Again and again, in every chapter of the Torah, God tell us to remember (His Sabbath, Exodus 20:8, His Holy Holidays, Exodus 12:14, 13:3, Leviticus 23:24, His Commandments, Numbers 15:40… etc.). So, obviously this is something we must do, but knowing the “why” can give us the purpose that will inspire us to do it correctly. In this three part article we have broken this down into a few smalls bits; 1. Remembering to Honor (the Past), 2. Remember to inspire life; (the Present) and 3. Remember for awareness (the Future). This is our second installment “Part II: Present, Inspire Life”. If you want to get caught up, please read “Why God wants us to Remember: Part I ‘The Past’ “.
Part II: Present, Inspire Life.
When we remember what God did for us, it helps us to be responsible to the present – the now. For example, let’s use the following American holidays to make our point: Independence Day, Veterans day and Thanksgiving. Yes, all three have us honoring the past by remembering, whether it is us reflecting on leaving foreign oppression, or the price of our freedom or even our escape from religious persecution. Additionally, each holiday allows us to value our present by inspiring us to cherish the liberties, freedoms and religious rights that were earned from our past. Most Americans are even willing to fight for these privileges which are now considered entitlements paid in full. By reminding all Americans on an annual bases of how these privileges were gained we are more apt to defend them. Using this same template, this is more than likely why God wanted us to remember His Holidays (Exodus 12:14, 13:3, Leviticus 23:24).
Kvetching (Yiddish for complaining):
Remember, griping about our present-day, is a latent way of minimizing our past. It also invites in the evils of our yesteryears. George Santayana, a 20th century Philosopher and Poet once said “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the Sinai Desert around the 14th century BCE. Those Israelites that wandered for 40 years were not in the now, they were begrudgingly in the past. As we study it out we find that these Israelites complained constantly. it is recorded at least thirteen times that not only did they complain but they would rather be in Egypt (Exodus 14:11, 12, 17:3, 32:4, 8, Numbers 11:4, 5, 18, 20, 14:2, 3, 4, 21:5), saying things like,
“Didn’t we tell you in Egypt to let us alone…” – Exodus 14:12
“ We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt — it cost us nothing!…” – Numbers 11:5
“…We had the good life in Egypt!” – Numbers 11:18
“And they said to each other, “Let’s appoint a leader and return to Egypt!” – Numbers 14:4
Wow, talk about a disgruntled group. Conversely, God reminded them at least 22 times that He rescued them from this place of oppression – Egypt (Exodus 12:17, 12:51, 18:8, 10, 20:2, 29:46, Leviticus 11:45, 19:36, 22:33, 23:43, 25:38, 42, 55, 26:13, 45, Numbers 15:41, Deuteronomy 1:27, 5:6, 15,13:6, 20:1, 29:24). It seems perplexing. Interestingly, we don’t see Israel wanting to go back to Egypt in Deuteronomy – why? Because Deuteronomy is a recap of Exodus to Numbers, it is farewell speech to the Israelites going into Egypt. The Israelites who are Moses’ audience are not the complaining generation the left Egypt. We know this from Numbers 11:4 where it states;
“…Adonai’s anger blazed against Isra’el, so that he made them wander here and there in the desert forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of Adonai had died out.”
Only two people of this older generation would make it into the Promised Land – Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:38). Why?, because Caleb and Joshua exemplified themselves by trusting in the Lord, when others wouldn’t (Numbers 14:6–9 ).
It almost seems astonishing that the Israelites would do this, yet people do this all the time. Think about when someone breaks from a bad habit: food, tobacco, substances, even relationships. There is that initial stage where people celebrate their freedom, but this is usually followed by a phase where they begin to flirt with their old vice – romanticizing them. This usually begins there relapse. Only the strong and faithful, like Caleb and Joshua, ever seem to show success on the first attempt. Many of us, like the complaining Israelites, stay in the past not truly appreciating the present. Freedom comes from heeding the past, and through this, valuing the present.
Conversely, although we should not allow our past to inspire complaining, we should also not allow it to inspire anger. Remember the past to motivate joy, not to stir up strife. As Leviticus 19:18 tells us;
“Don’t take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people; rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am ADONAI.”
Israelites were instructed not to live with the idea of vengeance. Let us also look at Exodus 23:4-5 where it says,
“If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey straying, you must return it to him. If you see the donkey which belongs to someone who hates you lying down helpless under its load, you are not to pass him by but to go and help him free it.
God demands the pious behavior of not carrying a grudge. Likewise, as Proverbs informs us, we are not called to trust those that have betrayed us (Proverbs 8:12, 14:15, 22:3).
So, correctly remembering God should cause us to value the present. If this was placed on a scale it would look like this; not appreciating God enough would be to the far left of the scale and would equal complaining. Conversely, if we allow our past to inspires negative thoughts like revenge or a grudge, we are to far to the right of our scale. Thus valuing our past in a right way will bring joy to our present. This shows an appreciation to God and puts us at a healthy center point to our scale. Likewise, we should value today enough to defend it against the evils of our past. As we see written on the wall above the eternal flame in the Hall of Remembrance of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum;
“Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and to your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9).