Significant things happen on mountains in the Bible. In anticipation of a glorious mountain top experience of Christ’s transfiguration this Sunday, today’s Old Testament lesson reminds us of a great mountain event, and it was not all bunnies and butterflies. The book of Deuteronomy is a restatement of the law, and a recounting of Israel’s history as they were about to enter the Promised Land. “Remember and do not forget…” is the constant theme of Moses’ address to God’s people. The positive remembrance was that God graciously met with Moses on the mountain and gave him the Ten Words (Ten Commandments). On the other hand, the ugly remembrance was that while on the mountain meeting with God the people became impatient, insolent, and rebellious; they degenerated into a chaotic mass of people who quickly worshiped an idol. This was not Israel’s best moment.
But Moses wanted the people to remember that event in all of its foulness and degradation. It was important for them to not forget how stubborn and pig-headed their parents and grandparents were in running from the true God to a false god. The people needed to avoid the sins of the previous generation so that they could enjoy God and thrive in the new land he was giving them.
It does no one any good to whitewash the past or to altogether ignore it. Whether it is one’s personal past, a previous generation, or even a national history, we must face the sins of our forebears, to remember and not forget. We must neither be so extremely individualistic that we disconnect ourselves from our generational moorings, nor be dismissive of past sins, as if they have no influence upon us today. Mountain experiences can either be glorious, turn very dark, or a bit of both. We are meant to learn from them all, to remember and not forget.
God of history, your sovereign reign and rule extends to all creation and has existed for all time. You know the sins of my past, the heart of my present, and the soul of my future. Do not let me forget my sins, not because you hold them over my head, but because your grace has saved me from them all through Jesus Christ, my Savior. Amen.