This long holiday weekend ends with Memorial Day, a time to honor all who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.
Inherent in the word “memorial” is the act of remembering.
We need memorials to help us remember. We have short memories about selfless, noble things but long memories about distressing, hurtful things.
God is very specific about what we should remember—and how we should do it.
Remember God’s presence
In Exodus 28, God gave specific instructions for including memorials in Aaron’s priestly garments. Two onyx stones were engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel. One was fastened to each shoulder of Aaron’s robe so he could “bear their names before the Lord … for remembrance” (vs 12).
Remember God’s goodness
Throughout Jewish history, in the Tabernacle, then the Temple, the showbread, which was replaced weekly, was a memorial to God’s goodness.
Remember God’s provision
When the Israelites entered Canaan, they witnessed a miracle when the priests set foot in the Jordan River and God pushed the waters “in a heap” all the way to the city of Adam so the Israelites could cross on dry land (Joshua 3:15-17). In memoriam, “Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day” (Joshua 4:9).
Remember God’s power
David kept Goliath’s armor (1 Samuel 17:54) as a memorial and later dedicated Goliath’s sword to God as a symbol of his gratefulness for his conquest.
Psalm 77:11 (ESV) says, “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” The word “remember” is also translated as “celebrate.” We have every reason to celebrate our great God as we remember His past actions and anticipate His future ones—because God continually works on behalf of His people.
But our human nature tends to create memorials to things we shouldn’t. Memorials to disappointments. Betrayals. Things we can point to and say, “Look what you did to me” or “This is why I’m this way.”
David Jeremiah says we are to remember the bad things of the past with finality and the good things of the past with gratitude. Paul put it this way: “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, BSB).
It blows my mind that God doesn’t remember certain things at all. He actually forgives AND forgets. Psalm 103:12 says God removed all our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. That’s Hebrew poetics for so infinitely far away that our sins can’t condemn us anymore. Isaiah 43:25 says God blots out our sins so completely that He doesn’t remember them.
I can’t fathom how a perfect God can perfectly forget our sins. I can read the words about being covered I Christ. I can understand the theology. But I still can’t wrap my arms around it. All I can whisper is “Thank You,” and pledge like the song says, “We will remember the works of Your hands.”