Show me Your glory, I pray.
This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember the long way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness…
While attending a funeral at a Jewish temple in our city I was struck by the sight of a large monolithic stone in the temple garden, bearing the words: “The Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Forget.” I knew the Ten Commandments, but on reading those words I was reminded of the importance remembering for the Jewish people. A perusal of an Old Testament concordance will show that different Hebrew words for remembering are used many more times than verbs expressing faith.
Abraham Heschel was a leading Jewish theologian and philosopher who wrote about the importance of remembering for the Jewish people:
“To us, recollection is a holy act; we sanctify the present by remembering the past. For us Jews, the essence of faith is memory. To believe is to remember…Much of what the Bible commands can be comprised in one word: Remember.” (Abraham Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays)
Thus, as in today’s scripture the Israelites are camped on the plains of Moab ready to enter the Promised Land, Moses charges them: “Remember the long way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness…” And what they remember about the Exodus out of Egypt and years in the Wilderness must be told to their children: “But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9). For as Heschel reminded, “To believe is to remember.”
Before the Israelites were ready to move boldly into the Promised Land with its giants and great walled cities, they must remember what they had seen God do. When Jesus’ disciples worried about their next meal, Jesus saw their lack of faith as a problem of not remembering: “Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:17b-18) They had so quickly let slip from their minds His feedings of the 4,000 and the 5,000.
On the doorstep of the Promised Land Moses remembers “the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions” (Deuteronomy 8:15). But Moses also remembers how, in the midst of Wilderness troubles, God had faithfully cared for and guided Israel. “He sustained him [Israel] in a desert land, in a howling wilderness waste; he shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10).
Might Jesus ask us when our faith falters: “And do you not remember?”
- What do you remember today about God’s working in your life?
- What does remembering God’s past working in your life say to you about the future?