Remember to Forget
18 January 2023 Hits:1798
One of the first Bible verses I read this year was Isaiah 43:18-20,
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.”
God was about to lead his people back to their homeland after being captive in Babylon. In the preceding verses, God reminds them of the power he used to set them free from earlier captivity when they were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. With Mighty strength, God brought his people out of Egypt, through the desert and into the Promised Land. But in Isaiah 43, God says, “forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new.”
There is a potent life principle here: sometimes, we must forget the greatness of past successes or the shame of past failures to embrace God’s new things in the present and future.
Anything from the past holding you back needs to be forgotten;
otherwise, it becomes a hindrance.
But this doesn’t mean we are to forget everything that’s happened in our lives. There are lots of things that we should remember.
Recollect Fond Memories
Recall family celebrations and great friendships, the good things in life, and the cherished memories that still stir emotions and gratitude. Things like running through the sprinklers on a hot summer’s day, climbing trees, pillow fights, and laughing so hard that your stomach hurt.
A few years ago, Christie and I took the kids to Malaysia for a holiday. One day the heavens opened for a tremendous tropical storm that left large pools of water everywhere. The kids and I spent ages jumping in the puddles. It was so much fun. Scuffing your feet through piles of autumn leaves is equally satisfying—fond memories.
Remember Things to Rectify
The Bible has lots to say about restitution & forgiveness (see Proverbs 14:9; Matthew 5:23-24). I love the story of Zacchaeus, the chief Tax Collector of Jericho (Luke 19:1-10). Here’s one of the most despised individuals in his town, who made millions by ripping off the poor (sound familiar?). Amid the grumblings of the battlers, Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house. We’re not told what they chatted about, but whatever Jesus said hugely impacted this rich, crooked, lonely little man.
Listen to Zacchaeus’ words, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” If I have cheated anybody! Of course he had, and paying back four times the amount would have been equivalent to pumping millions of dollars into Jericho’s economy, making a massive difference to the needy.
Imagine the impact – I bet the complainers stopped whining when the money arrived! And all because a man remembered and decided to do something to correct the wrongs of the past.
A Personal Story
My first job after high school was working in a record store in Perth. At night, I studied radio announcing at a Technical college. By day, I managed the cassette department, and so I primarily worked alone. During this time, I helped myself to money from the till and stole some records and cassettes. Eventually, I was found out and sacked. I denied any wrongdoing, but I knew I was guilty.
Fast-forward to the next few years. I became a Christian and went to Bible College to train for pastoral ministry. I studied Christian Ethics in my second year, and the lecturer taught about restitution. I felt strongly convicted of my stealing but reminded myself that all my sins were forgiven when I became a Christian. But the guilt wouldn’t budge, so I went to my lecturer to explain my dilemma.
He encouraged me to phone my ex-boss, admit guilt, apologise, and seek to repay what I had stolen. I did so with fear and trembling. She answered the phone, and I got a frosty response when I told her who was calling. I did as my lecturer had suggested and offered to repay the money. All I had was the semester’s fees (about $1,000), and I asked if that would be sufficient. She said it was, so I sent that to her as a money order, along with a tract on becoming a Christian. I know…but I was young and zealous!
I didn’t hear from her again, but it didn’t matter. I had made amends like Zacchaeus. I had remembered a past wrong that I had the power to rectify. The sense of God’s presence was overwhelming.
Do you have unresolved issues from the past? Do you need to make restitution?
Recall the Great Things God has Done
“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds” ~ Psalm 77:11-12.
In Scripture, God instituted a feast or an altar whenever he did something incredible. Consider the Passover Feast that reminded people of their mighty deliverance from slavery. Jesus instigated communion to remind us of his death and resurrection (Luke 22:19).
In the Tanakh (Old Testament), there are several altars of remembrance so that the recollection would anchor people in truth.
Consider the story of Joshua leading the people across the Jordan and into the promised land (Joshua 4). “They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, one for each tribe, just as the Lord had told Joshua. They carried them to the place where they camped for the night and constructed the memorial there.” The altar was a reminder of God’s power, presence, and redemption. Whatever challenges they faced in the future, the altar was a constant memorial of who God was and what God could do.
I encourage you to think of the times God has been particularly present for you. Consider those memories as altars to anchor and inspire you in the present, especially when you encounter difficulties.
A Final Story
Before he became the apostle Paul, Saul was one of the most distinguished religious leaders in Israel, “advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age” (Gal. 1:14). In his letter to the Philippians, Paul outlines his Jewish credentials (3:3-6), which were extremely impressive. But he writes, “whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” And he had lost much ~ prestige, reputation, finance, property, and family. His wife and children likely abandoned him when he converted from Judaism.
But, Jesus had found him and called him, and he wouldn’t look back. In fact, “one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” God was doing something new, and Paul wouldn’t miss out because of regrets, mistakes, or successes.
Imagine the grace the church needed to exert towards Paul, the guy that had imprisoned and killed some of their relatives. This same man was now preaching in their churches.
Forget what is behind, strain toward what is ahead, and press on toward the goal. God is making pathways through the wilderness and creating rivers in the dry wasteland to refresh you. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?