As the people of Israel prepared to settle down in the Promised Land, Moses took time to warn them of certain dangers they must avoid. In Deuteronomy 8, he cautioned them about the perils of prosperity and self-satisfaction that they would face in their new home: “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deuteronomy 8:11–14).
The word translated “forget” in this passage comes from a verb in the original Hebrew that means “to stop remembering, ignore, dismiss from the mind, abandon, neglect, or cease to care about.” This kind of forgetting involves putting the Lord out of one’s consciousness.
Moses knew that, if the people were not careful, they would forget the forty years of God’s care in the wilderness when He had given them food to eat, clothing to wear, and sheltered them. In their comfortable, complacent, and prosperous state in the “land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8), they would be tempted to dismiss from their minds God’s miraculous parting of the Red Sea and deliverance from slavery in Egypt, His supply of manna in the desert when there was no food, His drawing water from the rock when they were thirsty, His guiding presence, His protection, and even His chastening hand when they had transgressed. As time went by, it would be all too easy for them to let the memory of God’s past goodness fade. They would become self-satisfied and think they had achieved success all on their own.
Moses explained, “He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath. But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed” (Deuteronomy 8:17–19, NLT).
Forgetting the Lord would get the Israelites into trouble, leading them into the sin of idolatry and eventual destruction. Moses cautioned that, if Israel neglected the lessons learned in the wilderness, failed to depend entirely on God, abandoned their worship of Him, and neglected His Word, disaster would obliterate the abundant blessings that remembering God brings.
Do not forget the Lord means consciously and consistently thinking about what God has shown us in the past, including His miracles of deliverance and provision, His abiding presence, His tender care, and His loving discipline. It also means obeying the “commands, laws, and decrees” in God’s Word. When Moses said, “Do not forget the Lord,” he meant for God’s people to keep the truth of Scripture and the real-life experiences of the living God ever at the forefront of their minds.
Are we not just like the ancient Israelites? When things are going well, don’t we quickly dismiss the truths we have learned in the past? Don’t we forget how we clung to God in the trials and heartaches, utterly dependent on Him for every breath?
The warning for Israel is the same for us today: Do not forget the Lord. Let these words challenge us to always give God’s dealings in our past a significant place in our present. May we honor and obey His Word and not take His blessings for granted. May we thank God for His goodness, mindful that He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift we enjoy (James 1:17). Similarly, let us constantly remember that our success depends solely on the Lord’s power and grace in our lives.