It’s in the past

There is a scene in Disney’s The Lion King where Rafiki, a baboon, swats Simba, a lion, on the head. When Simba asks what it was for, Rafiki responds, “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past!” He goes on to say that you can either run from the past or learn from it. In Joshua, Israel chooses to set up a memorial so that the generations to follow could learn from the past.

These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

Joshua 4:7b (NIV)

On significant occasions, Israel would often build landmarks or altars to commemorate what God had done for them. These stones would serve as a reminder to future generations of their rich heritage.

He did this so that all the people of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God

Joshua 4:24 (NIV)

Simba had to leave some things in his past, but he also had to remember the past so that he could lay hold of his inheritance—an entire kingdom. Sound familiar? Even after Israel took the Promised Land, they needed perpetual reminders of the fact that they were God’s chosen people, and of how they got to be where they were. Even the painful reminders of past sin would prove to be helpful for generations to come.

Like Israel setting up stones and Simba facing the hurt of the past, we can’t turn our backs entirely on our own history. In many cases, we need to celebrate it. If you needed to be rescued, celebrate and talk about the fact that God brought you out! If you were healed, speak of the Lord’s faithfulness. If you have been made whole, share it with the world.

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness know through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

Psalm 89:1-2 (NIV)

How is the present generation to know of God’s goodness and faithfulness if the previous generation never speaks of it? Our sin is in the past, but God’s love, mercy, and grace endure forever—through all generations. We need to speak of these things and celebrate them as well.

How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Romans 10:14-15 (NIV)

If you need to erect a monument to commemorate God’s goodness, go for it. If you need to share your story, do it. If you want to sing a song of praise, go ahead. Just don’t keep it to yourself!

Read: Joshua 4-6, Luke 2:1-24

The Lord your God

Read: Deuteronomy 8-10, Marik 12:28-44

On the eve of Israel’s move to the Promised Land, Moses takes a few moments to set some reminders for his people.

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NIV)

Israel had a terrible habit of forgetting about God and the covenant they had with Him. In the morning they’d be picking up manna and by the afternoon, they’d be complaining that God brought them out of Egypt only to kill them in the wilderness. Moses knew he’d been leading a stubborn group of people. They only existed because of his intercession on their behalf. After all the trouble he’d gone through, he wanted to be sure they got things right once he was gone.

Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Deuteronomy 9:6 (NIV)

The Promised Land was not a reward for good behavior. If God were to reward His people according to what they deserved, He’d have to send them back to Egypt. But because of His covenant and Moses’ prayers, Israel would take possession of the land promised to their forefathers.

This possession was not without its trials. God had already let the people know that they would have to fight. And it would be a long fight. The land would only be cleared of its inhabitants as Israel was prepared to occupy it. God would fight for them, but they still had to go into battle. God would make them prosper, but they would still have to do the work.

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to you forefathers.

Deuteronomy 8:1 (NIV)

The promise to possess did not come without conditions. God wanted the obedience of Israel and He wanted their love.

When asked which was the greatest of all the commandments, Jesus replied:

Mark 12-30-31.jpg

I believe that we, too, need the reminder, like Israel did, that the Lord is our God. And, if the Lord is our God, we should love and obey Him. Twenty-four times, Moses used the words the Lord your God in Deuteronomy 8 through 10. It must have been important. Important enough for Jesus to used the very same words when speaking of the greatest commandment.

If Israel remembered the Lord their God, loved Him, and obeyed Him, all would go well for them. The very same goes for us.

And we know that in all thing God works for the good of those who love him. He appointed them to be saved in keeping with his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

 

16x

Read: Leviticus 18-19, Matthew 27:32-66

Some days, I have the memory of an elephant. I remember minute details about things that happened over a decade ago that never really mattered, even while they were happening. Other days, my memory has the lifespan of a gnat. I think that, for the most part, the Israelites fell into this latter category.

Through much of the Pentateuch, Israel gets reminder after reminder. Sometimes I read a passage and have to go look back because I am positive I’ve read it already. Today is no different.

Leviticus 19:2

After this verse, the words the Lord your God are repeated fifteen more times within the chapter. Sixteen times within thirty-seven verses, Israel is reminded that the Lord is their God. If repeating something three times is important, how important is sixteen?

The number sixteen in the Bible is often associate with love. In the Old Testament, sixteen of the various names and titles for God specifically signify His constant, never-ending love for the children of Israel. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul lists sixteen distinct qualities of love.

When questioned about the most important commandment, Jesus wraps it all up.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Mark 12:30 (NIV)

I find it interesting that, for as many qualities as Paul uses to describe love, God reminds His people that He is their Lord. Far more than God wanted Israel to follow a strict set of rules, He wanted them to love Him. From a pure love, obedience flows. God wants the very same for us.

Even as I write this study, I wonder for myself how much would change in my life if I were to intentionally remind myself daily of God’s lordship in my life. The Lord is my God. He is my Lord. I believe that this is what God was doing with Israel. He was working to renew their minds to His way of thinking.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Our love for God should be, like Jesus stated, with our whole being. But it all starts in our spirit, followed by our mind. If the mind does not conform to the spirit, our strength cannot follow suit. Our spirits know and love God, but it is the daily reminder of His lordship in our lives that will cause everything else to conform.

So remind yourself that God is your God. He is your Lord. Do it sixteen times if you have to.

Commemorate

Read: Exodus 13-15, Matthew 19:1-15

Both in Canada and the United States our mints—the place where physical currency is made—like to commemorate things. Watch television late at night and you’ll probably see a commercial offer for a commemorative coin. These coins serve to honour or celebrate a particular person, place, event, or institution.

Roughrider Loonie

Of all Canadian commemorative coins, this loonie (one dollar coin) celebrating 100 years of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, is my favourite.

Our governments do a good job of helping us to remember certain things. These memories live in our purses, our pockets, our nightstands, our change jars. We need money to make it in our world and, what better way to immortalize something than to put it in the hand of every person in the country?

When something spectacular happened to God’s people, Moses asked Israel to do something similar.

Exodus 13:13

The Israelites were serious about their commemoration. Even today, phylacteries (small, black, cube-shaped leather boxes) are often worn by Orthodox and other conservative Jewish males aged thirteen and older. The purpose of these objects are to remind the Jewish people of God’s deliverance and of their duty to remain faithful to His commands. Thousands of years after the fact, these people are still commemorating their deliverance.

The Israelites celebrated their deliverance every year at the same time with the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As their children grew, they would tell the story of how God brought them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. And then their children would tell their children who would tell their children. You get the picture. Stories of God’s greatness were passed down from generation to generation along with an object and traditions that would be a perpetual reminder.

Most of us have never been enslaved. We’ve never had to be delivered to the extent that Israel required. But God has done something for every one of us. He has delivered us all from something and brought us into His promise. So what do we do to remember that?

Several years ago, my pastor preached a message series called All In. Every person in attendance was given a poker chip with the words All In printed on it. Ask anyone who was in the congregation that day about their chip and most everyone could tell you where theirs is. Mine is in my work belt. I know that my pastor keeps one in his pocket. Our youth leader keeps it in his wallet. Like a commemorative coin, we all have a reminder to give our all when it comes to our relationship with God.

What do you keep to remind yourself of God’s grace and goodness in your life? Whether it be a phylactery, a coin, or a poker chip, it is worth keeping a memento so that you can keep in mind—even in the hard times—God’s faithfulness. Believe it or not, I even have a tissue (unused) tucked in a particular Bible that reminds me that I have the mind of Christ (Jesus in no way relates to a Kleenex, but the illustration worked and the reminder is there).

How can you commemorate the mighty hand of God in your life?

Mark your moments

Read: Genesis 12-14, Matthew 5:1-26

Genesis 13:4

At significant moments in his live, Abram would build an altar. In the first few chapters of his story, he builds two and even returns to one. Abram built altars to mark the places where God spoke to or appeared to him. And where God spoke to him, Abram offered sacrifices and thanksgiving.

There are some things in life we should just forget about all together—faults and failures. But there are other things in life we should remember. When God speaks to us or when we have a moment of clarity or revelation, we should mark it. Like Abram, we may need to return to that place so that we can recall God’s faithfulness to us.

But aren’t we running a race? 

Yes, we are.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

We need to forget the things that would hold us back and remember the things that push us forward. A runner cannot forget all that he has learned in his training if he is going to win the race. And we cannot forget all that God has done for us if we want to continue running toward His calling. If we forget why we’re running, we will stop altogether.

We shouldn’t always be in a rush from one mountaintop experience to the next. There are valleys in between that we may need to walk through as well. And in those valleys, we should be able to look back and remember the heights from which we came. Those moments on the mountain, and sometimes in the valley, should be marked so that we can give thanks in the moment and look back to remember and gain the momentum we need to finish the race.

Another reminder

Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there.

Exodus 20:24b (NLT)

Are you ever reminded of who God is? I hope so. I hope that you are reminded on a daily basis.

Being reminded of something can be a good thing. I keep letters, notes, and cards from people if I found it encouraging upon receiving it. Every once in a while, I’ll go back and read them again. And again. What I found encouraging once, I often find encouraging again.

What would change in your life if you kept reminders for yourself every time God revealed himself to you? It could be one word, a song, a verse. On days when you find yourself down, you could go back to those reminders and be blessed again and again.

Try keeping some reminders and see what blessing can come from it.

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 19-21, Matthew 20:1-16