A number of years ago, in the middle of a massive challenge, I drove out to the waterfront to a place I often pray. In that place, I cried out a prayer of utter desperation that God would deliver me and my family from a very threatening situation. And I asked him to do it by the end of that month. Well before the month ended, we had two miraculous interventions which saved our family and our church from untold grief. I often remember how God met me there. But the Bible teaches us there is more to remembering than just thinking about what happened in the past.
The question we have to face in crisis is not the reality of God’s sovereignty, or his love or faithfulness toward us. The question is what our response will be to what we are going through. Will we respond with a trust which opens the way for God to do whatever he wants with us? Or will we respond in bitterness or anger, which will close the door on his work in our lives? Or will we be so filled with fear we will panic and make foolish decisions? Much of this depends on how well we have learned to see the hand of God in our lives. And we learn through remembering!
God told Moses to instruct the Israelites to recite the story of their deliverance from Egypt to each generation so they would never forget the mighty works and faithfulness of God. When they first left Egypt, Moses said this: “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place” (Exodus 13:3). And when they were about to enter the Promised Land forty years later, he repeated his message: “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:15).
The Hebrew verb for “remember” (zakar), used in these passages, means a remembering which results in action. For God to remember his covenant means he will act on his covenant promises to save his people: “I will not spurn them... but I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers” (Leviticus 26:44-45). For you and I to remember the commandments means that we commit to obey the commandments: “So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God” (Numbers 15:40).
Twenty-five years ago, we had friends called Martin and Cindy who were experiencing severe financial testing. Reading their Bible, they found God’s people being commanded to remember the past acts of God in their lives. And so they decided to put a stone into a jar on their dining room table every time God provided for them. The jar, which eventually filled up, reminded them of God’s faithfulness. A few months ago, I had lunch with Martin and Cindy and found out they still have a jar on their table -- and it is full.
Remembering the great works of God and his acts of faithfulness gave the Israelites a framework or perspective. It showed them how to understand their hardships and battles from a place of faith, not fear. The same God who had delivered in the last battle would rescue them again.
Can you remember how God has met you in the past? Can you remember how he was faithful when you had lost hope? Can you ask him to do the same for you again? Can you cast yourself on his great mercy? Or, in the words of my son-in-law Josh, can you learn to collapse into his will?
A good Biblical memory will serve you well. You have it. Use it!