… then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
We have all been told to watch ourselves. One form the warning has taken in recent memory is the “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” IT was never spoken with that much enunciation, but the point is not how it is said, but that it is said.
There is a tendency in people to get sloppy. We get comfortable in a place and find a groove. The groove is not inherently bad. Being in a groove can make otherwise monotonous things enjoyable. These days, I work as a technical writer and writing technical documents is routine. The format seldom varies by much, if at all. The content varies, but can get stale if you keep working on the same subsystem of the same top level system for too long. If things get stale, then there is the risk of growing bored with the task. Being in a groove means that one task flows into the next into the next until there’s nothing left to do in that string of tasks. ON TO THE NEXT!
Our focus tends to wander the further we are from the trial or the crisis. God, knowing this, warns Israel to be careful not to let the fields they didn’t plant and the cities they didn’t build — that all seem so permanent and safe — lull them into a false sense of security. Israel would do precisely that, as The Bible continues, and give a stellar example of what not to do.
In spiritual matters, believers are so prone to getting sloppy. Spiritual warfare is nothing if not repetitious. Some temptation comes along. We resist it and rely on God. Temptation goes away. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until we miss the middle steps of resisting temptation and relying on God and we end up asking forgiveness instead of enjoying victory. Talk to anyone who has been in an intense situation and you will find that the focus on sticking to the script is laser-like. In the crisis, most of us find that we must focus on things with that laser precision and intensity — there is no other kind of focus while in the trial. But trials pass and things calm down and the laser becomes something more like a flashlight; then a spotlight; finally diffused bit of illumination from one of those photographic apparatus.What’s more, our spiritual standing is exactly like those cities Israel took over: we did not earn our spiritual standing any more than Israel built those cities. The spiritual fruit in my life was not planted by me, but I reap the harvest of it all the same.
The principle is the same for Israel and the believer: I did not plant this or build this or earn this. I have a great situation at work — not my doing. My wife is awesome; my daughter so happy most everyone feels the need to comment on it; my living situation pretty darn great; my needs met in abundance — none of this is my doing in any way, shape, or form. But all of this can lend itself to making me feel content and losing sight of the fact that the spiritual war continues. Israel settled a land surrounded by enemies on every side and elements within that worked to draw them away from reliance on and relationship with God — it is precisely the same way today as it was then. But the same is true, in a spiritual sense, of me and every other believer. We are settled in a land with spiritual enemies on every side and a sinful nature within us that threatens to pull us from God by hook or by crook.
So it is that God tells Israel to watch themselves. And so it is that I hear that instruction echoed to me: Watch yourself.