The Past Reviewed
"You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the wilderness." Deuteronomy 8:2
It is well sometimes to look forward — and anticipate "the blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior."
It is good sometimes to look within — and examine whether we are in the faith.
It is right sometimes to look around — and see the posture of our foes, and what temptations are laid for us.
It is necessary also to look back — and see the way the Lord our God has led us.
WHERE have we been?
1. In a wilderness. For sin has changed the character of the present world; it was once the garden of the Lord — it is now a desolate wilderness. Its leading characteristic is barrenness. There is no food for the soul, nothing to satisfy the immortal spirits in it. King Solomon, who knew most, possessed most, and enjoyed most of this world, has said, "Vanity of vanities — all is vanity!"
2. It is a dangerous place, full of robbers, wild beasts, and terrible pits! It is full of troubles, and all who dwell in it are exposed to many, great, and painful privations.
Who has been our GUIDE? The Lord your God has led You. He well knows the place — with all its turnings, windings, and dangers! He tenderly loves our persons; His love has in it more than a mother's tenderness, and more than a father's steadfastness and strength. He always consults our welfare. He does not always aim to please or gratify us — but He always guides us into safety, peace, and honor. He leads us accoiding to our nature and circumstances: for Israel He provided the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night — to refresh, preserve, and lead them. He leads us by . . .
1. His sacred Word,
2. His Holy Spirit, and
3. the events of His Providence.
By what WAY have we been led? Not by the nearest, or the smoothest, or the easiest — but the best way. The right way. The only right way. It has been rough, difficult, and round about — but it has been right. God chose it for us, and He has led us in it. It was the way in which He could . . .
teach us the most important lessons;
try and exercise all our graces;
prove the sincerity of our professions;
prepare us for His service below, and His glory above;
and make us really useful, that He might make us honorable — for only the useful are honorable in the kingdom of our God.
How LONG has He been leading us? Israel had been led forty years — so has the writer — so, perhaps, has the reader; this is a long period, more than half of man's allotted time below. It is the most interesting period; for in these years, we have been . . .
called by grace,
separated from the world,
consecrated to God,
sent into His vineyard,
and formed into families.
It is also the most important period. Few are converted after they are forty years of age. Generally, The Lord's people are called while young. In the past forty years . . .
our state has been changed,
our nature has been renewed,
our character has been formed, and
our usefulness has been evident.
What now does the Lord REQUIRE? "You shall remember all the way the Lord your God has led you." This implies we should notice, record, and preserve an account of the Lord's dealings and leadings. Remember the way — all the way — the occurrences of the way:
that you were led — not dragged, not driven, not carried — but led;
that your leader was not a tyrant — but a God, a friend, a father;
that you were led, not left to 'chance';
that you led every moment, every step, in every place, even when you least perceived it!
Remember that the Lord's leading has preserved you — and but for that — you would never have arrived so far in safety.
Remember your faults — how many, how great, how various! Remember how you have provoked the Lord, and grieved His Holy Spirit. (Deuteronomy 9:7, etc.)
Remember His favors — how rich, how free, how suitable! You were a slave, a rebel, a condemned criminal — and he ransomed you, reclaimed you, pardoned you, and raised you to freedom, dignity, and happiness! (Deuteronomy 5:15.)
Remember your foes — how they hated you, pursued you, fought against you, and were determined to destroy you; but your God delivered you. (Deuteronomy 25:17, 18: Micah 6:5.)
Remember the friendship of your God — how necessary, how constant, how condescending! Friendship unparalleled, on which your supply, your safety, your all depended. (Deuteronomy 32:7-14.)
Remember the way, the Guide, and your own conduct — or you cannot be just; you will not be either grateful or humble. Remember, for God remembers. (Jeremiah 2:2.)