‘I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago’ ~ Psalm 77:11
There seems to be a direct correlation between one’s ability to remember and their ability to endure in sufferings. When Asaph was in distress, so much that God kept his ‘eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak’ (Psalm 77:4), all he could do was think. He did not just think about his suffering, but specifically remembered God’s former deeds. He says, ‘I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit enquired’ (v5-6). It is in this remembrance that Asaph considered that, if God did it then, won’t He do it again? And so he came to the conclusion that, ‘Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples’ (v13-14). By only an act of remembrance, Asaph’s troubles were converted to praise to God.
Not only was Asaph’s remembrance turned to praise, but a mystery was revealed to him. He says, ‘O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my words in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old’ (78:v1-2). God’s Spirit made known to Asaph that His Word requires continuity. And so Asaph says, ‘He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so that the next generation would know them, even children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children’ (v5-6). God reveals to Asaph that He had in mind not just those living currently, but the unborn, and the generations to come. God also reveals the reason why; ‘Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands’ (v7). Since these commands were given right after God had performed mighty deeds and delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, God reveals to Asaph that they were not just for show, but for the sole reason of sustaining the Israelites and the generations to come, globally. That is why God commanded the Israelites, ‘This day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come, you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord- a lasting ordinance’ (Exodus 12:14). The celebration and subsequent others were not set in place as religious activities, but as symbols of remembrance so that generations coming may also understand.
Unfortunately, those who witnessed what the Lord had done quickly forgot the wonders God did in rescuing them out of Egypt. And so when they( came to the desert, a place of hardships, instead of bringing to remembrance what God had done, ‘They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them’ (Psalm 78:11). But whenever God turned against them and ‘slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again. They remembered that God was their Rock, the God Most High was their Redeemer’ (v34-35). So, God reveals to Asaph that the only way people truly remember was if His anger burned against them. But God in His mercy reasoned that if He had showed His full wrath then, no one would survive. And so God spared some for ‘He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return’ (v39). God’s restraint for their own sake was misconstrued and so ‘Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power – the day he redeemed them from the oppressor’ (v41-42).
The opposite of remembrance is not forgetfulness, but unbelief evidenced by complaints and rebellion. While in the desert, instead of remembering God’s deeds, ‘They wilfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert?’ (v18-19). The act of remembrance stirs faith and hope, but failure of it furthers roots of unbelief, that grow stems of rebellion and leaves of complaints. It grows to a point that, ‘they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of his hands’ (Isaiah 5:12). As a result, they failed to achieve the what God had told them; ‘Teach them (the Word) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates’ (Deuteronomy 11:19-20). The Israelites failed to pass on God’s ways to the next generation, because they did not bring to remembrance God’s deeds and wonders when they were in the desert. They instead enticed generations against the Lord. So God through Jesus finally determined, ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people’ (Jeremiah 31:33).
When one passes through a desert, through difficult situations, only two outcomes are possible, they grow bitter, hard-hearted, and rebellious towards God like the Israelites, or they grow in praises and are given deep revelations like Asaph. God is concerned about how we react during difficult periods because it not only determines the course of our lives, but that of our children and generations to come, as He revealed to Asaph. ‘Because he was (and still is) seeking godly offspring’ (Malachi 2:15). Timothy’s faith for instance could be traced generations back. Paul writes to him saying, ‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded now lives in you also’ (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy’s family taught him the ways of the Lord from infancy, because they could bring to remembrance and show what God had done for them. Paul then urges Timothy to do likewise, ‘But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’ (3:v14-15).
Such godly lineage has to first start with an individual. The level by which one remembers God’s words and deeds as written in Scripture determines how they fare in difficult times. Recalling what God said and did in His Word is able to make us wise to endure hardships, and hold on to our salvation without wavering in our faith. Now, there is no excuse because Jesus says, ‘But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you’ (John 14:26). It is only God’s Spirit that can bring to us remembrance when we face hardships, like He did to Asaph. This not only results to praise but revelation- because in difficult times, God reveals mysteries and expounds revelations from our difficult situations. Those who do not believe in Jesus and so do not have the Holy Spirit come out of hardships without revelation. Some even acquire bitterness, hardness of heart and rebel against God, not only to their detriment, but to the generations to come. God’s last word to such is; ‘Remember the height from which you have fallen!’ (Revelation 2:5).
‘Remember this, and show yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me’ ~ Isaiah 46:8-9