November is my favorite month because for me it is the beginning of a two-month celebration! It begins with celebrating cooler weather and pumpkin-everything, then my birthday, Thanksgiving, the time it becomes truly acceptable to listen to Christmas music, Christmas (which is not just a day, but a season), and New Year’s. I just love holidays! And I probably overwhelm everyone I know with my crazy love for them.
I don’t only love holidays for the reasons you might think. I truly love them because they serve as natural reminders – fixed dates that remind me to remember what God has done in my life, to be thankful, and to look forward in anticipation of what God will do. I imagine that God likes holidays, too. He did, after all, create some of his own. In the Old Testament, God commanded his people, the Israelites, to celebrate different festivals and feasts of remembrance. He built it into their calendar. He wanted his people to remember all that he had done for them, all the ways he’s provided for them, and that he is a loving, faithful, good God.
Not just through holidays, but over and over again God reminds his people to remember. (We here at All the More also like to remind you to remember). We are prone to forgetfulness and when we forget the past faithfulness and character of God, we are prone to wander.
In the story of the Exodus, God used Moses to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt. He showed off his power and faithfulness to his people by sending the plagues in Egypt, parting the Red Sea for his people to flee Egypt, leading the people through the wilderness with a pillar of fire and cloud, and providing his people with water and food in miraculous ways. After all of God’s amazing works, you would think his people would have seen enough to sustain their faith and trust in God. You would think they would recognize that God – and God alone – was their provider. Instead, the Israelites respond to their uncertainties and difficulties with fear and anxiety (Exodus 14:10), anger (Exodus 14:11), despair (Exodus 16:3), discord (Exodus 17:2-4), complaining (Exodus 16:7-8), and idolatry (Exodus 32:7-8).
When we find ourselves overwhelmed by the difficulties, uncertainties, and problems of this life, we have the same tendencies if we forget the goodness and faithfulness of our God. If your life is producing similar fruit as the Israelites, consider spending some time remembering. Remember God’s past faithfulness and take heart. He will come through and he will use times of questioning, suffering, and waiting to further prove his reputation and grow our trust.
Our forgetfulness it not limited to difficult times. Perhaps we are even more forgetful when things are going well. On the verge of the land God promised them, God instructs Moses to warn the people:
“And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers…with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant – and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 6:10-12, emphasis mine)
God warns his people against forgetting his faithfulness even in the abundance of blessing. How often do we see God directly answer our prayers but instead we assume it was coincidence? How many times have we seen him miraculously provide only to attribute it to the luck instead of the Divine? How often are we used by God, and then think we were so awesome that we did it ourselves? When we forget God’s faithfulness and power in the midst of abundance and forget what God has done, we are prone to fall into self-reliance, self-righteousness, ungratefulness, and pride. We may question or even blame God in difficult times, but in times of ease we tend to forget him altogether. Repeatedly the Israelites were reminded that the blessing they were about to receive is something they did not achieve on their own. If you think you got yourself where you are today, consider spending some time remembering. Remember and recognize your complete dependence on our good and trustworthy God.
It’s tempting to think that if only we had seen all the things the Israelites saw in the desert – all the ways that God miraculously came through – then we would be able to live by faith and trust in God for all things. But we see that wasn’t the case with the Israelites, and surely it wouldn’t be the case for us. If anything, we have so much more than Moses and the Israelites. Yes, we have more than those people who personally experienced the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and God’s miraculous provisions of quail, manna, and water out of a rock. Not only do we have their stories of God’s faithfulness, as well as our own, but the mystery of God has been revealed to us in the gospel of Jesus. We have the full picture of God’s redemptive story, which showcased like never before God’s goodness and faithfulness. We know that we were in the worst of situations, dead in our sins, and God gave us true life in Jesus. We know that in him we are blessed with all spiritual blessings and that nothing can separate us from God’s love because of Jesus’s work on the cross. No, the problem isn’t that we haven’t seen enough of God’s faithfulness, it’s that we, along with the Israelites, are a forgetful people.
In the popular hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing we sing, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’ve come.” The hymn is a reference to the story in 1 Samuel 7. A man named Samuel was leading God’s people at the time. After seeing God come through big-time in their struggle, Samuel “took a stone and set it up…and called its name Ebenezer [which means stone of help], for he said, ‘Till now the LORD has helped us’” (1 Samuel 7:12). He raised up an Ebenezer, a monument of remembrance, as a visual reminder to God’s people of God’s faithfulness. When the people look at the Ebenezer, they can recall the ways God has come through in the past and have hope in their current or future circumstances.
In the same way, when life is hard or things are not going the way we hoped, we can look back to the things God has done in our lives, remember God’s works and his character, and have hope. When things are going well in life, we can celebrate all the ways he’s come through. In every season we can say along with Samuel, “Till now the LORD has helped us.”