THE KIND OF MEMORY THAT HELPS
Psa. 78:42 “They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.”
Psalm 78 is a psalm when sung that will remind the people of God of the history of God’s redemption of them from Egypt and His deliverance of them from their enemies. It set before them how He supplied their every need and how they turned back and limited Him by their unbelief. Then in our text, we learn that they never allowed the history of God’s dealings with them to help them avoid the same mistakes in the present. Israel gives us the inspired history of God’s dealings. If it is not to profit them, why write it? If it will not save them from repeating things that got them into trouble, it is of no practical value. God inspired this Psalm to be repeated over and over again to be a constant reminder to Israel of His mercy and grace.
The Psalmist says, “They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered from the enemy.” The Psalmist carefully uses the word “They” so as to write this from God’s point of view. And he is taking sides with God against the sin of forgetting. He is saying “I have not forgotten but they have.” I think all of us experience the thought that is presented. We can look at an unfaithful and unbelieving church and say, “They remembered not his hand . . .” We can think of it in this way. Maybe we have not forgotten. Maybe we can take sides with God and against the unbelieving believers and say they are wrong and need to repent. That is what this psalm is saying. And the Psalmist is not accused by the Lord as judging. There are so many who, when confronted by the truth, say to the one who brings the truth of their sin before them, “You are judging.” Well God is the Author of the truth of this psalm. The Psalmist is not judging. And it is as true today as it was then. Let’s don’t blame the messenger if the message is right.
Israel had forgotten and the Psalmist writes, “They remembered not his hand . . .” We have a tendency to forget what God has done for us. It seems to be in our very nature. It was in Israel’s case. If we are trained on a new and complex job, one of the ways we learn to be good at it, is to learn as we go then remember later what we did. We continue to add by experience to the present operation. The more time spent, the more lessons learned, the better we become. But what if, in the process, we were not profited by our past mistakes, and we continued to make them over and over again. Our boss would come to us and say, “You have made that mistake several times. When are you going to learn?” That is one of the reasons when you get a job there is usually a probation period before you are considered a permanent employee. According to that principle, God would have fired Israel!
We have baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the church as ordinances to remind us over and over again of our redemption. We have the Bible that records’ heresies that invaded the early churches and how they dealt with them, all a reminder to keep us from making the same mistakes. The words, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world . . .” (2 Tim. 4:10), remind us that God is not pleased with us when we allow the world to divert our attention away from our duties as Christians. We have the perversion of the Lord’s Supper and how Paul by inspiration dealt with that problem in First Corinthians chapter 11. It is there as an inspired historical record. That should help us in the present. This is what the Bible is for us as Christians. Thank the Lord that He has given us His word so that we will not fall into the errors of the past. But in spite of this the historical record has not helped in many cases. I have to admit, it is not always THEY, it is sometimes WE. I have to include myself. My memory is so short. It is easy to forget how God dealt with me on certain things in the past and make those very same mistakes again. Thank God for His grace. He did not cast Israel off when they repeated past sins, “For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again” (Psa. 78:39).
The Psalmist says, “They remembered not his hand . . .” The HAND of God is used to represent His power. The Psalmist reminds them of the miracles wrought in connection with their deliverance. Deuteronomy 6:21 says, “Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” When Israel got into trouble in the future, they could always remember that God has a mighty HAND. Any time Mary Magdalene is tempted by Satan in the future, she will remember that the demons have no power against the HAND of the Lord (Mark 16:9). Any time Lazarus is tempted not to believe in the power of the resurrection, he will be reminded of the mighty HAND of the Lord that brought him back from the city of the dead in resurrection power.
How many times has God’s HAND been manifest in our lives? Can you remember the time God touched you when you were sick? Do you remember that close call you had with death, a near miss in the traffic, and you saw the HAND of God deliver you from an accident that didn’t happen, because His HAND held back Satan’s intended termination of your life? I have personally seen God’s HAND in my life over and over again. And I must admit, it is easy for unbelief to enter and neutralize the effects of that good HAND of God upon my memory. What problems do you have now that He is not equal to? Has His HAND become slack or negligent? Does He no longer care? Is He no longer available as He has been in the past?
Next the Psalmist says, “ . . . nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.” They had forgotten about the DAY. I can just hear those Jews talking. One said, “This is awesome. I will never forget this DAY as long as I live.” But before long they came to the border of Canaan and sent twelve spies in to look over the land before entrance. Ten of the twelve came back telling of the giants in the land. Suddenly fear and unbelief gripped their hearts. They forgot to remember the DAY of their redemption when God delivered them from Pharoah and his army without their involvement other than faith. There is a DAY we need to remember. It is the DAY we become God’s child by faith in Jesus Christ. On that day, God delivered us from the impossible bondage of sin and its penalty. On that day, without our involvement, we simply trusted Christ as our personal Savior and we were translated out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13). I have had people ask me, “Do you have to remember the day?” I have answered, “No.” I do this simply because it is not by “memory” that we are saved. And it is not by “memory” that we stay saved. If this were true, a person who has amnesia would not be saved. A bump on the head would be all Satan would have to do to get us back! But listen carefully. There has to be a DAY. We do not get into the family of God gradually. It is an event and takes place in time and space. No one was ever born into the world a Christian. We were born sinners and we have to be born again to be saved. There is a DAY of our salvation. And it is good to remember that DAY because resurrection power took place on our lives on that day (Eph. 2:1). We need to remember that on that DAY we were delivered from the enemy. Just like Israel, we have an enemy and he is real. Thank the Lord the deliverance is put in the past tense. Colossians 1:13 says, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness . . .” The word “delivered” translates “rhoumai” and means “to draw to one’s self, to rescue, to deliver.” It is an aorist tense passive voice. The aorist tense is a point of time divorced from time and perpetuated forever. The passive voice means the one’s delivered did not deliver themselves, it happened to them. God is the DELIVERER. We need to remember this. It will help us when we are in the midst of trial and personal failure that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
May the Lord bless these words to our hearts.