Monday is Memorial Day, a time that our nation has set aside to commemorate those military personnel who died in the performance of their duties. That concept of memorial is one that is worth deeper consideration. The ability to remember is a wonderful gift that God has given to us. Over the years, I have talked often about this at funeral services —memorial services— that I have officiated. But God is also aware of the fact that, sometimes, we forget. When that happens, he has given us reminders to help jog our memory.
He promised Noah he would never destroy all life in a flood again. Then God stated,
“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Gen 9:13).
Every time we see a rainbow, it serves as a reminder of God’s promise.
Or consider a story from Joshua 4 as the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land. They came to the Jordan at flood stage, uncertain of how to cross it. God instructed Joshua to have the priests carry the Ark of the Covenant into the middle of the river; when they did that, the water stopped flowing, and the people crossed on the dry ground. But in the process, God commanded one man of each tribe to gather a rock from the riverbed in order to make a monument. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever(Josh 4:6-7).
There are special days and times in Scripture designed to help us remember specific events. Let’s consider 3 that are especially meaningful. We know the stories behind each one of these, but see how God jogs our memories and calls us to remember important things.
The Feast of Passover
The Israelites had been sojourners and then slaves in Egypt for over 400 years. Then God called Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the people go. Moses complied, but Pharaoh refused to listen. So to reinforce his demand, God sent plague after plague upon Egypt, finally culminating in the death of the firstborn.
But before he did that, God gave instructions to the Israelites: each family was to choose a year-old lamb without spot or blemish, kill it, drain its blood into a basin, and roast it. They were to take the blood and spread it around the doorframe of the house, so that the Lord would pass over them when he struck the households of the Egyptians. God did everything that he said he would do, and as a result, the Egyptians set them free. And that is why the Passover was to be celebrated. This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast (Exodus 12:14).
The Lord’s Supper
The night before his crucifixion, Jesus met with his disciples to celebrate the Passover—to re-member, as God had commanded them long ago. But as they ate, Jesus gave them something new and greater to remember. [The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:23-25).
The Passover meal was no longer to be a reminder of release from Egyptian bondage; now the bread and cup were to be eternal reminders of the new thing God had done in Christ, who is our Passover lamb without spot or blemish, taking away our sins (1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:19; Jn 1:29).
The Day of Assembly
We meet to eat this meal together on the first day of the week. The Jews had a day set aside for remembrance every week: the Sabbath, a day for rest commemorating God’s consecration of it at Creation. In a similar way, the first day celebrates God’s action in the resurrection of Jesus. That’s when the earliest Christians met to encourage one another and worship God.
In the book of Revelation, John speaks of this as the Lord’s Day (Rev 1:10). And so it is that we assemble on the Lord’s Day to eat the Lord’s Supper and corporately worship.
We have so much to remember, in all aspects of life. But it is especially true in our spiritual lives. Let’s not forget the faithfulness God always exhibits toward his people. Let’s not forget to come together to worship him. And when we do, let us especially remember what God has down for us in Christ: the sacrifice that calls us together and the resurrection that guarantees our own.