“Don’t forget to …”. We’ve heard such reminders all our lives: “don’t forget to brush your teeth … do your homework … take out the trash … pick up the groceries …”. And we’ve still forgotten. “Why did I come in this room?” We are a forgetful people.
Forgetting is not a new problem. It’s all over the Bible. But forgetfulness in the Bible isn’t as simple as remembering to transfer the laundry.
In the first chapter of Exodus, a coming crisis is immediately set up for the reader. The people of Israel are growing large in number while living in Egypt. Egypt has a new king who’s concerned about a potential Israelite uprising and somebody has forgotten, okay, maybe neglected, to tell the king why the Israelites were there and how they had been a blessing to Egypt. Referring to Joseph, who had been sold into slavery, but through God’s sovereign providence, led Egypt to thrive during a severe, seven-year drought.
“Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation eventually died. But the Israelites were fruitful, increased rapidly, multiplied, and became extremely numerous so that the land was filled with them.
A new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. (Ex 1:6–8.)
Let’s review a few key elements from before and after:
- God capitalized on less-than-ideal circumstances and the decisions of sinful people to pre-position Jacob’s son, Joseph, in Egypt.
- God blessed Jacob (also called Israel) and his family as He brought them to Egypt to protect them under the leadership of his son Joseph.
- The family of Jacob and his twelve sons grew mighty in number.
- Having forgotten about Joseph and all that he had done for Egypt, the Egyptians now saw the Israelites as a threat, and forced them into slavery.
- Over the course of time, and as conditions worsened, the Israelites cried out to God for deliverance. Their conditions drove them to look to God rather than their own self-sufficiency.
- Once again, God used someone, in this case Moses, whom He had prepared ahead of time to bring His people out of slavery and lead them to the promised land.
- But the Israelites also forgot what God had done for them – 10 plagues on Egypt, freedom from slavery, crossing the Red Sea on dry land, pillar of fire by night and cloud by day – and suggested that they were better off as slaves in Egypt than free under the leadership of Moses and the Lord.
- Furthermore, they neglected to obey, and declined to go into the promised land as directed.
- The cycle of Israel’s disobedience, God’s punishment, Israel’s repentance, and God’s restoration, only to repeat itself is seen throughout the Old Testament.
We ask, why would they do such things? Didn’t they realize that God not only protected and cared for His people, but He was also working in advance to do so?
The simple answer is that God’s people forgot the character of God and all that He had done for them. And, if God’s own people forgot these things, we can certainly understand why others, like the Egyptians, would pay them no mind.
Today, we live in a complex world. I often find myself surprised at the behaviors of the worldly, but I’m even more surprised that I’m surprised. How can I question the behaviors of those who don’t know God when I, as a Christian, neglect to live in light of who God is and what He has and is doing?
Philippians 4:8 reminds us, “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.” It’s not too much of an oversimplification to say that this verse describes and tells us to think about God’s character and actions. No matter life’s circumstances, here’s another reminder: don’t forget to remember God, who He is and what He has done.