How many times have you heard this as you were going out the door? “Be careful!” I’m always tempted to respond, “No, today I feel like being reckless.” Actually in my teen and young adult years if I had been honest that should have been my response or perhaps, “No, I’m going to be foolish, or impulsive, or careless!” After all, I am sanguine and that is SOP for a sanguine.
What I recently discovered though is that God was the first one to tell his people to “Be careful.” And just so we are clear on a very common word, let me share with you Websters definition of careful – “marked by attentive concern and solicitude, attentive care and protectiveness; marked by wary caution or prudence, marked by painstaking effort to avoid errors or omissions.” Wow, painstaking effort! That sheds a whole new light on the casual phrase, “Be careful.”
I think that is what God had in mind when he came up with the phrase, “Be careful.” While recently reading Deuteronomy I noticed God telling his people, over and over, to be careful. In fact, he tell them 34 times in Deuteronomy alone. Here are the main areas he wanted them (and us) to make a “painstaking effort” in. Deuteronomy 4:9
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Their eyes had seen God protect, provide and do mighty miracles on their behalf. How many times have I forgot what God has done for me? Deuteronomy 5:32 “So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.” I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve disobeyed God and turned from the direction I knew he was leading me in. Let me just say, I’m right up there with the first generation Israelites who wandered for forty years in the desert for their disobedience. Deuteronomy 11:16, “Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.” How many things have I allowed myself to be enticed, distracted and consumed by? Deuteronomy 11:22
“If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him—” That’s probably the part I keep forgetting, our “painstaking effort” is motivated by God’s love for us, reflected in our love for him and holding on to him, trusting that he will strengthen us to walk in obedience to the commands that are there for our well-being. It’s all so clear in theory, why is it so difficult in practice? Like the hymn says,
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.