Many of us spend the last days of the year looking back at it. Maybe that reminiscence is sparked by the Christmas letters we wrote loved ones, or by the pause before putting up our shiny new calendars for the new year.
There used to be a saying on memes that went something like, “Don’t look back—you’re not going that way.” However, though we shouldn’t live in the past, we benefit from considering it at times.
I jotted down for my own remembrance the ESV Study Bible note for Isaiah 44:21, where God pointed out the futility of idols and told Israel to remember certain things:
Remember. God calls his people to focused thought, in contrast to the muddled delusions described in vv. 9-20 about “these things,” both the all-sufficiency of the God who makes true promises to his people and the emptiness of the false gods with their lies (p. 1321).
The note on Isaiah 46:8 says something similar:
Mental focus on who God is must be renewed, for the idolatrous culture of the world erodes clarity (p. 1326).
God calls us to remember, to exercise “focused thought.” Verses came floating to mind about what God tells us to remember. So I did a quick word study, which resulted in four pages of references. I can’t put all of them here, but I’ll share several.
“Remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.” (Numbers 15:39-40)
“Remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
“Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you”. (Deuteronomy 32:7). (The rest of the chapter details God’s gracious dealings in Israel’s history.)
Remember God’s provision: “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18) (Jesus reminded his disciples, when they discussed having no bread, about his past provision of loaves and fishes. Matthew 16:5-12.)
“Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered.” (1 Chronicles 16:12)
“Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 9:7). (It’s not that God wanted to hold their past rebellion over their heads forever, but they needed to remember their tendency to sin so that they might be humbled and appreciative of His grace.)
Remember how God dealt with other people’s sin, to learn from their example. “Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 24:9); “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5)
Remember his Word:
“Remember his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations.” (1 Chronicles 16:15)
“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.” (2 Peter 3:1-2)
“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 17)
“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” (Revelation 3:3)
Remember the nothingness of idols and the greatness of his salvation (Isaiah 44:9-26, “Remember these things,” v. 21; Isaiah 46, “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,” vv. 8-9).
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3)
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)
Besides imperative sentences, I noticed some sweet examples of focused remembrance about God, his truth, his ways, his past provision, and the effect of this remembrance. Some were in Psalm 77, Psalm 78, and Isaiah 63. One was in Psalm 63:5-7:
“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”
Another is in Psalm 143:3-6:
“For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.”
One more in Lamentations 3:19-26:
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Any time is a good time to remember God’s character and dealings with us. But I hope that before the year ends, you’re able to have some “focused thought” on his particular provision and expressions of love in your life.