28 September 2006

Towards a Better "Rememberory"

One of God’s consistent commands is for His people to REMEMBER. "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there" (Deut 24:18a).

I'm really aware of this given the phase of life I'm in. One of the things we’re working to develop in Ayanna is her “rememberory.” We work on identifying letters and numbers, knowing the names of places and things, or engraining habits like putting our shoes in the closet. A lot of effort goes into simply trying to help her REMEMBER.

Unfortunately, I find myself needing to make more of an effort to remember myself. Sometimes, it's hard to remember which decade it was that something happened! Worst of all, Cami brought-up a situation the other day that my "rememberory" had completely let go of. I couldn't believe that I had managed to forget that event! This goes far beyond nostalgic recall. It refers to embracing the whole range of human experiences to fully integrate faith and life with the goal of complete obedience to God.

So, why does God call us to REMEMBER?

We REMEMBER to interpret the present in-light of the past.

God is faithful—a concept that the Bible describes with the phrase “He remembers His promises” (Ps 74:20; 98:3; 105:42; 119:49 NLT). God recalls what He has said that He will do and makes good on His statements.

Human beings, on the other hand, seem to have the fatal flaw of forgetfulness. The challenges, needs, dissatisfactions and fears in the present often eclipse the memories of the past that remind us of His strength with us, His provision for us, our own misguided attempts to make ourselves happy or worry about tomorrow.

When God had recently moved and the people could not forget what He had done, they were far more inclined to be obedient. But, when His intervention had faded into the past, they tended to rebel. Judges 3:7 records this observation: “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.”

So, the songwriter would write: “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Ps 103:2 NIV). We have to make a conscious effort to REMEMBER God’s presence and activity in our life. We have to REMEMBER so that the past is a good guide for the present and future.

In the Hebrew, the word for “memorial” is drawn from the word for “remember.” Memorial stones (Josh 4:4-24), sounds (Num 10:9, 10), names (Gen. 32:22-32) or offerings (Josh 22:26-28) are all things created to provoke us to remember. The celebrations of Passover (Ex 12:14) and the Lord’s Supper (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24-26) are memorials that recall particular key events and their messages of deliverance (salvation).

It’s worth noting how many of these tools—particularly the big ones of Passover and the Lord’s Supper—are practiced with a rhythm—a regularity which is critical to helping refresh our rememberory. And, I think God reveals that it’s important that we REMEMBER by engaging all of the senses. The Passover feast would have its own sights, sounds, scents, feel and motions, as would the Lord’s Supper. This helps to make these moments that are supposed tie tangible life and intangible faith together be tied together in us first as we taste, listen, smell, touch.

When God’s people want to hold onto something important, they’ve always used tools to help them REMEMBER. The account of the exodus from Egypt notes that after God led the people miraculously out of Egypt and told them to “commemorate this day” (v.3), the people did so using phylacteries (as we know them) or what the Jews would refer to as tefellin—small square leather boxes worn on the arm and forehead into which four passages of the scriptures (Ex 13:1-10, 11-16; Deut 6:4-9; 11:13-21) were written on parchment. The placement itself was significant—with a reminder for behavior (the hands), thought (the forehead), and the source of this guidance (lips). The prophet Malachi records the people writing a “scroll of rememberance” as they wrestle with whether or not serving God had been a futile effort (Mal. 3:14-18). The most common way of remembering was through stories. Most of the scriptures are precisely this, though some texts actually record their capture in-progress (Ex 17:8-16).

All of these ways of prompting, or even disciplining ourselves to remember show us how importance recalling the past is to living life well before God. It gives us a really deep insight into how we live life with a “timeless” quality that has us fully engaged in the present with deep roots in the past and a long reach into the future.

Of all the places in the Bible where REMEMBERING is front-and-center, perhaps no place is as clear as Psalm 77 where “the deeds of the Lord” are remembered (v.11). Though written out of distress (v.2), groaning (v.3), and questioning (v.11), the songwriter’s attitude shifts with his perspective to one of conviction (v.13), worship (v.14), and trust (v.19-20).

What we don’t choose to REMEMBER, we choose to forget. Peter wanted to keep his fellow believers growing in their knowledge and practice of God’s salvation in their lives so that they would enter into the Kingdom of Jesus (2 Pet 1:3-11), so he wrote,

“I plan to keep on reminding you of these things—even though you already
know them and are standing firm in the truth. Yes, I believe I should keep on
remind you of these things as long as I live….I want you to remember them long after I am gone” (2 Pet 1:12, 13,15b NLT).

“This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. I want you to remember and understand what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles” (2 Pet. 3:1,2 NLT).

What are you committing yourself to remember?

What are you choosing to forget?

How have you institutionalized them—what tools are you using to remember them with all of your senses?

In these things, are you remembering God’s interaction in your life to help you tie faith and life together to be more obedient?

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