Remember—For Your Own Good!
Thus the children of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side;
Question 121 of the Larger Catechism asks, “Why is the word Remember set in the beginning of the Fourth Commandment?” It gives the answer, “The word Remember is set in the beginning of the Fourth Commandment, partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it, and, in keeping it, better to keep all the rest of the commandments, and to continue a thankful remembrance of the two great benefits of creation and redemption, which contain a short abridgment of religion; and partly, because we are very ready to forget it, for that there is less light of nature for it, and yet it restraineth our natural liberty in things at other times lawful; that it cometh but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it; and that Satan with his instruments much labour to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety.” Last week we looked at how God graciously gives us reasons to obey Him. This week we consider another act of God’s gracious condescension towards us in that He calls us to remember.
It is easy to forget. Human beings forget things all the time. That is why we have invented all sorts of ways to remember: from tying a string around a finger to scheduling a wake-up call at a hotel. A quick search on the internet reveals that you can purchase reminder notes, postcards, letters, rings, ringtones, jewelry, pictures, emails, apps, texts, etc., and a million other things; all to help us remember. Some of our forgetting is innocent, in the sense that we sincerely wanted to remember that person’s name or that appointment, and we are truly sorry when we discover that we forgot it. Our minds are finite and our lives are busy. Sometimes we forget.
However, we must admit that some of our remembering and forgetting is selective. That is, we remember and forget based upon what we consider to be advantageous to our lives in this world. Thus, the text at the head of this article reveals how quickly Israel forgot God’s amazing deliverance from the bondage of Egypt and His blessing them with the conquest of the Promised Land. The passage goes on to reveal that their forgetting was fueled by their desire to pursue immoral and idolatrous practices. Likewise, throughout their exodus from Egypt, the Bible reveals how readily they remembered past pleasures whenever following the Lord became difficult. Thus, when they grew tired of the manna, they declared with detailed sharpness how accurate man’s memory can be when he believes he has a vested interest at stake: “We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic,” (Num. 11:5). Ah, yes, Egypt was like heaven on earth! Those melons and leeks, that fish; it was a virtual paradise. Except for the fact that their bondage was so cruel and merciless that God heard their cries from heaven (Exo. 2:23), and oh, by the way, they were forcibly murdering all their boy babies (Exo 1:22), but they selectively forgot that!
Accordingly, in the Fourth Commandment, God condescends to remind us to remember. And just as when He constantly called upon Israel to remember that they were slaves in Egypt, to remember the way in which He mightily saved them (Deu. 5:15; 15:15; 16:12; 24:18, 22); God’s reminding us to remember is for our own good. Thus, God does not command us to remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy for some benefit to Himself, but solely because of the blessing that we will receive. Christian, remember the Sabbath Day! For your own good and for your own blessing, upon yourself, your family, your business, your growth in grace; remember to keep the day holy. Remember how God created all things in six days and rested on one. Remember how Jesus rose again from the dead on first day of the week. Remember to be thankful, to worship, and to rest in God. Remember, and you will be blessed!