Relevant Verses: Deut 4:32–39; 5:15; 8:7–18
Theme: Remember the past, but don’t be a captive to it!
Leading Question: Is it always good to remember the past?
The book of Deuteronomy upholds a religion of memory. The verb “remember” (Hebrew zachor) appears 15 times in this book. Actually, throughout the entire Old Testament memory is a prominent word with no fewer than 169 occurrences. “Remember that you were strangers in Egypt”; “Remember the days of old”; “Remember the seventh day to keep it holy.”
The first paragraph in the official Sabbath School lesson for this week begins as follows, “Two words appear all through the Bible: remember and forget. Both refer to something human, something that happens in our minds.”
However, in the Bible memory begins with God. Four times in the book of Genesis God is spoken of as remembering. “God remembered Noah” and brought him out of the Ark onto dry land. When God spoke of the rainbow as a sign for his promise to never again destroy the earth, he said, “I will remember my covenant … When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the aeverlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” “God remembered Abraham” and saved his nephew Lot from the destruction of the cities of the plain. “God remembered Rachel” and gave her a child. Furthermore, to remember is more than just the mental act of recalling memories and is more about the actions that are taken because of remembering. God didn’t suddenly recall that there was a boat out there with Noah on it. When it says that God remembered, He does so in acting on behalf of the people, toward their future, and for their lives.
Question: What does it mean to you when you read about God remembering his people?
In fact, we understand that memory is different from the events that happened in the past. The events of history are someone else’s story. They are events that occurred long ago to someone else. Memory, on the other hand, belongs to me, it is my story. It’s about the question where I come from and of what narrative I am a part. History answers the question, “What happened?” Memory answers the question, “Who am I in relation to the past?” It is about identity and the connection between the generations. In the case of the collective memory of biblical stories, all depends on how we find ourselves in that story, and how we tell it to the future generations.
In today’s fast-moving culture, we undervalue acts of remembering. Computer memories have grown, while ours have become shorter and shorter. Our children no longer memorize chunks of poetry. Their knowledge of history is often all too vague. Our sense of space has expanded while our sense of time has shrunk.
That cannot be right. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is the knowledge of where we have come from, the things for which we sacrificed in our lives. None of the things we value — freedom, human dignity, justice — was achieved without a struggle. None can be sustained without conscious vigilance. A society without memory is like a journey without a map. It’s all too easy to get lost.
Question: How important is it to you to remember your past, where you came from?
We should all cherish the richness of knowing that each of our lives are but a chapter in a book begun by our ancestors long ago. To this chapter we add our contributions and then we are handing it on to our children. Life has meaning when it is part of a story, and the larger the story, the more our imaginative horizons grow. Besides, things remembered do not die. That’s as close as we get to immortality on earth.
Read Deut 5:15
Question: Why is it important to for us to remember the hard times?
Read Eph 2:8–13
Question: Why does Paul urge Christians to remember our state before we were “in Christ?”
When God says that he will forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more, it means that He chooses not to act and seek justice for our sins. God treats our sins “Like it never even happened.”