The tendency to forget is as natural as sinning since the Fall. Yet, we are called in Scripture to remember the Lord our God. Aging seems to be an enemy of our ability to remember, but it is not the only hindrance. The busyness of our lives demands mental attention. Mental focus often ebbs and flows with our passions, and our passions often follow the tyranny of the urgent.
Our admission to this weakness of forgetting is demonstrated by our attempts to remember. Mnemonic devices have been used to recall information at least since the ancient Greeks. Students everywhere have tried to master different methods to conquer exams. Before smart phones, I would write notes on my hand with a pen to remember important information. One time, I called my own house phone to leave myself a message as a reminder. Today, we have digital calendaring devices and the convenience of Siri. Yet, even with all the technology, we still tend to forget things, especially the truths from God’s Word that are essential to life.
In Deuteronomy, Moses warns against the perils of forgetting God. After revisiting the Ten Commandments in chapter 5 and providing a methodology on how to maintain faithfulness in chapter 6, Moses follows with intense warnings for the Israelites. The anger of the Lord would burn against the people if He was forgotten. This anger would not be a result of the simple forgetfulness of the people, but the consequence of the truths forgotten.
It wasn’t long before Moses’ warnings were dismissed. The Israelites moved into the Promised Land to demonstrate God’s faithfulness, but Joshua and the other leaders died. Upon their death, there arose a generation who forgot the God of their fathers. In one generation, they valued the blessings of the land more than the blessing-giver. In one generation, the ways of the native pagans were more desirable than the ways of God, because the people had forgotten.
Do our desires look more native to this fallen earth? If so, we may have forgotten. Our minds have been overshadowed with fleeting cares. Our Godward affections have been eclipsed by earthly trifles. Our flirtatious affairs with temporal things are the primary cause of our struggle to recall. The instability of our minds to anchor upon the rock of Christ is not indicative of His stability or dependability, but of our fickle loyalties.
How do we remember the Lord our God, who brought us out of bondage and slavery? We must remember God’s promises. Our success is not based on circumstances, but on God’s name. With a new year come new trials. For the Israelites, the wilderness was not a pleasant experience. The point was not to harm or demoralize them, but to humble them to trust in the faithfulness of their God. He wanted them to hope in His delivering work, remembering His works on their behalf in Egypt.
The people of God tended to forget the work of God, choosing to focus on the circumstances of the wilderness rather than the faithful character of their redeeming God. We must remember the works of God in our tribulations. Trials seem to build a wide chasm that appears to divide the works and promises of God from our present situation so that forgetting is easier than remembering. Feelings that He is far away become more believable than the promise that He is near. In the battle of our minds, feelings become the dominant force gaining victory over the comforting work of God that was once a strong tower of hope. We must remember that the humility bred from our trials anchors our hearts to His promises alone.
We must remember the fear of the Lord. The best way to remember the Lord is to fear Him and obey His words. There are many things in this world that can harm or destroy us physically, but we are called to fear God, the only one who can destroy both body and soul. Yet, with all the terror of the Lord, He has graciously acted in lovingkindness toward us. It is this love, demonstrated in Christ, that compels us to obey His commands.
Here, I want to offer two ways that I have found helpful to remember the fear of the Lord. When my life gets busy and I seem to lose my bearings, I revisit certain passages to recalibrate my obedience. 1 Thessalonians 5:15-22 is one such passage that often acts to reattach my floundering and forgetful heart. “See that no one repays evil for evil … seek after that which is good … rejoice always … pray without ceasing … in everything, give thanks … do not quench the Spirit … hold fast to that which is good … abstain from every form of evil.” I find these basic commands to be nuggets of truthful nourishment upon which I can focus to rekindle my affections and contribute to my sanctification in order to remember the goodness of God.
Second, in my household filled with eight imperfect people, there is rarely a day when some sort of conflict does not arise. The truth of Ephesians 4:29 is a crucial part to any peace in our home. There are times when we forget the principles of speech given, and conflict is exacerbated. We may take a week to focus again upon obedience to this passage: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” When we, as a family, intentionally seek to obey the Word, we notice the peace that results, which grows our affections for God’s wisdom and ways.
As a final word, listen to the words of the apostle Paul: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8). Remember the life that Christ lived. Meditate upon His righteousness and upon His affliction and suffering to secure your redemption in obedience to the Father. Remember the power of God to raise a dead and decaying body to newness of life. And remember today that God possesses authority over the one obstacle that man will forever be powerless to defeat—the grave.
Would you commit to spend more time this year meditating on the words of God, letting them dwell in your heart richly? Remember that we live not by the blessings of our good God, but by every word that comes from His mouth. Strive hard to remember the redemption of Christ from our past that frees us from the bondage of sin and death as we run hard to the hope of the future that supersedes circumstances. Will you commit to rest in Christ and remember all His benefits this year?