This week’s Monday School is about a topic that’s been rolling around in my head for quite a while.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, so when I read in Deuteronomy yesterday morning it caused me to search further.
The first part of the book is an historical account of Israel’s 40 year wilderness period given by Moses to God’s people. The word “remember” shows up dozens of times in Deuteronomy.
But this is the verse that got me:
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. Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV
Over and over again God, through Moses, tells the people to remember.
“Remember the day you stood before the Lord……” Deut 4:10
“Remember the Lord rescued you…..” Deut 4:20
“So remember this and keep it firmly in your mind……” Deut 4:39
“Remember you were slaves in Egypt…..” Deut 5:15
“Remember well what the Lord your God did…..” Deut 7:18
“Remember how the Lord God led you……” Deut 8:2
Do not forget……..remember the things your eyes have seen and keep them in your heart.
I think the word “fade” in the NIV version is so appropriate here. We forget slowly and sometimes unintentionally. The wonders and miracles fade away or cease to amaze us. Or we work hard to forget the past because it’s painful and full of regret. Or we pretend the past never happened and try to remove anything and anyone that reminds us of it.
But God wants His people to remember……even the hard things…….even when they were slaves in Egypt.
Because remembering well and remembering honestly builds our faith, grows our patience, gives us courage and hope, and enlarges our hearts so that we look on others with compassion.
Psalm 106 tells what happened when God’s people forgot.
7″Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love
13″But they soon forget his works;
they did not wait for his counsel….”
21″They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt……
24″Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the Lord.”
They forgot and we forget. O God help us remember.
The last part of Deuteronomy 4:9 tells us to teach the things our eyes have seen to our children and our children’s children. When we do this……we’ll remember.
So we tell our stories. The good stories and the hard ones. The ones where God pulled us from the miry pit and the ones where He set our feet upon the rock. The stories where we turned away from Him to do our own thing…….and the ones where He welcomed us back into His loving arms. We tell the stories that are hard to hear and the ones that make us wonder. We not only tell them……we read the stories and listen to them too. That’s how we remember.
Remembering well reminds us that God is God and we are not. So when we read Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13 about “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” don’t think Paul is telling us to forget our past. More than any other of the New Testament writers, Paul frequently mentions his past in his letters.
Paul knew that a good dose of memory of who we were before Jesus can be exactly what we need when we’re fighting the good fight or when we get too big for our britches. Paul means for us to be focused on God and His work….the work we are given to do……and not be distracted by what is behind us because while we are shaped by our past, we are not defined by it. God was there with us…..in our past…..in our pain……in our regrets and there’s nothing He can’t redeem, heal, and use for His purposes.
Memory is one of God’s beautiful gifts and one we are to steward like any other gift He gave us. How we look back over our lives matters.
Remember well. Remember honestly. Remember like it matters.