By Terry Gardner
Man’s nature is such that without effort he will forget what he should remember. The butler forgot Joseph whom he had promised to remember. (Gen 40:23). Jeremiah asked, “Can a virgin forget her ornaments, Or a bride her attire? Yet my My people have forgotten Me, Days without number.” (Jer. 2:32). The children of Israel were to remember, “that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you.” (Deut. 15:15). If Israel would remember their bondage and how and why God had delivered them they would have been a grateful people, but they forgot.
Man also remembers what he should forget. The children of Israel remembered their life as slaves in Egypt in a false light. The Israelites remembered “the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic.” (Numbers 11:5). None of these memories were accurate. They lived as slaves, beaten and abused, while Pharaoh murdered their children.
Paul teaches us to “forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead.” (Phil. 3:13), and in so doing Paul said that he pressed on toward the “goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (vs. 14). Human beings are sometimes so haunted by past sins that we fail to move on and be about our Father’s business. When God forgives our sins they are “blotted out” and God no longer remembers them. If we understand this fact and make it a part of who we are then we have peace.
What drives human memory? Motivation. For a TV game show a man memorized the value of pi to the 99th decimal. Why? For the monetary reward (gifts and prizes). Understanding how things are connected also helps us remember what we should remember. Isolated facts are difficult to remember. The Feast of the Passover emphasized facts, which helped the children of Israel remember what God had done for them. These facts included:
1. The children of Israel were to take an “unblemished” lamb and they were not to break any of the lamb’s bones.
2. They were to kill the lamb and put its blood on the two doorposts and on the lintel of their houses.
3. They were eat the lamb, along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.
4. They were to eat in haste.
5. When the LORD passed through to smite the Egyptians, he would see the blood and pass over the door and not allow the destroying death angel to kill the children of the Israelites.
The Psalms were written so they would be easy to memorize. Note especially the 119th Psalm, which was written as an acrostic. The 119th Psalm is composed of twenty-two sections of eight verses each. Each eight-verse section is assigned a letter from the Hebrew alphabet and each verse in that section begins with that letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Christians are told to remember the words of the prophets and of Jesus. Peter tells us to “remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.” (2 Peter 3:2). “For whatever was written in an earlier time was written for our instruction (learning), that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom 15:4). Jesus told the Apostles that when “their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:4). “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give then to receive.’”
All of this said, you can’t remember what you have not studied and been taught. Are we like the noble minded Bereans who searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they were being taught was true? (Acts 17:11). They had a passion to remember what God called them to remember and to forget all else. Is this true of your life?