What comes to mind when you hear the word “remember”?
For many of us as Seventh-day Adventists, the text of the fourth commandment pops into our minds: “Remember the Sabbath day….” Expanding beyond that to our personal lives, we tend to think of memories––good and not so good––of aspects of our life journeys. Perhaps you have specific life experience memories popping into your mind right now as you think of this word “remember”?
I was studying the Bible recently, reading in Deuteronomy, and the word “remember” leapt off the page and caught my attention. I was especially struck by the specific context and message in that instance.
The Israelites had escaped slavery in Egypt via an unimagined divine path through the Red Sea. They had traversed the wilderness, navigating the tough terrain with all its dangers and difficulties. They had heard directly from God through Moses, calling them to obedient faithfulness. God had provided for their every need and sustenance. Still, there was trepidation as they were preparing to enter the untamed Promised Land, filled with wild beasts and threatening foes. To emerge victorious from their time in the wilderness and walk into God’s new land of promise, they must remember how God had led them.
We pick up this emphasis in Deuteronomy 8:1-20. There are three qualifications God gives the Israelites for entering into His promise for them; three things he wants them to “remember”:
1. Do everything I instruct you to do (vs. 1)
2. Everything I have done for you thus far (vs. 2)
3. It is a time of testing and humbling (vs. 2-3)
Notice what God said to them in Deuteronomy 8:1-3:
“Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So, He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.” NKJV
God is calling them to “remember” everything he is asking of them, everything he had done for them, and that the purpose of all the hardships and provisions is that they be tested and humbled.
It struck me that the past two plus years of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of testing. It has tested us as individuals facing many new circumstances; it has tested us as national citizens; and more importantly, it has tested us as members of God’s Church Family. And perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from this period has been that testing has been humbling. We have been confronted with the realization that too often humility has not been the primary posture in this testing time.
As it was for the Israelites, there is a temptation to expect that being led by God would mean a life of privilege and ease. But instead, the journey has brought challenges and even hardships. There has been a temptation to expect that there would always be opportunity to do whatever one individually wishes, when the circumstances have brought restrictions and interdependence that has challenged the desire for independence.
The purpose for all of this? To remember. Remember…it is a time of testing and humbling. To fight this is to miss the purpose; to fail at humility. Which only requires more testing until we get it right. Because humility is something we must get right. As Jesus said, “blessed are the meek (humble) for they shall inherit the earth” Matthew 5:5, NKJV. To possess our inheritance requires humility.
As we traverse 2022, let us remember to learn this lesson. As we do, we will surely walk victoriously into the abundant blessings of the promises of God, as individuals and as the Family of God. What a beautiful future he has for us!