Forget not all his benefits

Remembrance and its opposite - Sixth in a series

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. (Ps 103:1-2) The Psalmist is reflecting upon the many reasons to thank the Lord: For forgiving sins, for healing our diseases, for redeeming us from destruction, for so many loving and merciful deeds to us, for nourishment, for executing righteous judgment for those in need, for his piteous care.

Yet the history of Israel, God's own people, is a litany of forgetting. Despite the miracles establishing her as a nation and the multitude of deliverances over the centuries, she was wayward and idolatrous in times of peace and prosperity.

As promised— or threatened as it were, when God's people forgot Him, he heaped mischiefs upon them and spent his arrow on them; he enforced hunger and burning heat on their frames; wild beasts and serpents attacked them. "The sword without, and terror within" destroyed young and old alike. (Deut 32:23-25)

Both the Old and New Testaments remind and warn us to be diligent to remember the Lord in all our ways. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Mat 6:33); Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. (Rev 3:3); Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day. (Deut 8:11)

The punishment for forgetting is: even more forgetfulness. A frightening prospect! The careless turn from remembering the Lord devolves to an erosion of memory, a mark of temporal judgment that may foreshadow eternal damnation.

Isaiah describes this process.

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. (Is 6:8-12)

The sorrowful judgment was also described by Christ:

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. (Mat 13:16)

It was both Isaiah's and the Lord’s ministry to prophesy, knowing their words would fall on deaf ears. Thus, the warnings of God, ignored, would result in very severe desolations. Yet, a small number in the land would hear and respect God's Words.

Likewise, for us today, the forgetful do not appreciate that we have God's Word for help in every need, and as they ignore and discount it, at first rebelliously and then by his divine enforcement, tragedies and miseries are in view. Perhaps some would criticize: Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?" (Rom 9:19)

Will enlightenment be given to the defiant?

Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Ps 60:4

God favors his followers

Remembrance and its opposite - Fifth in a series

There are three persons in the Bible who are called out as remembered by God. The first is Noah: But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. (Gen 8:1)

The second is Abraham: So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. (Gen 19:29)

The third is Rachel: Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. (Gen 30:22)

We established in the previous posts of this series that God is not in any way forgetful, so is there something to learn from these special passages?

God remembered Noah… (Gen 8:1)
In the first instance we have a man who is preserved from severe judgment but is nevertheless in need of deliverance. Man was not made to live in a ship indefinitely, nor were animals. Thus, after the deluge that poured from above and surged from beneath, the waters slowly decreased, and in the seventh month on the seventeenth day, the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat. (Gen 8:4) Nisan* 17 was also the day that Christ was raised from the dead, so as we remember God’s faithfulness to Noah we likewise rejoice in God’s work of salvation for all mankind. That special connection, however, is not the takeaway for this post.

Noah was remembered because he was upright; he walked with God. (Gen 6:8-9). Somehow, amidst the evil that had overtaken the earth so that EVERY imagination of men's hearts was ONLY EVIL CONTINUALLY (Gen 6:5), Noah was above the fray. He was in the line of righteous men; his great-grandfather was Enoch who “walked with” God. (Gen 5:22, 24)

God remembered Abraham … (Gen 19:29)
Abraham, too, walked with the Lord. He was God’s friend. (Isa 41:8) Thus in response to his intercession for his nephew Lot, God remembered Abraham and sent angels to pull and to lead Lot to safety before fire and brimstone were poured from heaven on the totally corrupt cities of the plain.

This is the Bible's first instance of intercession. Lot's deliverance from Sodom depended upon Abraham's faithfulness and prayer. If you would like to read more on this, see God Remembered Abraham, a Bible study on this website, which includes a contemporary application of this truth, about a wife's intercession for her husband.

God remembered Rachel … (Gen 30:22)
Finally, God remembered Rachel. This was a more complex remembrance. We may wonder: Did Rachel walk with God?

At the beginning of Genesis 30 we find that Rachel could not have children so she envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. (Gen 30:1) This made Jacob angry at her, and Rachel's solution was to give Jacob her maid, whose child would be in place of the one Rachel could not bear. Jacob accepted her notion and two sons were born, Dan and Naphtali.

She did not prevail for long. Not to be outdone, Leah then gave her maid to Jacob and Gad and Asher were born. Then Leah had two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun, crediting her good fortune to having been so generous as to give her maid to Jacob! (Gen 30:18)

By now Rachel had had time to consider that her rash suggestion was unwise. Rather than endearing her husband to her, it had served to divide him even further to two other women. It did not increase her stature but rather provoked a new level of competition as Leah turned the tables on her.

Comparing ourselves with others nearly always leads to disaster. Whatever the paths or good fortune of our sisters and brothers, our only directive is to follow Jesus, and to be content. (Heb 13:5)

Then came the time when God remembered Rachel. Jacob felt a new lease on life: it was time to return to his home with his large and extended family. Surely if his first love had born him a son, God was no longer angry and would bless him on his way. (Gen 30:25)

The answer to Rachel's prayer for a child was a sign of God's grace and love. We can safely assume that Rachel had overcome the adversary and had begun to walk with the Lord.

We know from Scripture that the Lord sends both rain and sun on the just and unjust, but for these three special mentions of remembrance, we see a pattern of God's favor to those who are his, who walk with him. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Ch 16:9a)

* Nisan is the first month of the Hebrew year. corresponds to March or April on the Gregorian calendar.

Improve God's remembrance of you

Remembrance and its opposite - Fourth in a series

One of the thieves crucified at Calvary alongside Christ wanted to be remembered by him. He defended Jesus against the taunts of the other thief, and Christ promised him, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:40-43)

However, both thieves mocked Christ as their punishments began. “[…the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders…] The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth." (Mat 27:41-44) And they that were crucified with him reviled him. (Mark 15:32)

But in the end, after hours of excruciating pain, the one had amended his views. At last he said, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. (Luke 23:40-42)

Thus did physical torture and delay in deliverance lead to eternal reward.

Have you wondered why you are experiencing torturous delays to answered prayers and painful, lengthy trials? Yet in waiting on God:

  • We learn patience, endurance and perseverance.
  • We gain insight to the suffering of others and become able to counsel and comfort them.
  • We are led to draw close to God for strength and peace.
  • As we strain to listen and he draws us nearer, we become more like him.
  • We may even be led to wonder if what we are waiting for is, after all, what we really need. We gain wisdom. Indeed, if we thought he did not know us fully, we were in great need of enlightenment. Will we now pray in new ways?

Thus, as we wait and suffer, often feeling that God has forgotten us, we are made better so that God's remembrance of us might be improved, in a manner of speaking.

Attention Readers

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Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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