Remembrance and Forgetfulness

Read Psalm 106.

The psalmist writes in verse 7, “Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.” The Israelites did not consider God’s works, nor remember his love, instead they rebelled. The implication is that if they had remembered God’s love and mighty deeds, they would have done differently.

Again, he writes in verse 13-14, “But they soon forgot his works…they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert.” While in the desert after leaving Sinai, the people forgot God’s miraculous work and provision, and complained, imagining that it would be better to return to Egypt.

And again, the psalmist writes that the people “forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea” (v21-22). This immediately follows the psalmist’s retelling of the making of the golden calf, which suggests that their forgetfulness was the cause of their wickedness.

Now, what was the result of the Israelites forgetfulness? God sent a disease among the people (v15). God said he would destroy them (v23). The Israelites despised the land (v24), did not believe in God’s promises (v24), and disobeyed God’s commands (v25, 28, 34-39). And for this God “raised his hand” (v26), was provoked to anger (v29, 32, 40), and “abhorred his heritage” (v41).

“Yet” (v8) or “Nevertheless” (v43) in due time and according to God’s sovereign pleasure, God acted for 1) his glory and 2) his people’s good. 1) “Yet he saved them for his names’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power” (v8). 2) “Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (v44-45). Even when the people didn’t deserve it, when they were set in their sins and rebellion, God delivered them out of his steadfast love. For “his steadfast love endures forever” (v1).

So what does remembrance have to do with salvation? When God’s people fail to remember his goodness, faithfulness, wondrous works, and steadfast love, judgment typically follows. God must then take our place and do what we have failed to do – in this case, remember. The people did not remember God and his works; and thus, God remembered his covenant.

May I propose that remembrance is a God-ordained means to his grace and deliverance. That is why the psalmist bookends the psalm (v1-5 and 47-48) with praising the Lord, giving thanks for his his love, calling to mind his mighty deeds, and beseeching the Lord to remember and save his people.

Hear Peter’s words, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Pet. 1.9).

You see, we can become blind, forgetting that we were washed clean and justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must remember the gospel everyday, since we never move beyond our need of its grace and power. That is why Peter said, “I intend always to remind you… I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Pet. 1.12-13). May we do the same for one another in the body of Christ.

And praise God that he remembers his covenant and saves his people, even when we least deserve it. He picks us up, dusts us off, and sets us back on our feet to keep walking. Don’t forget that God remembers, even when you don’t.

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