This time of the year is a time for remembering and reminiscing. We reflect with gratitude on the many blessings the Lord has given us in the past year. We also take stock of the challenges and difficulties which had been placed on our path and learn from them moving forward.
Remember? Remember what happened then and then? Memory is an amazing gift of God. The ability to retrieve information from the past and relive those precious moments that mean so much to us is an ability we all cherish. It is a tremendous tragedy when one is afflicted by adverse health which no longer gives one the ability to remember.
As we leave one year and are about to enter a new year, it is good to call to mind that, as with all gifts of God, the ability to remember has farreaching implications, comes with special responsibilities, and can occasion much joy.
God called and still calls his people to remember, to remember his great and mighty deeds of deliverance. God instructed his Old Testament people to call to mind his wonderful acts of strength. Lest they forget, he gave them all kinds of memory aids. For example, the Sabbath had to be honoured in order to remember God’s work of creating and his subsequent rest (Exodus 20:10-11) and in order to call to mind that God had delivered his people from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). The Passover had to be celebrated so that Israel would not forget how God spared their lives and delivered them from Egypt (Exodus 12:1-27). The Israelites had to make tassels, including a cord of blue, on the corners of their garments to help them remember to do God’s commandments (Numbers 15:39-40). A memorial of twelve stones had to be erected to commemorate the miraculous crossing of the Jordan when Israel entered the Promised Land (Joshua 4:1-9). More examples could be given.
Also to the New Testament church the Lord God gave memory aids, lest we forget. Two examples are the sacraments. Baptism signifies that God has attached his name to ours and so seals the covenant relationship with all the attendant promises. When we remember our baptism, we call to mind God’s covenant mercy and love (cf. Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39). When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we do so in remembrance of what the Lord Jesus went through to satisfy God’s wrath for our sins (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25).
Why is the need to remember such an important theme in Scripture? What is the underlying reason for the memory aids that God gives to us as his children?
In short the reason is to make sure that the Lord our God is and remains in the centre of our lives. Common to the history of the human race is the tendency to see oneself as the focal point of one’s life. Today we live in a selfish secular culture that specializes in individualism and satisfying all kinds of imagined rights and privileges. This egoistic and narcissistic mindset is very attractive to the sinful human heart. Christians need to struggle against this allurement of our times.
God wants us to focus on him and to act accordingly. He is to be preeminent. And so as we move from one year to another, and reminisce, we do well to rise beyond the purely human and marvel at the great deeds of God as reflected also in our personal lives and in our church life. As the overview elsewhere in this issue of Clarion shows, the Lord has been very good to us as a church community! It is all undeserved favour. Great is his mercy and love! Indeed, he remembers his people. His faithfulness demands our thankful response.
When we put God in the centre and use the memory aids that he has given us, then he also enables us to obey, to worship, and to honour him who has set us free from all the power of Satan and sin and grave. For it is remarkable that Scripture often links remembering the Lord with doing his will. In the Bible, remembering is never just a theoretical or cerebral exercise. It has concrete consequences in real life.
For example, remembering the Sabbath day means observing it by keeping it holy and so not working (Exodus 20:8-11). When we keep him in mind, he empowers us to live and act as believers (e.g., Numbers 15:39; Psalm 103:18). Focusing on him and remembering his will and faithfulness makes it easier to see through the problems of life in a biblical way and to make the right decisions in the rough and tumble of life. He enables us meet the needs of the present and move forward into the future with confidence.
The Joy of Remembering
Remembering the faithfulness of God who never forgets fills us with hope for the future and gives great joy. “He remembers his covenant forever” (Psalm 105:8). We enter a new year as a year of our Lord. He remains sovereign and in control. His great and awesome deeds of strength continue as he goes on in his work of gathering together his people from all tribes and nations. He remains committed to those who call to Him in true faith. When afraid, remember his greatness (cf. Deuteronomy 7:18). When needing comfort, remember his ordinances (Psalm 119:50-52). As with the saints of old, also today he can change despair into hope for those who remember him. As Asaph, the psalmist, had hope because he remembered God’s doings, so we may take courage when reflecting on God’s faithfulness (Psalm 77). Remembering him results in singing in the safety of the shadow of his wings (Psalm 63:5-8).
And so, if we remember him, we can wish each other a blessed, that is happy, New Year! It is a year of our risen Lord!
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead! 2 Timothy 2:8