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Memories of Faith
God uniquely created your memory. Your body captures information, store it, and reconstructs it later. As each day flows by you are constantly confronted with a flow of new and old information, which must be processed by the memory systems in your brain, “Our brain creates, stores, and revises memories, constantly using them to make sense of the world… We depend on memory for thinking, learning, decision making, and interacting with other people. When memory is disrupted, these essential mental faculties suffer,” according to neuroscientist, Eric Kandel. Today, our memory is under assault by many disruptors such as busyness, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmic rays, neural implants, augmented, virtual, artificial intelligence interactions, and stressors.
Is History Indelibly Written in Stone?
We need to pause and consider the role of memory in biblical thought which suggests that there is a gulf of difference between memory and history. In ancient Hebrew, some concepts which we readily embrace are not found. For instance, there is no word for independence in Hebrew. That is because we are either dependent upon God or our community. To be independent is to stray from the biblical words and intent of God's inter-connectivity plan for our lives. There is also no word for history, a record of things that happened long ago in Hebrew writings.
When the concept of Living Documents, were introduced to the public in the 1990's, now history, I stood firmly opposed to the whole idea. Living Documents are a framework for updates, changes, or adjustments primarily used to formulate laws and regulations governing our country. They are evolutionary in nature, with no absolutes. A person never knows if they were acting in accordance with the law. For one minute something you were doing was legal and the next moment it was illegal.
Until this week I never questioned my stand. Then it hit me square in the head-the bible is a living document. My faith is a living faith! With each new season, I see something new, fresh, and pertinent in those well worn pages and words. That is why, when you read the same verses year upon year, you gain some new understanding for that particular season or instance of your life. It is if the Creator Himself is taking a highlighter and saying to my Spirit, "This, my daughter/son, is for you."
The Hebrew Bible employs the word zachor, meaning to remember, so pervasively. It appears 169 times in its various forms in the Old Testament the in the New Testament we are exhorted to remember in 27 verses, spanning 28 chapters and 19 books in the bible. As we stroll through this earthly dwelling place we are to be stirred up by way of remembering. Those are powerful words by which to live.
I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 2 Peter 1:13
We are nudged to remember decisive events in biblical history that will map out our future. Recalling history was unique to the ancient world for today we live in a world that either erases or modifies the past. The ancients were much more advanced than we give them credit for they viewed times as cyclical.
Only the founding myths of pagan cultures were viewed as significant, not its ongoing history. Herodotus was called the ‘father of history’ but it served only to prevent the 'glorious' achievements and political realizations of the Greeks from being forgotten. History, in and of itself, has no spiritual or religious meaning or overarching purpose. The notion of history being dynamic and alive was first introduced in the Bible: It was ancient Israel that first assigned a decisive significance to history and thus forged a new world-view whose essential premises that were eventually adopted in other religions.
According to the Psalmist, “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord,” but it was human history that revealed His will and purpose. This novel perception was not the result of speculation by philosophers, but of the peculiar nature of faith in God contained within the bible. It was born out of a revolutionary understanding of God and was refined through profoundly felt historical experiences rippling through time.
Changing History by Remembering
Memory, on the other hand, is an expression of what the past means to us now. Nothing can change what happened in the past, but the meaning of what happened can change. Memories change, and memories change the people who remember. “When we remember something, we re-connect with it in multiple ways and enable that information to shape our whole perspective…our sense of self is actually the meaning we weave out of memorable experiences in our past,” writes Dr Raphael Zarum.
Information is more accessible now than it has ever has been. The Book of Daniel alluded to a day when knowledge would increase [exponentially] and so the internet has brought much of the collective knowledge of humankind to our fingertips.
Why should we try to actually remember anything when it is so easy to instantly look it up online?
Why try to hold stuff in our head when you can download it from a device that you hold in your hand?
The reason is that human memory is so much more than the mechanistic accessibility to storage data. When we remember something, we re-connect with it in multiple ways and enable that information to shape our whole perspective. Our sense of self is actually the meaning we weave together out of memorable experiences from our past. Our conscious and sub-conscious memories frame our
very being, provide us with a personal history, and so define our very humanity.
Memory is a spiritual imperative for both for the child of God and God, Himself. This topic is expansive, but we will peer at three aspects of biblical memory:
- The imperative for us to remember,
- What it means for God to remember,
- The intriguing issue of why God finds humanity memorable at all.
Each instance calling us to remember serves as a daily life lesson. We may be reminded to remember the redemption from Egypt with its timeless lesson that no one has the right to enslave another and that all people are meant to be free. It could be the revelation at Mount Sinai, when God pronounced the Ten Commandments the primary source of divine morality. It can be to remember the pernicious attack of the Amalekite tribe painfully recalls the human capacity for hateful cruelty. We are to recall the story of the Golden Calf warning each of us about worshiping idols of your own making. Miriam spoke badly of her brother Moses and was stricken with a disease which only ended when Moses pleaded to God on her behalf. This event prompts us to avoid disparaging others and not to abuse the awesome power of speech. Peter drills down on the topic of remembering in his inspired books, urging us to be diligent to recall the power of eyewitness testimony:
And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind. For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased" 2 Peter 1:15-21
Through these daily acts of biblical remembrance we converge the past into the present. We calibrate what many call a moral compass, a general guide for a purposeful future. Throughout the Holy Scriptures the concepts above are woven into the biblical tapestry, in cyclical fashion, presenting issues critical to our faith through different scenarios to reinforce our memories and history simply as we read the pages in our bibles.
The forging of memory and history coming together on important issues such as:
- Political revolution
- Revelation of the birth of our faith
- Recognizing the reality of hate
- The importance of appropriate language
- The value of each life
We can learn positive messages of what to emulate and negative messages of which we should avoid or steer clear. These memories thus serve to shape the beliefs and practices of our walk of faith. Make no mistake, this blending of memory and history must be under the authority of Jesus. For there are malicious forces at work today that seek to distort your memories and pervert history in the attempt to engineer you into a godless entity with a polluted and nonredeemable history.
Not only is there an injunction for you and I to remember, God is also stirred to do so:
‘And God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the animals that were with him in the Ark, and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.’ Genesis 8.1
‘And so it was when God destroyed the cities of the Plain [Sodom and Gomorrah] that God remembered Abraham; so He sent Lot from amidst the upheaval.’ Genesis 19.29
‘And God heard the cries of the Israelites and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Exodus 2.24
‘I [God] will remember My covenant with Jacob and My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember the Land.’ Leviticus 26.42
How does a divine being remember or forget? Surely forgetfulness is not an attribute of the all-knowing God? Anthropomorphic idioms for God extend to the human body, human feelings and thoughts too. For instance the hands or feet of God are expressions that enable you and me to understanding, which appreciate the biblical corporeal imagery because the bible is written in the language of Man. That said, we must understand that God does not really sleep or wake, get angry or laugh, become happy or sad-like capricious pagan gods ... all such descriptions in the Bible are merely metaphors and imagery- assisting us to envision and relate to deeper truths about the nature of our Creator.
Are you aware that there is a pattern to God’s memory in the Bible? The phrase is generally used when the actions of people prompt a divine response based on a pre-existing commitment. Oftentimes this comes through the vehicle of a Covenant which creates an obligation for both parties. For example:
- Before the Flood, God made a pact with Noah Genesis 6.18 to save him, his family and the Ark of animals.
- Noah and his descendants were required to repopulate the Earth and not shed human blood Genesis 9.1,6.
The idiom of God remembering is a result of a shared destiny between the Holy One and humankind. This reinforces the biblical idea that history has a clear purpose: it is the matrix in which the ongoing divine–human relationship is played out. God’s commitment to the redemption of history also means that he will never let each one of us forget our important and unique role.
Thus memory in the Bible serves to prevent ‘mission drift’ from both God and humankind. Memory serves as the unbreakable bond between heaven and earth, ensuring that history will stay on course, no matter how long it takes. Can we say that humankind embraces this memory with vigor?
How Memorable is Mankind?
The Bible adds another important dimension to the concept of memory. King David wrote:
‘When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars that You have set in place, [I wonder,] What is Man that You should remember him, and the son of mortal man that You should be mindful
of him? Yet You have made him slightly less that the angels, and crowned him with soul and splendor’ Psalms 8.3–6.
You and I are but a few of the billion humans on a tiny planet sitting along a spiral arm of just one of the millions of galaxies that make up the expansive universe. What makes us worthy of God’s interest and involvement? Why does God even notice us?
Angels in closer proximity to God, but you my dear friends, are valuable and precious to God, despite our many limitations and frailties. You are physical, exist in time, and are bestowed with the precious gift that no other creature or entity can ever attain, and that is the gift of free choice. This makes your actions worthy of God’s concern. This makes you more significant than even the loftiest angel. The depth of our divinely endowed consciousness is what memories are made of and thus is what makes us memorable to God.
Jesus knew that it would not be easy and so He sent His Comforter, the Holy Spirit to guide, direct, and bring back to our recollection the entirety of what He said to us:
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26
Jesus Remembers Us,
Do We Remember Him?
The Bible broke away from other pagan cultures by insisting that the history of humankind was unfixed, redeemable and worthy of memorializing. God is bound our history through the covenants formed in the biblical era. The complex nature of our consciousness that no other creation or engineered entity can attain, might possibly be even one humble reason that you and I are worthy of God’s memory, even more so that the heavenly retinue of angels.
As we connect the past and future-conscious and subconscious memories; we are changing our perspective, personal history, and defining our humanity. You are by your recollections- changing history. Never is a truer statement for the born again believer in Jesus than we are new creations!
In the moment when our Savior Jesus hung of the cross to atone for our sins the thief next to him spoke these words:
And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" Luke 23:42
We are our memories. If we live by them, then Jesus will indeed remember us.___________________________________________________________
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Going where angels fear to tread...
Celeste has worked as a contractor for Homeland Security and FEMA. Her training and activation's include the infamous day of 911, flood and earthquake operations, mass casualty exercises, and numerous other operations. Celeste is FEMA certified and has completed the Professional Development Emergency Management Series.
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Celeste grew up in a military & governmental home with her father working for the Naval Warfare Center, and later as Assistant Director for Public Lands and Natural Resources, in both Washington State and California.
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