It is amazing how quickly we can forget!
And I’m not talking about remembering to go to a doctor’s appointment or take out the trash, I’m speaking of the redemptive power of Christ and what he saves us from.
I recently started using the Read Scripture app to read through the Bible in a year. It will probably take me a year and half but that’s another story!
So this week I’ve been hanging out in Exodus. I’ve heard some say the Old Testament is, well, old and doesn’t apply to us today. Seeing as how God never changes, I can’t imagine that’s true. Plus some of the best stories of defeat and subsequent victory come from these ancient books. Forget the latest big screen picture, the OT has all the war, scandals, violence and love stories you could ever want!
But moving on to forgetfulness.
Through a series of events the Israelites (God’s chosen people group) ended up living in Egypt. Now because of God’s promise to Abraham to multiply his offspring, the group just keeps getting bigger and bigger. And this totally freaks out Pharaoh, who lives in the constant fear that they are going to decide to overthrow him…and he knows that if they tried, they would succeed. His solution to this irrational fear is to enslave the people of Israel, thus giving him complete control over their actions. (See Exodus 1:8-14)
Now throughout history, there have been good and bad slave owners. Pharaoh certainly lead the charge of the bad! “So [Pharaoh] ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service…In all their work [the Egyptians] ruthlessly made them work as slaves.” Exodus 1:13-14 Not only that, he goes on to order them to kill the firstborn male of every family.
So yea, the Israelites are living in pretty brutal conditions.
At the end of chapter 2 they call out to God to rescue them from the slavery. Verse 24 says “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.”
So God puts an elaborate plan into play to rescue his people from slavery. He shares the details with Moses and Aaron and sends them to Egypt as his representatives. When M & A demand that the Israelites be released, Pharaoh refuses. So God sends all these plagues that slowly destroy the Egyptian countryside and still Pharaoh refuses. Eight plagues in Pharaoh’s advisers say to him “Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” (Exodus 10:7).
Yet still Pharaoh resists. Two more plagues come and when Pharaoh’s oldest son dies from the last plague, he finally commands the people to leave.
And the Israelites take off…fast. Because they’ve seen enough to know that Pharaoh is likely to change his mind (as he had already done several times) and command that they stay. And that he does. As the Israelites approach the Red Sea, here comes Pharaoh and his army, intent on bringing them back into captivity. But God says no. So he parts the waters and the Israelites walk through the sea on dry land but as soon as Pharaoh and his army touch the sea bed, the water sweeps over them and washes them away.
And with that the Israelites are finally free!!! They are so excited that they begin singing and dancing with praise towards God.
Now to truly appreciate how many victories they experienced in all of this, you really need to sit down and read Exodus 1-15!
But back to the story. At the end of chapter 15 we finally get to the point of forgetfulness. After the victory at the Red Sea they head into the wilderness. “They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to March, they could not drink the water…because it was bitter…And the people grumbled against Moses [and essentially God] saying ‘What shall we drink?'” (Exodus 15:23-24) And then again in chapter 16 they grumble against Moses and Aaron because they are hungry.
I know this is getting long but here’s the MOST IMPORTANT VERSE.
“The people of Israel said to [Moses & Aaron], ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (16:3)
DID YOU HEAR WHAT THEY SAID? They said we would have rather been left in slavery under the awful hand of Pharaoh then to trust in God and be hungry.
I’m not even sure how to communicate this important point. The Israelites are letting their temporarily empty stomachs erase the memory of all the victories that God won to bring them to this point.
Now I’ve never been truly hungry, but I have been in need of other things. And I know how hard it is to remember what God has done in the past when the future looks so dim. But we must guard our hearts and minds from this thinking. It is dangerous and leads us to rebellion and disaster.
But God’s grace is also sufficient. Just as it was for the Israelites. God continued to provide for each of their needs…and they continued to rebel…and God continued to provide. It’s the same for us today. When we realize we are forgetting all God has done for us in the past, we must simply start remembering. Out of our remembrance will come praise, and out of our praise, we will find victory.
God knows we are going to forget. During his instructions for the Passover he commands this…
“And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” (Exodus 12:26-27)
and again when he provides manna he says…
“Let an omer [of manna] be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (16:32)
and finally in Deuteronomy 11:18-21 God commands…
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
“You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”
So forget not. Remember all that God has done for you. When the trials arise, as they surely will, sit and praise him for the victory he has brought and the victory he will bring. And share. Share your remembrance so those who are in the midst of forgetting will be reminded of all God has done for them as well.
He has promised the victory, we must only remember to trust in him!