The Danger of Spiritual Anesthesia

By: Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr

(Shabbat, 27th August, 2001)

We take our text from Deuteronomy chapter 29. In the account, Moses renews the covenant with a new generation of the children of Israel that has replaced the original Exodus generation that came out of Egypt. (See Num. 14). In the process, he bemoans the failure of Israel to appreciate the gracious acts and miracles of God which He has worked for them.

Time has travelled far. It’s the fortieth year since Israel came out of Egypt (v. 5), and Moses himself is awaiting his death. As he recalls how the relationship between God and Israel has been like over the 40-year period, the stiff-neckedness of the Israelites and its tragic outcomes weigh heavily on him. 

Yet he speaks as if his addressees are the original eyewitnesses of the momentous deeds that God performed in Egypt and in the wilderness. And that’s in order. The miracles of deliverance God worked for their forefathers are a legacy to their generation, as the direct beneficiaries of those miraculous works. (See Ps 44:1-3; 2 Chron. 20:6-11; Judges 6:13). Moreover, the LORD continued to worked miracles which they personally witnessed (v. 3).

Spiritual Numbness Begets Ingratitude

In spite of the goodness the LORD showed the children of Israel, Moses bitterly complained it did not make the expected impression on the people. Their spiritual senses were so dulled that they failed to appreciate all that the LORD had done for them. Hence “the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day” (v. 4).

Certainly, the children of Israel took no special notice of the miracles God performed for their good and thus failed to understand their import. The Psalmist wrote: “Our fathers understood not Thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of Thy mercies; but provoked Him at the sea, even at the Red sea” (Ps. 106:7; also v. 13).

Yet their lives were a living testimony to the everyday goodness of God in their midst. This consisted in giving them clothing and food, in giving them victory over their enemies, and in blessing them with the riches of their enemies (vv. 5-8).  The food God provided for the Israelites was no ordinary food prepared by themselves, but manna, “angels’ food” sent down from heaven (Ps. 78:24-25). Hence Moses’ statement in verse 6:  “Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God”.

They had special and unique blessings from God; they enjoyed the LORD’s special favour. But sadly they were so gross to reciprocate the gesture.

The old saying “count your blessings” is worth taking a more serious look at, in relation to our walk with God.  Don’t ever forget His blessings in your life. No matter your present circumstances, God has been good to you. He “holds your soul in life” (Ps 66:9; Job 10:12) and provides you your basic needs ( Matt. 6:25-33; Heb. 13:5).

The Psalmist declares: “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all His people” (Ps 116:12-14).

King David in Ps 103 lists some of the typical benefits of God’s blessing which we must not forget. He begins:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:

“Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

“Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies;

“Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

“The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

“He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel.

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

“He will not always chide: neither will he keep His anger for ever.

“He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

“For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him.

“For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.

“As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

“For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

“But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children;

“To such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His commandments to do them” (Ps 103:1-18).

Would you say you have not benefited from any of the above blessings of God? You certainly have, but it’s possible for them to slip your mind, as Satan makes you think of them as mere luck. So “forget not all His benefits”. Remember, His gracious forgiveness of your sins for the sake of the name of His Son Jesus (John 2:12). Remember, the terrible sickness of which He healed you. Remember, your miraculous escape from the otherwise fatal accident; remember all the good things He has enriched your life with, and bless “His Holy Name”.  Thank Him for a caring husband and a loving wife, and praise Him for those wonderful children who bring so much joy into your life.

He defends you from oppression and upholds you with His mercy, even when you were undeserving of it. He dotes on you with such tender-heartedness because you stand so much in need of His gentle care.  For all these blessings, including His commitment to extend His mercy to your children after you, sing along with David: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!”

But do remember that His mercy is reserved for those who “fear Him” and “remember His commandments to do them”. The causal link is subtle but nevertheless discernible: those who ‘remember’ God’s benefits towards them should ‘remember’ them so as to keep His commandments.  That’s the right spirit to adopt in blessing the Sovereign God, just as His angels do and all His ministers and creatures do (Ps 103:19-22; cp Ps 104:8-14, 148:1-6, 19:1-6; Jer. 5:22).     

Obedience—the Right Way to Appreciate the Goodness of God

In view of the great blessings bestowed on Israel by means of the miracle power of God, Moses urged the people: “Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do” (v. 9). This is the response expected of a people who been the beneficiaries of God’s benevolent blessings; this is the way to appreciate the goodness of God (Ps 105:43-45). ‘Keep the terms of His covenant’.

But this is no appreciation showed solely for appreciation’s own sake. The keeping of God’s commandments is also the means by which we enjoy an endless cycle of blessings—in “that ye may prosper in all that ye do”.  

Since God’s blessings came upon all the Israelites, and God wishes to keep all in the path of blessing which will establish them as God’s people, each and everyone was to see himself as a participant in the covenant renewal process, both the high and the low, including their unborn descendants (vv. 9-15).

God’s covenant is not with some faceless people, but with you and me; we are the ones who put a face to the covenant.  So be serious about it. God has entered into a covenant with you, and He expects you to abide by the rules as He does!   “The foolish do not stand in His sight” (Ps 5:5). As soon as you believed and parted company with the world, He made the covenant with you.  And He has since been taking care of you; you are the apple of His eye!  Love Him with all your heart in return. 

Final Warning

In issuing a final warning to the Israelites against falling away from Yahweh, Moses reminded them:

“You know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed.

“And you have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them.

“Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit,

“one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike.

“The LORD will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.

“And the LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law” (vv. 16-21 ESV).

The truth of the matter is that we all came from the world, a world of sinners and abominations, and are familiar with its ways. But we are not to live like the world (1 John 2:15-17); in Christ we are “a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!” (2 Cor. 5:17 LITV).

But the heart can be treacherous and lust after the vain things of the world. So be wary of your past environment, and don’t be lured away from Christ because the world seems freshly attractive to you.

The world belongs to your past; keep it that way: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11 ESV).

Bear the fruit of righteousness then; don’t be a source (or root) of evil corrupting yourself and others (Heb. 12:15). What is more, guard against a spirit of stubbornness and incorrigibility developed in the mistaken belief that the corporate blessing pronounced on God’s covenant people insulates one from curse even if he/she flagrantly disobeys God.

Take notice that the LORD will not forgive such a person but “single him out for calamity”. Prov. 29:1 warns us: “The one who stiffens his neck after numerous rebukes will suddenly be destroyed without remedy” (NET). The LORD does not acquit the wicked who refuses to repent (Nah. 1:3).

And when He punishes the covenant-breaker who intentionally provokes Him, it will be thorough and unforgettable (vv. 20-21) to the extent that succeeding generations will hear of it and all around will know of it as the handiwork of an offended God (vv. 22-28).  

Our “Whole Duty” is to Obey

 Our “whole duty” is to obey the commandments of God, but “the secret things” belong to the LORD (v. 29; Eccl. 12:13). How He will fulfill His promises in our life is not our lookout; ours is to obey His will revealed in His law. That is what “belongs to us and to our children forever”!

Will you do so today? He has revealed His will in His covenant with you so that it might be well with you forever.  He is “the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9; Neh. 1:5). All that He requires of you is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8 ESV).

You are His covenant child; appreciate all His blessings in your life and commit to Him in sincerity through faith in Christ.  Amen!