Exploring Deuteronomy Week 8: Remember and Don’t Forget
Pastor Dan’s sermon, “Bread” in the “Not by Bread Alone” series is available to watch right here!
I love Deuteronomy 8, the passage Pastor Dan read aloud to us yesterday. I’ve always loved it — even before I began studying the Old Testament. It always stood out to me — the commands to remember, the warning that once the Israelites enter into their new land and life becomes good for them, they will so quickly and easily forget.
I think this chapter has always impacted me because it’s the pattern I see in my own life. When life is tough — when things aren’t going my way, or someone is ill, or relationships are difficult — I pray more often. I call on God and ask for healing, for mercy. I remember Him, and I ask Him to remember me. But when life is good — when I have nothing to complain about, when I’m making enough money, when things are going well — my prayer life tends to suffer. Calling on God feels less urgent. I convince myself a simple “thank you” every once in awhile will do.
So the words of Deuteronomy 8 are certainly incredibly useful and relevant. I need the reminders that my very life depends on God and His words.
As Pastor Dan has mentioned a few times, the word “remember” is significant in the book of Deuteronomy. The Hebrew word for remember, “zachar” is used 14 times throughout the book, and two of those times appear right here in Deuteronomy 8. The words “lo shacah” — don’t forget — are also used often throughout Deuteronomy and in this chapter.
In Hebrew, both “remember” and “don’t forget” have more meaning to them than just a mental state of mind. I tend to think of remembering as something I do through my thoughts — “Remember that Christmas in Alberta when it was above zero? No? Oh yeah, maybe that’s never happened. Wishful thinking.” We remember by recalling things that have happened and dwelling on them in our minds.
This is part of the Hebrew definition for remembering, but it is not all of it. Like most terms in Hebrew, remembering and not forgetting also have action associated with them. Remembering is something that you demonstrate by doing. For example, God often asks the Israelites to remember the exodus from Egypt, and to remember what it was like when they were slaves in Egypt. He asks them to remember by doing things — they are to celebrate Passover every year. During Passover, they read the story aloud, they eat certain foods, they worship together. All of the holidays involve action, and they’re all focused on remembering. God knows that the Israelites will remember His great deeds in the past through actively celebrating each year.
I had to write a thesis during seminary. The process of writing that thesis is something I do not want to remember. Ugh. I basically lived in the library, looking up boring things written by boring people. However, in the midst of that miserable process, I learned some cool things about God. I wrote much of my thesis on the idea of faith in action and how God’s actions in the exodus influenced the entire rest of the Bible. I learned that God is incredibly active — He steps into history and proves that He is faithful to His promises. I learned about how significant the exodus is to what we see happen with Jesus in the New Testament. It was in the studying and remembering what God had done in the past, that I began to see the patterns of His faithfulness in Jesus, and could see how He was still active and involved in the world and my life today.
What I ultimately learned was that in order to correctly understand and appreciate our faith, we must be aware of God’s work and remember history—both biblical and recent. It is through remembering how God has shown up in the past that we know what to expect from His character in the future.
It is a truly beautiful thing that our God shows up and invites us to know Him. And when we remember — when we look back and actively participate in remembering what He has done — we can be so confident of His presence, faithfulness, and loyalty in the future.
* What are some things you and your family do or want to start doing as a way of remembering how God has shown up in your life?