“…abide in my word.” John 8:31
Remembering and Forgetting
Deuteronomy 8 has sobering words for nations and for individuals. God warned his ancient people —
11 Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when … your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God.
Our problem is just what Deuteronomy warns about — prosperity without God is perilous.
The Hebrew word for “forget” is shaw-kach. (It isn’t significant that we remember the Hebrew word, but we must note its meaning in Hebrew, rather than in English.) In English “we forget” something when it “slips our mind,” as we put it. It is an accidental thing. In Hebrew, forgetting is a conscious act. A good translation would be “cease to care about.” (see “Reformation Study Bible” below) “When we cease to care about the Lord our God… .”
On the other hand, “remembering” in Hebrew is also a conscious act. The word is zakar — Zachariah means “Yahweh remembers!” Conscious remembering is the spiritual treatment for a return to God.
Men have Forgotten God
In his still timely words (spoken about the Soviet Union at the time) upon receiving the Templeton Prize for progress in religion, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, puts his finger exactly on the problem facing us in the West today:
More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia:
“Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: “Men have forgotten God.” The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century (See “Solzhenitsyn” below; emphasis mine).
Chaos, not freedom, comes in every sphere of life to the society which forgets God. We cannot act to roll back the clock. However, we can as individuals still live a Biblical lifestyle. We can purposefully remember God, as we navigate life. We won’t win any popularity contests, but we will magnify God before the eyes of the world.
The Act of Remembering and the Way Back
When I was a teenager I walked away from God for a while. I began to run with the wrong crowd from my church. (Yes, there are rebels in the church, too.) The drinking age was 18 then. I over-indulged in alcohol for the first time with them.
One Sunday, my pastor stopped me in the hall of the Sunday School building. He said words I’ll never forget.
“Rick, when you first came to this church, you paid attention to the sermon. You brought your Bible and took notes. Now you do neither. Just remember, Jesus didn’t leave you. You left him, and he is right where you left him. You can go back and walk with him again.”
He was encouraging me to remember my Lord Jesus and to forsake my forgetting of Him. I came back and found the grace of God to be plentiful toward prodigal children.
We can’t change society against its will, but we can nudge individuals in the right direction by reminding them what they have left behind and the grace-filled way back. Eventually, enough individuals remembering the Lord can change society!
Solzhenitsyn, Alexandr. (1985). “The Templeton Address: Men Have Forgotten God.” Accessed 28 August 2018 from http://orthochristian.com/47643.html
Reformation Study Bible. (2018). Accessed 28 August 2018 from https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/reformation-study-bible/toc/
© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved