Reading: Deuteronomy 15 – 16; 24.We are often told we aren't to live in the past. The implication is that we need to move on, and forget anything pertaining to our old life. Some are even uncomfortable with being reminded that we were sinners saved by grace. Or we hear platitudes such as, “If God has forgiven me, why would I ever want to remember it.” Of course, there is truth that is being presented even in these comments. But, is there a way we are supposed to remember the past?
Indeed, when we are coming before God, into His presence, we are to draw near confidently, without shame, because Christ has opened the way for us. We are not to come in cowering, or groveling in the shame of our past sin. This Gospel truth is vital and significant for every believer. We have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom in which we were objects of God's just wrath, and into the kingdom of the Son He loves, the kingdom in which we are chosen, holy and beloved in Christ by the Father. This is remembering what Christ has done for us in a very appropriate way.
But is there benefit in remembering the past, that we were slaves to sin, unable to free ourselves? Is there benefit to “not forgetting” the desperate state from which God has saved us? Knowing that our deliverance from slavery to sin is parallel to Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt, I think we can learn how to remember the past in a productive way.
After commanding the Israelites to have a day of rest, we read,
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15)What would this memory produce in the Israelites? It seems that it would remind them that they didn't have a day off as slaves; they didn't enjoy rest as slaves. It would produce gratitude in their hearts for God. Rather than thinking about “what can't I do today because it is the Sabbath,” they would be thinking along the lines of, “I get to rest today because of the Lord's great love.” This would be remembering well.
Then in Deuteronomy 15, we find a remembering that would produce generosity.
If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free. And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today. (Deuteronomy 15:12-15)They were to remember the generosity with which God had dealt with them in their slavery and pathetic state, and were to have the same kind of generosity toward those in a comparable situation.
Remembering was also to effect how they were to give to the Lord.
Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you.... Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and follow carefully these decrees. (Deuteronomy 16:9-12)They were to celebrate a feast which involved going to Jerusalem to give a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord had given them. Paul used a similar logic in Corinthians regarding how the grace of Christ in the cross is to effect our giving in the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:8-9).
Finally in Deuteronomy 24 we have two examples of remembering well.
Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this. (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)Remembering the past in the right way was to produce justice for the alien (strangers, non-Jews...those they might otherwise have prejudice toward) or fatherless, and prevent them from taking advantage of widows (powerless, unable to help themselves) in their desperate neediness. (Taking as collateral when they are needing help things necessary for daily life.)
And then when they were collecting the harvest, not only were they to give to the Lord, but they were not to bleed the field for all it was worth.
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this. (Deuteronomy 24:19-22)They were to remember in a way that produced mercy for the poor. How much more then, should our remembering that we were dead in sin, objects of God's just wrath, and slaves to the ruler of darkness, whom God has mercifully delivered, produce mercy for others, generosity, justice, and gratitude in our hearts to God? How much more should it produce love for our neighbor and humility in our dealings? Are you remembering well?
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