“We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”
Above is a famous quote from George Bernard Shaw, possibly when he was having a “bad hair day”! But, you have to admit, there is truth in his statement. Sadly, our default position far too often is to easily forget the good things and not give thanks or fail to learn from past negative experiences and repeat them.
I remember a conversation I had with Peter, an older missionary friend, prior to going to serve God in Pakistan. He said, “Rod, do you write a journal?” Caught off guard, I asked, “A what?” He explained. The idea had never even occurred to me, so I then asked my friend, why I would do such a thing. He answered, “So that you can look back and remember all the great things God has done for you.” Seemed pretty obvious to him!
I decided that I would give it a go, and in March 1992, on a flight to the UK to prepare to join the mission organisation that we would serve with for 11 years, I began to write Journal # 1 (those days in a notebook). These days I am up to Journal # 64 (approx. 50 pages each on my laptop), and at times I do look back, read what I have written, remember what God has done (and what I wish I had not done!) and give thanks to the Lord for his grace and goodness and mercy and forgiveness.
Did you know the word “remember” occurs over 230 times in the Bible and for a good reason – we forget far too easily! In fact, there is even a type or genre of the psalms, according to Longman’s list, called the “psalms of remembrance”. Let’s check them out.
Longman suggests that the “Psalms of remembrance are those in which God’s past acts of redemption are the focus of attention…These psalms are united in their subject matter, the ‘wonderful acts’ of God (Psalm 105:2). Nowhere in the Bible is history reported only to impart historical information, but this is especially true in the psalms. Rather, God’s acts are recounted so that Israel might praise him: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.’ (Psalm 105:1)” (see reference # 1)
Memory, which is described by Dictionary.com as “the mental capacity or faculty of retaining and reviving facts, events, impressions, etc., or of recalling or recognizing previous experiences”, is a wonderful thing and yet sometimes sadly, it can be a distressing thing, and the older one gets, so it seems, the more challenging it becomes. In his “Autobiography” Mark Twain says:
“I am grown old and my memory is not as active as it used to be. When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened.”
I mentioned above that the word “remember” occurs many times in the Bible. Many times it is exhorting us to remember what God has done and then respond in praise and thanksgiving, but it is also used in another way. And that is to remind us that, even if we forget, God does not. For example, “Remember the wonders [God] has done…” (Psalm 105:5), followed by “He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.” (105:8-9)
So, even when we forget Him, he never forgets us! In Isaiah 49:14-16 we read the following:
”14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”
[To which the Lord replies:]
15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” Such is the wonder of God’s love for us, his people. Certainly worth remembering!