Arthur Pink, 1951
(A New Year's Message)
We propose to write now upon a twofold remembering:
1. God's remembering of us.
2. Our remembering of Him.
We need hardly point out that when the Scriptures speak of God "remembering," such language is a gracious concession on His part — the Infinite accommodating Himself to the language of the finite. With the great I am, there is neither past nor future, but rather an ever-present now — "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Act 15:18) expresses far more than His bare omniscience. Thus there is no such thing as forgetting or remembering on God's part, yet that does not mean the term is devoid of significance when it is referred to the eternal One; very far from it.
When the Bible tells us God "remembers" His people, it means:
that He is mindful of them,
that they are the objects of His favorable regard,
that He has their welfare at heart.
As might be expected, the first time the term occurs in Holy Writ, it is in connection with God. As a matter of fact, the first five references (the number of grace) are to the divine remembering — how significant and blessed! Equally anticipatively and suggestively, the first time it is used of man is in Genesis 40:23, "yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph," who had befriended him — so fickle is the human memory.
"And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle which were with him in the ark" (Gen 8:1). In order to appreciate the blessedness of those words, we need to ponder the occasion, and visualize the situation. To carnal reason and natural impatience, it would appear that the Lord had completely forgotten those within the ark. Not only days and weeks, but months had elapsed since He had "shut him in" (7:16).
Previously, God had promised Noah that He would preserve him and all who were with him in the ark (6:14-20), and now no less than nine months had passed (8:5) and still they were confined therein! His faith had been put to a great test in the building of the ark, and now his hope was severely tried, for there is no record that God had informed him how long he would have to remain therein. How often it has been thus with the Lord's people! For a season He seems to overlook them, yet in due course He appears for them.
In "wrath" upon the wicked, God remembers "mercy" unto His elect (Hab 3:2). Let every saint who is in straits take comfort and fresh confidence from Genesis 8:1. "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation" (2 Peter 2:9). If not one sparrow is forgotten by God (Luke 12:6) — He certainly will not forget one of His dear children!
"He has remembered his covenant forever" (Psalm 105:8). The reference here, being unto that formal and solemn arrangement which God entered into with Christ before the foundation of the world, wherein, as the Head of His people, the Mediator pledged Himself fully to discharge their obligations; and the Father, on His part, promised to bestow upon them the reward earned by their Surety. That everlasting covenant is the basis of all God's dealings with His elect, the ground of the divine procedure in all His dispensations with them.
Exodus 2:23-25 supplies a blessed illustration thereof. When the Hebrews were being sorely oppressed in Egypt, and they sighed and cried by reason of the bondage, we are told "God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant . . . and God had respect unto them." God cannot violate that gracious compact, for it is sacred to Him, being sealed by the blood of His Son (Heb 13:21).
In Psalm 105:42, the covenant is termed "His holy promise," and a holy God must make good His oath (Psalm 89:4, 19). "He will ever be mindful of his covenant" (Psalm 111:5), for He takes great care in acting always according to its engagement. It does not become obsolete by the lapse of time; it cannot be broken, for God is faithful. Zacharias recognized that the wonders God wrought in his day were the fulfillment of His covenant promises (Luke 1:68-72).
"For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). Blessed consideration is that! God is not forgetful of our mortality nor unmindful of our infirmities, and therefore does He deal gently with us. We too often overlook our frailty, unduly burdening ourselves and overtaxing our strength. Nor do we sufficiently bear in mind the infirmities of others — how many a husband fails to realize that his wife is "the weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7), and, instead of giving honor unto her as such, imposes upon her.
Not so the Lord: "He remembers that we are dust." He is no Egyptian taskmaster! Nor is the Lord Jesus: His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Mat 11:30). The Lord is compassionate unto His feeble creatures. "Feeble" we say, for though the world may talk of some men possessing "an iron constitution," Scripture declares "all flesh is grass" (Isa 40:5). The measure of our natural strength is sovereignly allotted by our Maker. It is not those of the most powerful physique who live longest — the feeble wife often long outlives her robust husband. For the Lord to "remember" us is to be considerate of our frailty, to hear our cries (1 Samuel 1:19-20), to support and help us (Gal 2:10).
"Their sins and iniquities, I will remember no more" (Heb 10:17). Those words point one of the many contrasts which the apostle was here drawing between the old and new covenants as he set forth the immeasurable superiority of Christianity over Judaism, for in the latter there was "a remembrance again made of sins every year" (verse 3). How precious is this emphatic declaration! It signifies that God absolves those who savingly believe in Christ from the guilt of their sins, so that they will never more be brought against them for their condemnation. It means that the penal and eternal consequences of our sins have been annulled, and therefore that they will never be recalled by God as He exercises His office of Judge. It expresses the fixity and finality of divine forgiveness: that God will never revoke His pardon, that He has not only remitted our sins, but acts as though He had forgotten them.
It is unspeakably blessed to observe how repeatedly and emphatically this truth is expressed in the Word. God has cast all our sins behind His back (Isa 38:17). He has removed them from before His face — as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He has cast them all into the depths of the sea (Mic 7:19). He has blotted them out, as the sun completely dissipates a cloud (Isa 44:22). Beautifully is this illustrated by the fact that none of the failures and falls of the Old Testament saints — are recorded in the New! Why? Because all their sins were under the blood of Christ!
"You shall remember the LORD your God" (Deu 8:18). At the beginning of a new year, beg Him to write this word upon your heart and make it effectual in your life. Does not your past show the need thereof? Alas, how quickly have His mercies faded from our minds. How transient the effects produced in our souls from His Word. Feelings stirred — but no lasting results; for truth loses its efficacy when not seriously thought upon. We listen to a powerful sermon or read an impressive article, and receive the Word with joy — but the resultant emotions soon subside. For a brief moment only, are we melted by a sense of the Lord's goodness.
Why is this? Because we meditate so little upon His favors — we do not take time to think gratefully upon them, and through our sinful neglect, they depart from our hearts (Deu 4:9).
A sanctified remembrance is one where faith, fear, and love for God are active. In the scriptural meaning of the word, to "remember" God is to have heart-warming apprehensions of His perfections and the excellency of His will, as we are said to remember His commandments when we earnestly set ourselves unto the practice of them.
We must form the habit of daily pondering the wondrous works of God — both in nature and grace.
"Remember all the way which the LORD your God led you" (Deu 8:2). Most suitable word is this too at the beginning of the year. Some are dismally prone to dwell upon the rough parts of the path, others desire to recall only the smooth ones; but we are bidden to remember "ALL the way."
The places where we distrusted and murmured — that the recollection may humble us.
The unpleasant sections when, because we followed a policy of self-will, God hedged up our way with thorns (Hos 2:6) — that we may profit from His chastenings.
Remember too the testing parts, when providence so ordered your course that you were brought to wits-end corner, yet in response to your cries, the Lord delivered you.
Recall the trying stages of the journey, when visible supplies and outward means failed, and your wonder-working God gave you water out of the smitten Rock, so that you can acknowledge, "who remembered us in our low estate" (Psalm 136:23).
Let these two things be fixed in your mind at the entrance of the new year: the fact that the Lord will never forget you — and your duty ever to remember Him. See that you are one of those whose holy resolution it is, "we will remember your love" (Song 1:4). Say "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits" (Psalm 103:2), realizing that each of them issues from His love. Let the realization of His love ravish your heart, for it will greatly heighten your valuation of it. As you do so, it will . . .
make sin more odious,
banish needless fears,
tranquillize your mind, and
make Christ more precious to you!