good children’s stories have a way of stripping away distractions so that we can see truth. Sally Lloyd Jones’ devotional, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, is written for children, but makes my heart sing as it recounts daily the soul-refreshing truth of the nature of God.
[Ed. note: The narrator, David Suchet, is the English actor who portrayed the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot on TV for so many years – and who was converted to Christianity after reading Romans 8 in a hotel Bible.]
God’s call to serve him first carries with it the promise that we will experience his blessing when we do, that life works best when he is first. I can remind myself to live in God’s truth one minute and depart from it the next. The great news is that my sanctification is ultimately God’s responsibility.
As I humble myself before him, his strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). He knew then and he knows now that we are in need of Jesus, who kept the law perfectly on our behalf. He reminds us in Deuteronomy 4:31, “For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.” Thanks be to God for his mercy, that he is willing and able order our thoughts and incline our hearts to seek him first.