Be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. You must fear the Lord your God and serve him. [Deuteronomy 6:12-13a (NLT)]
They refused to obey and did not remember the miracles you had done for them. Instead, they became stubborn and appointed a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt. [Nehemiah 9:17a (NLT)]
Many of us have friends and relatives whose memories are declining (and some of us may be those people). As my mother-in-law’s memory started failing, she rewrote history with what we called “wishful memories” and “selective forgetting.” Since her memories became rosier and happier as time passed, it really didn’t matter if nearly a century’s worth of memories were accurate or not; they were good ones. Happy to see her enjoying her version of the past, we ignored faulty memories that were of no consequence.
Research conducted by Northwestern University, however, reports that, regardless of age, our memories aren’t nearly as accurate as we think they are. The memory isn’t like a video camera that preserves the past in perfect unedited detail. Instead, it’s more like a movie that is continually edited; information from the present gets added to the past and then re-framed in the light of present circumstances. Our situation today seems to affect how and what we remember about our yesterdays. If we’re happy, the memory might become sweeter and, if we’re distressed, the memory may get a dash of sour added to it.
In addition, every time we remember something, it gets less accurate; instead of the actual event, we simply remember the last time we recalled it. Any mistakes in our last recollection inadvertently become truths in our next one. Details may be omitted while others are added and a story can change over time without our consciously meaning to do so.
God didn’t need university researchers to tell Him that mankind’s memory is faulty. Eve couldn’t even remember His one rule for Eden! Perhaps that’s why God had the various Biblical scribes and prophets repeat His words and works over and over again throughout Scripture. He knew that, with time, the Israelites would do a little wishful remembering and selective forgetting of their own. In fact, only a month after escaping Pharaoh, their 400 years of Egyptian slavery didn’t seem nearly so terrible to them. Instead, the hungry Israelites chose to remember how well fed they’d been as slaves. Even though God’s miraculous deliverance of His people out of Egypt is repeated in at least sixteen books of the Hebrew Bible (from Exodus through Psalms and all the way to Micah, Amos and Hosea), as the years passed, the Israelites began to remember their part in winning battles and forgetting that God gave them those victories. As the memories of God’s deliverance and provision faded, they started to believe they’d achieved everything on their own power and strength.
Since we must remember complex combinations of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols for passwords and the names of pets, schools, and first grade teachers for security questions, we’ve probably written them down or safely stored them in the Cloud. Are we as diligent about remembering or safely saving God’s hand in our lives as we are those phrases and words? It’s not just for accessing our email or shopping on Amazon; it’s for our very lives that we need to correctly remember God and how His love, forgiveness, deliverance, and provision have saved and sustained us.