Remembering: Why?

“Remember,” “take heed,” “recall,” “keep,” and “forget not” — all of these share something in common in the scriptures. They are all used in connection with God’s covenants in the Bible. God remembered certain things and God wanted man to likewise remember the same things. For this reason, God revealed his will to man through his servants the prophets (Amos 3.7; Genesis 18.17; John 15.15). Remembering God’s will is for the purpose of obeying God’s will (Numbers 15.38-40; Ecclesiastes 12.13; James 1.25).

God always remembered his covenants. To Noah, God said, “I will remember my covenant…and the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth” (Genesis 9.15-16).

God remembered his covenants with the patriarchs (Exodus 32.13), with Israel (Jeremiah 31.32), and with David (Jeremiah 33.21). These covenants were made with a view to fulfilling his eternal purpose, which was to redeem man from his sins by the blood of Christ.

This is seen from the prophecy of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, who at John’s birth said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1.68-75).

The apostle Peter stated that God had indeed fulfilled his eternal purpose: “What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled” (Acts 3.18). Peter went on to connect all the covenants from Abraham, Israel, and David to this eternal purpose that was fulfilled in Jesus, saying, “Repent therefore and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3.19-26).

Notice also, from Peter’s words above, what was said in regard to man’s response to this fulfillment. “Repent and turn back…” (Acts 3.19). The phrase “turn back” means to return unto God (Acts 26.20). In doing so, they would again obey the covenant terms. In the Bible, whenever man was to “remember” or “forget not” God’s covenant, man was to obey. Conversely, to forget was to transgress (James 4.17).

God rested on the seventh day, and commanded Israel to remember why. To remember was done by an observance of resting. The reason God rested is stated in Exodus 31.17. God blessed this day and made it holy (Exodus 20.11). Israel was commanded to remember (rest) on this day, thereby keeping it holy. The benefit was stated by both Moses and Ezekiel: “So that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you” (Exodus 31.13; Ezekiel 20.12).

The covenant through Moses had many remembrance clauses. Chief among these was the remembrance of their sins. Animal sacrifices were for this purpose (Hebrews 10.1-3), reminding them that only God sanctifies (Hebrews 9.9; 10.4; Romans 8.3). Yet they were to remember with an act of obedience — sacrificing an animal, exactly as specified (Exodus 12.5). God would indeed sanctify at the right time (Romans 5.6). God foresaw the need and predetermined to sanctify them and us (i.e., Jew and Gentile) through Jesus (Acts 2.23; Ephesians 1.5).

God prepared Jesus a body, that Jesus might do his Father’s will (Hebrews 10.5). His body was prepared to bear our sins. We are sanctified by his blood (Hebrews 13.12). We remember as we follow his example. In remembering these things, let us be thankful that our sins and iniquities are remembered no more (Hebrews 8.12;10.17).