Finish this sentence in your mind: “I worship the Lord best by…” Did you finish that sentence with something like “…by singing”, or “…by praying”, or “…by telling others about Jesus”? While we can worship the Lord by doing each one of those things, Moses wants us to know that we won’t be moved to do any of those things unless we first worship the Lord by remembering our past, our rescue, and our present blessings.
Let’s begin our study by looking at how Moses’ words first applied to the Children of Israel. Since God knew that the Israelites would be tempted to forget about him once they had settled into their new home of Canaan, he directed the people to bring the firstfruits of their harvest to him once they had settled in the Promised Land. As they placed this offering before the Lord at the tabernacle they were to say to the attending priest: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous” (Deut. 26:5b).
The Israelites were to begin their worship of the Lord by remembering their humble past. The Israelites were not descended from people who were known for their military might. Their forefathers were not inventive geniuses who made millions developing new ways of farming or building cities. Nor had their ancestors come up with advances in science or mathematics. The Israelites’ forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, didn’t even own land except for a small burial plot in Canaan.
What then made these men and their descendants so famous? Why do we, who are not Jewish, bother to study their history? The history of the Israelites is worth studying because it is the history of God’s grace. God’s undeserved love certainly shone brightly for each one of the patriarchs but let’s take a closer look at the life of Jacob. Jacob, whose name means “deceiver”, was a fast talker, the kind of guy who could sell you an old rusted car for the cost of a new one. You may remember how Jacob managed to buy his brother’s inheritance for a bowl of soup even though God had promised to give him that same inheritance in his own time and in his own way. Because of his sinful impatience, Jacob made a mess out of things and had to flee home because of his brother’s murderous threats. When Jacob left he had nothing but the clothes on his back and a staff in his hands. God could have punished Jacob for his deception by letting him fend for himself but he didn’t. Instead he went with Jacob and blessed his work so that when Jacob returned to Canaan he came back a rich man. God’s blessings did not end there. When one of Jacob’s sons was made the vice-ruler of Egypt, Jacob and the rest of his family moved to that country where they grew from a tribe of 70 people to a nation of 2 million! When the Israelites came before the Lord with their firstfruit offering, they were to remember that it was because of God’s grace, not their own greatness, that they had prospered.
We too would do well to remember our humble past when we come before the Lord to worship him for we are like Jacob in many ways aren’t we? We’re good at manipulating others. We don’t always tell the truth. And we’re often impatient for God to fulfill his promises. In spite of that how has God treated us? Certainly not as calculating sinners deserve to be treated. To find out how God has treated us let’s see first how he treated the Israelites in Egypt.