By Bob Bunn
I’m not normally a forgetful person. I’ve never missed my wife’s birthday or let our anniversary slip by. And, as a writer, I pride myself on hitting deadlines. But let’s be honest: nobody’s perfect.
That’s why I’m not above using a few tricks to make sure I don’t forget certain things. For example, I’ve set calendar reminders on my phone for everything from doctor appointments to putting a meatloaf in the oven. I’ll put sticky notes where I know they won’t be missed. If I need to take something with me when I leave the house, I’ll put it with my car keys and wallet. Those small steps can prevent some big headaches.
The Bible says that the ancient Israelites used some memory aids of their own. Sometimes, they built altars or memorials as reminders they could literally point to and recall what God had done. More often, they relied on generational teaching to emphasize what truly mattered. Parents would repeatedly tell their children about God and His ways.
Why go to all that trouble just to remember? For two reasons, really. First, as humans, we tend to be a pretty forgetful lot—and the Israelites were no exception. But, even more important, when it comes to faith, forgetting our past negatively affects our future.
That’s what Moses was trying to teach the people as they prepared to enter the promised land after decades in the wilderness. Their parents and grandparents had seen the plagues in Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. They had witnessed water flow from a rock and manna from heaven. They had even experienced God’s glory and received the law at Sinai.
Yet they ended up forgetting it all and rebelling against God in roughly the same spot where their descendants were standing in Deuteronomy. Now, it was this younger generation’s turn to decide what to do. God, through Moses, challenged them to recall how He had led them through the wilderness and to keep remembering Him once they enjoyed the blessings of Canaan.
God reminded them that He had provided food and clothes in the desert (Deuteronomy 8:1–5); He had always given them exactly what they needed when they needed it, and He promised to continue meeting their needs in the promised land (vv.6–10). Their part was to remember the source of their provision and respond by obeying His commands (v.11), believing that His way was better than their own.
For the Israelites, obedience was tied to remembering the goodness, faithfulness, and holiness of their God. It was that way thousands of years ago, and it’s just as true for us today. We can’t simply say we will remember God—lip service won’t cut it. An active faith of obedience demonstrates our love for our God and our commitment to His ways. It also reveals His glory to the rest of the world.
God longs for us to remember His work and respond in faithful obedience to Him. This is the most effective memory aid at our disposal.