|They say an elephant never forgets.|
You see, the Israelites had been in captivity by the Egyptians for many years. Then they were rescued and led to the Promised Land by Moses. They took quite a long time to finally get there. Time passes and things change, including their memories. So, before the Israelites were to go into this new land, God wanted to prepare them. Hence, all those lists of what to do and not to do.
During all those years away from their homeland--and even on the return trip--they forgot a few things. They forgot the many ways that God helped them.
I've also been reading through the Psalms and recently read this related passage:
Our ancestors in Egypt were not impressed by the Lord’s miraculous deeds. They soon forgot his many acts of kindness to them. Instead, they rebelled against him at the Red Sea. -Ps. 106:7
The Psalm continues to tell the reader how God went ahead and rescued them anyway--miraculously. But...
...how quickly they forgot what he had done! They wouldn’t wait for his counsel! -Ps. 106:13
Then the Psalmist reminds us that on their journey home, God was simply having them wait while Moses was being given the Ten Commandments, yet again...
They forgot God, their savior, who had done such great things in Egypt. -Ps. 106:21
If you keep reading this Psalm, you'll notice that this pattern continues. Before we start beating up on the Israelites, we'll extend a little grace. All of us have pretty short memories. Several months ago I wrote another post about the importance of Remembering. I've been guilty of forgetting too.
Their forgetfulness is what got them into trouble. They lost sight of what God had done for them in the past. So, they fell back into their old ways and they tried to rely on their own resources. They got a little scared and decided to build a golden calf.
Our forgetfulness can get us into trouble, too. We will fall back into old ways and habits to get us by in life. We'll use the world's wisdom to get answers. Maybe we don't build a giant golden calf, but when we get scared we use money to buy some comfort; we put our trust in a job or another person instead of God. This is especially true if we think God is being too slow to answer our prayers, so we'll "help God along" by manipulating circumstances.
The bright spot in all of this is what verse 44 of this chapter says: Even so...
Even so, God remembered his covenant with His people. (He did NOT forget.)
Even so, because of His unfailing love, God continued to save His people.
Yes, the Israelites still experienced the consequences of their sin. That applies to us as well.
Forgetting the past can get us into trouble. So, it behooves us to remember how God intervenes on our behalf, even in all those little ways that we may dismiss as happenstance.
Another point to not gloss over here is that God keeps His promises and God loves His people--unconditionally. That truth extends to us as well. Isn't that great!
Because I have a short memory, I've taken to recording some of these things in a journal. It's amazing when I go back and read about some of the things God has done on my behalf and I'll think to myself, I forgot about that!
Preserve these memories for yourself and for the next generation. The next time you face a difficult decision or situation, go back and remind yourself of what God has done before.