9 Just make sure you stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don't forget anything of what you've seen. Don't let your heart wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you've seen and heard to your children and grandchildren. (Deut. 4:9)
Moses is delivering God's message to the people of Israel as they are coming into the promised land of Canaan. He has recounted their repeated complaining, continuous rebellion against God's direction, and their endless wandering in the wilderness. Now, he focuses their attention on the fact that God has indeed done what he promised - lead them out of bondage and into a land of freedom. They had provision behind them and before them. No one was stopping them now. But...Moses is asked to bring a message to the people about the expectation of their staying close to their God in the comfort of their new-found freedom. Why? Because it is VERY easy to get comfortable and to forget who brought us into our freedom, what that freedom actually cost, and who is maintaining us within that place of freedom.
One warning speaks volumes: Just make sure you stay alert! Why do we fall into temptation over-and-over again? Usually because we have not been "alert" to the very lurking of that temptation right in front of us. Temptation is not something in the distance - it right there in front of us, around us everywhere we go. Moses delivers the message - stay alert! In other words, expect the attack!
The attack of our enemy should not catch us by surprise. Moses tells us that is how we set ourselves up to wander off - because we lacked the attentiveness, the readiness, and the caution to avoid or resist the attack. Spiritual vigilance is learned - we don't just become "alert" the first time we try. I remember having to do "guard duty" (not that anyone would steal one of these olive green Army sedans anyway) while in Basic Training. It was a twenty-four hour stint of walking back and forth, asking, "Who goes there?" I am kind of a light-weight when it comes to staying up past my bedtime, so you can imagine how this encounter with both sunrise and sunset with no hopes of slumber left me feeling!
What I learned in those twenty-four hours of being "on guard" was simple - you can accomplish it if you put effort into it. When I began to drift into the "why me" mentality of whining my way around the perimeter of the motor pool, I began to feel the sudden fatigue of a body pushed beyond its limits. As soon as one of the Drill Sergeants made an appearance in the dark hours of the night, creeping up like some malicious criminal sort intent on making off with one of those mangy sedans, my alertness changed. I made a "mind shift" to "I can do this and you are not taking one of MY cars on MY watch", my body shifted into over-drive and I was soon feeling the release of adrenaline in my body that propelled me for another couple of hours with a hyper-vigilance that . Oh, and I didn't get to go back to the barracks to sleep after this stint of duty - why? Because my body would not "shut down"!
I had become alert to danger and my mind and body was focused on the things they needed to do to guard against that danger. That is what God intends for us in our "guarding against" drifting into complacency that affords an opportunity for our enemy to get the upper hand. We "let" wandering to occur - it is not passive - it is active. We engage in the things that bring us down, defeat us, and get us off-guard. In so doing, we open ourselves up to the wandering to occur.
So, my message today - you never know when some malicious, criminal type of an enemy will rear his ugly head! He may come in the form of a single thought or an outright attack. Either way - be alert! Be prepared for action! That is the ONLY way to resist the onslaught of our own lusts and the world's tempest of temptation that abounds on every side.