Just the other day, I was sitting in a Bible study with a group of ladies and we were talking about forgetfulness (specifically those forgetful Israelites). During the discussion one of the ladies spoke up, started to tell a story and half-way through she totally forgot what she was going to say. We’ve all had those moments when we completely lose our train of thought. We waited and waited and the thought didn’t come back to her. So then we all tried to help her along and remember what we had been talking about before she spoke up… and none of us could remember (I know!). Then someone yelled out, “We were talking about FORGETFULNESS!” Of course, we laughed hysterically.
We’ve all had times when we completely forget things. Our keys. To take the trash out. We forget to pay a bill or to wish someone a Happy Birthday. I know that I can be incredibly forgetful. At times, I’ve forgotten things that I really should have remembered (like when I’m looking for my phone and it’s already in my hand… does anyone else do that?!). And, when I’m going through a really hard time in my life (or even when things are good), I often forget God’s faithfulness to me in previous difficult times. I often don’t remember how he delivered me or provided for me and instead focus on the need I have at the moment. It is obvious throughout scripture that God knows of our forgetful nature. He tells us over and over not to forget the things he has taught or done for us.
Proverbs 3:1-2 says,
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.”
In Deuteronomy 4:9, he tells the Israelites,
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
He told them to remember because He knew that if they didn’t, they would get into trouble. They had before.
Which reminds of me of a story in the Israelites’ past:
The setting is Exodus 24-32. The leader of the Israelites, Moses, has been called up to meet God on Mount Sinai and camp there for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:18) to receive the tablets of stone with instructions and laws for the people (vs. 12). The Israelites had already assured Moses ahead of time that “everything the Lord has said we will do.” (vs. 4) But, at some point during this forty day period, the people get restless and call to Aaron (Moses’ brother and the high priest) and say, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us out of Egypt, we don’t know what happened to him.” (Exodus 32:1).
Let’s not forget that from where the Israelites are located, they can actually SEE the glory of the Lord, which appeared to them as a “consuming fire on the top of the mountain” (vs. 17). And, Aaron had actually seen God and ate and drank in his presence sometime earlier (Exodus 24: 9-11).
Regardless, Aaron who was easily swayed by a group of grumbling Israelites and clearly forgetful of God, tells the people to give him all the gold they have, which in this case came in the form of many earrings. Aaron melted them and formed the gold into the shape of a calf to which the people replied, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt,” (Exodus 32:4). Then Aaron builds an altar so the people can worship this idol. Angry at the people’s idolatry, God sends Moses down from the mountain to these “stiff-necked people” and declares that he will destroy them. Moses pleads on their behalf and God relents, but then a dramatic scene unfolds. Moses goes into the camp, outraged at their sin and destroys the golden calf. He then turns to confront his brother, Aaron. Aaron’s reply is ridiculous, but sounds familiar, “Oh Moses, you know — these people — they are just so prone to evil. They told me to do this. So I put the gold in the fire… and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32: 21-24). (Really… Aaron?)
Then, at the entrance of the camp in front of the out-of-control Israelites, Moses makes a declaration. He tells the people that they must make a choice. Either they were going to be for the Lord or not. His request, “If you are going to follow the Lord, come to me,” (Exodus 32:26). Only the Levites chose to follow God and on that day and because of their choice “about three thousand of the people died,” (vs. 28). They disregarded all that the Lord had previously done for them and had instead chosen to worship and trust in a false god.
We’ve already talked about this, but the problem with the Israelites and the problem with us is that we are forgetful. We forget the Lord’s faithfulness to us in the past and we forget his promise to provide for us in our future. The Israelites assumed because Moses had not come back that He had abandoned them and in doing so they chose to trust in a worthless idol.
Psalm 103:2-5 reminds us,
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
There are many examples throughout the Bible where God does amazing things for his people and then he gives a simple reminder: “remember.” If we are going to survive through the hardships of this life, we have to remember the past. We have to recall what God has done for us and His people throughout time. Let’s not settle for a worthless idol, let’s always remember “the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)
About the Author
Hi, I’m Karen Taylor. I live in Jackson, Tennessee and for the past 11 years, I’ve had the incredible privilege of working in Student Life at Union University. I enjoy working with college students and teaching in women’s ministry at my church. In my free time, you would most likely find me reading, checking out local antique stores, traveling or hanging out (and laughing!) with friends. And, fair warning: I can’t be trusted in front of a bowl of chips and salsa. I love discovering all of the new things that God is teaching me. It is my desire to teach and encourage others in their walk with the Lord and to live out Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.