I am in the process of putting together a presentation. Every time I get back from Ecuador, I put together a story summary with pictures and videos to share with people and groups back here in Boston. I haven’t done one since the pandemic, so I’m due.
It’s great to share the journey with people and invite them into it by making them feel like they’re there, which is one goal of the presentation. But there’s another goal. Every time I reflect on the past and can synthesize together a storyline that intertwines with the story of the People of God, I get an amazing insight: I remember who I really I am. I remember who God really is to me, and me to Him. And I tell you, I always need to come back to that in my life – if I want to move forward.
I have heard a lot of meditations and interpretations of the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. I just heard a few more today. Jesus uses the Bible against temptation. The devil knows the Bible. There are three basic temptations we all face. God tests us. And there are lot more like those.
But I have an engineering background, and so I like to get under the hood to the cool stuff, see what the real fundamental meaning is, get the real principles and the real messages that the author is getting at. And you can’t do that with this story until you look at where Jesus is getting his Bible responses from.
Well, I’ll save you some time: Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is the last of the Pentateuch books of the Bible. These books were filled out and put together from previous oral and written histories at the time of the Israelites’ imprisonment in Babylon, in the 500’s BC. The two kingomd’s of Israel had been attacked and completely destroyed and the survivors taken away to Babylon by the Assyrians. It was God’s punishment because they were divided and treated each other badly, and weren’t faithful to the covenant. The message of the Pentateuch to the depressed Israelites in captivity was to go back to the origins and remember who they were, who God was to them, so they could stay the course of faith and trust in God, that He would come to them, and forgive them and lift them out of their slavery, and bring them back to the promised land.
So all those stories, from Creation and Adam and Eve, to Noah and the Ark, to Abraham, they all lead up to Moses taking the Israelites out Egypt, spending 40 years in the desert, and then finally passing into the promised land. Deuteronomy is the last book, like a compendium set at the very end of that story, as the Israelites are about to finally cross over the Jordan River into the promised land.
There in Deuteronomy, Moses is recalling the whole story of Israel, from God’s lifting them out of Egypt to the Ten Commandments and the covenant, to the 40 years of God’s providence in the desert to grow their confidence in Him, to finally standing on the threshold of the fulfillment of a miraculous promise: crossing over to the promised land.
And he’s telling them all that so that they remember.
They remember who they are. Who God is.
They’re going to need that – if they’re going to go forward.
Jesus was at the same place: the end of his 40-time in the desert, about to cross over into his mission.
And with Deuteronomy, he was remembering.
Remembering everything Moses wanted the Israelites to remember. Remembering his own experiences with His Father from childhood to adulthood. Remembering his baptism with John. Remembering how God had provided for all the 40 days he was in the desert.
That’s how he knew what it was to be the Son of God.
He knew who he was. And he knew who God was to him.
He remembered the events.
We are constantly tempted to forget the past and just move forward. There are plenty of distractions or exuberances or pains for us to do that. But if you do that, you’ll forget something important: who you are, and who God is for you. Those are important things to know in order to weather the challenges of life, that we all know so well.
It’s worthwhile to get away from everyone and everything and take time before taking big steps in life, to remember the experiences you’ve had, who God has been with and for you in them. Put the stories together, let them and the insights they give you sink in, digest them.
It’s good to remember who you are.
It’s good to remember who God is to you.
And be free to move forward.
“If you are the Son of God.” (Mt 4:3)