The Theme of Remembrance

Here’s a short paper I wrote two years ago for my Old Testament Biblical Theology class that is worth sharing.  It is a subject I began to study a long time ago.

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In Deuteronomy 4:9-10 Moses encouraged the Israelites, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live . . . Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God . . .” The exhortation to “not forget” or “remember” is a recurring theme throughout the Old Testament. Yahweh, through the words and writings of the patriarchs, psalmists, and prophets, constantly reminds His people to remember what He has done in the past, which will enable them to trust Him in the present and future. Whenever the word “remember” is used, the implication seems to be more than just mentally recalling information; it always implies some kind of action in response to that information. Let us examine how this theme is presented.

The word “remember” is found early in the Law, in Gen. 9:15-16. After the flood, Yahweh said that when the rainbow appeared, He would remember his covenant. This visual reminder of God’s everlasting mercy was probably given more for the benefit of His people than for Him. As Yahweh was preparing to deliver His people from Egypt, we see that He intended them to tell their children and grandchildren so that succeeding generations would remember what He did so that they would know that “I am the Lord” (Ex. 10:2). He instructed them to celebrate the Passover for this very purpose (Ex. 12:14). After crossing over the Red Sea, they recalled in song God’s deliverance (Ex.15); when they crossed the Jordan, they set up memorial stones (Jos. 4:7). “God is revealed through what he does and through the recital of the mighty acts of God that shaped the nation. God’s actions in history were remembered in confessional statements such as Deuteronomy 6:21-25, 26:5-9 and Joshua 24:2-13” (Routledge 2008, 35).

We see this pattern repeated many times in the Prophets as well, where they remind the nation to not forget their covenant obligations.  Yahweh speaking through Isaiah exhorts his people because they have forgotten that He is comforter and creator (Isa. 51:12-13). Jeremiah also condemns Israel for their unfaithfulness, in that they “have forgotten the Lord their God” (Jer. 3:21); he says, “You have forgotten Me and trusted in false gods” (Jer. 13:25). Ezekiel echoes the same concern: “And you have forgotten me, declares the Sovereign Lord” (22:12).

This theme is clearly found in the books of the Writings also. “Memory plays a key role in the Psalter . . . Many hymns and laments call to mind God’s past acts of deliverance. Such reminders build confidence in God. He has shown himself in the past to be a reliable savior; he will do so in the present . . . Examples of this genre are Psalm 78, 105, 106, 135, and 136” (Longman and Dillard 2006, 250.) David extols the value of actively remembering God’s Word, as well as his acts, in Ps. 119:52, 55, 61, 93, and 176. Another illustration of this is found in Neh. 9, which describes how the post-exilic nation gathered together to confess their sins, listen to the Book of the Law (which they had forgotten), and recommit themselves to the covenant.

In closing, let us discuss some practical application. At the Last Supper, Jesus broke bread with His disciples, and stated, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). New Testament believers are exhorted to regularly look back to God’s mighty act of deliverance from bondage to sin through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross in the same manner as the Israelites always looked back to Yahweh’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt. In addition, I have found that when we forget to remember God’s Word and His presence, it is easy to sin. Furthermore, it is easy to get discouraged when going through various trials; when one intentionally remembers God’s love and faithfulness it gives one hope (Lam. 3:19-22).

Bibliography

Longman III, Tremper, and Dillard, Raymond B. An Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Routledge, Robin. Old Testament Theology. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008.

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Israel’s History as Our Story

Here’s a paper I wrote two years ago.  I think it may be encouraging to some.  Enjoy!

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I. Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to highlight significant elements of Israel’s history that are reflected in the faith journey of Christian believers in the church today.  The Apostle Paul stated that what was written in the past was meant to teach us and give us hope (Rom. 15:4).  Christians accept the fundamental unity between the two testaments (Routledge 2008, 39).  Since Yahweh has constantly been acting on His chosen people’s behalf, events usually follow a predictable pattern; indeed, “there are correspondences between the story of Israel and the story of the church” (Routledge 2008, 45, 46).  There are several key events and themes found in Joshua through 2 Kings in the Old Testament that parallel what Christians normally experience and are easy to understand.  Let us examine just a few of them, namely: the crossing over the Jordan into the Promised Land, total dependence on Yahweh to bring victory over enemies, and the value of a strong community of faith under spiritual leadership.

II. Crossing over into the Promised Land

The deliverance of Israel out of Egypt was the major event in the entire Old Testament.  It is mentioned in each genre: Law (Dt. 4:37), Prophets (Hos. 11:1), and Writings (Ps. 81:10).  This act was like a new creation, “the creation and exodus are brought together as one act in God’s redemptive purpose . . . in redemption God raises his people out of chaos” (Routledge 2008, 137.)  By the mighty hand of Yahweh, there was a transfer from chaos to order, slavery to freedom, and death to life.  However, it was incomplete.  “The exodus was just half of a great redemptive complex” (Longman and Dillard 2006, 120).  Yahweh brought them out to bring them in, but their rebellion temporarily halted fulfillment of the promise (Num. 14:23).

After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, Joshua was about to lead the Israelites to cross over the Jordan River to take possession of the land that was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex. 33:1).  “The people must cross the Jordan, which was, as it were, to recross the Red Sea” (Dumbrell 2002, 72).  As the twelve tribes passed through the waters that Yahweh supernaturally parted once again, it was the start of the new generation’s covenantal journey of faith, one that they were commanded to remember always (Jos. 4:6-7).  There was no turning back from this point on; they would have to move forward to take the land Yahweh had given.

For New Testament believers, there is a fairly obvious parallel to this crossing over event.  While the Israelites began their faith journey as a group under the Old Covenant, followers of Jesus Christ begin their new life as individuals, by grace through faith.  When they come to the cross and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, there is an instantaneous crossing over from chaos to order, slavery to freedom, death to life, and darkness to light (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:5, 5:8; Col. 1:13).  There is no land to possess, but the Jesus spoke of an abundant life (Jn. 10:10) and being in the Kingdom of God (Mk. 1:15), which consists of following His leading, conquering old habits, and fulfilling His purposes.  Believer’s baptism, which involves a coming out of the water, displays a clean break from the past and the beginning of a new path under the leadership of God the Father, Jesus the Son, indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:4).

III. Victory over Enemies

As Joshua was preparing the Israelites to cross into the Promised Land, he reminded them Yahweh was with them and that He would drive out their enemies (Jos. 3:10).  The first victory at Jericho (Jos. 6), which required strict obedience to Yahweh, illustrated well the means that He would use to defeat the Canaanites in the land (Dumbrell 2002, 73).  However, the Israelites disobeyed Yahweh’s instructions about devoted things, and they suffered their first defeat in Ai (Jos. 7:1, 11).  Yahweh eventually brought victory over Ai (Jos. 8) when His people followed His instructions.  The Israelites defeated many kings in the land (Jos. 12), and took possession of the land as promised (Jos. 21:43).  The book of Joshua is a good model of the challenges every generation faces in life, teaching us that victory over the powers of darkness that seek to destroy the Kingdom of God rests in Yahweh alone (Dumbrell 2002, 75).

After Joshua died, another generation grew up that did not know Yahweh.  They did evil in His sight and served idols, which aroused the anger of the Lord and caused Him to bring defeat at the hands of their enemies (Jud. 2:10-15).  Israel experienced one crisis after another because of their unfaithfulness (Dumbrell 2002, 76).  Yahweh had compassion on His people, so He raised up judges to save them from their enemies.  However, it was usually short-lived; when the judge died, the Israelites returned to their old ways of worshipping idols, and they would again suffer defeat (Jud. 2:18-21).

In the New Testament, we see that believers also struggle against evil forces in the places that we find ourselves.  When we only partially obey or disobey, God disciplines, allowing us to experience defeat (Heb. 12:5-11).  The common enemies of our faith most often mentioned fall into three categories: the world (1 Jn. 2:16), the flesh (Rom. 6), and the devil (1 Pet. 5:8-9).  Like the Israelites, the key to victory is to remember and obey what God said we were to do with each of these foes.  Jesus told his followers their faith would overcome the world (Jn. 16:33); the apostle Paul told us to fight the flesh in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8), and to put on the armor of God to fight the devil (Eph. 6:10-17).  In his epistle to the Romans, Paul encourages the church by stating that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Rom. 8:37).

IV. The Value of a Strong Community of Faith

A final parallel from Old Testament is the interconnected community of faith that Yahweh carefully designed to keep the nation of Israel focused on obedience from generation to generation.  Joshua, in his farewell speech (Jos. 23) reminded the Israelites that possession of the land could only be accomplished through individual and corporate commitment to love, obey, and serve Yahweh (Dumbrell 2002, 75).  Afterwards, Joshua brought together all the elders and officials from the nation, and they renewed the covenant (Jos. 24).  Later, Yahweh sent judges, prophets, and kings to provide leadership.  “Under the right leader the people walked in God’s ways and the land had peace.  Without good leadership, the people turned away from God and, in consequence, were defeated and oppressed” (Routledge 2008, 228-229).

Today, the New Testament also gives us a community of faith to keep us centered on God, a family of fellow adopted brothers and sisters, which is known as the body of Christ, and is led by Spirit-enabled pastors and teachers (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4).  Like the Israelites under the Judges, we also need leaders given by God and filled with His Spirit, to guide us to consistently live the abundant life of faith (Longman and Dillard 2006, 143).  Additionally, “God had raised up great leaders and deliverers for Israel during her history, and he would do so again in the person of a Messiah” (Longman and Dillard 2006, 165).  Jesus is King of Kings (Rev. 19:16).

V. Conclusion

In closing, Christians do identify themselves as new covenant people and as heirs of the old covenant promises, which are fulfilled in Christ (Routledge 2008, 22).  Yahweh spoke to His people through the prophets and speaks through Christ (Heb. 1:1-2).  He continues to speak to us.  There is much more than what was mentioned above that we can learn from the Israelites.

Bibliography

Dumbrell, William J. The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

Longman III, Tremper, and Dillard, Raymond B. An Introduction to the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Routledge, Robin. Old Testament Theology. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008.