This is the time of year for retrospectives and year-end lists, and the same sort of thing is valuable in the life of discipleship as well. The Bible abounds with entreaties for the people of God to remember God’s mighty deeds of the past and their own commitments to hold up their end of the covenant. One of the most common indictments about the people of Israel is that they have “forgotten” God. In other words, they have not kept God at the center of their lives and therefore have allowed other so-called gods to steal their allegiance. Another word for this kind of forgetfulness is idolatry.
The Bible also offers opportunities and tips for the people to enact their remembrance of what the book of Revelation calls their “first love.” The Shema, for instance, is an ancient formula from the book of Deuteronomy that observant Jewish persons still repeat to this day. Here are the opening lines, some of which you may find quite familiar:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deut 6:4–9).
The recitation goes on to describe God’s powerful acts on their behalf, most particularly God’s deliverance of their ancestors from bondage in Egypt. This is a recipe for faithfulness. If the people keep the mighty deeds of God before their minds and the minds of their children, they will not easily forget God and go chasing after idols.
Of course, the Bible is also chock-full of instances in which the people of Israel did indeed forsake God in favor of other deities and allegiances. Many of us could say the same thing about our own lives: they are chock-full of times of wandering far from the fold of God. I know mine is.
That’s why it’s a good idea to take stock every once in a while of God’s mighty deeds in our lives as individuals and as a community of faith. The end of a year is as good a time as any. So as you look back over the events of 2022, can you discern those moments when God really came through? Can you find evidence of the Spirit’s activity and guidance? Do you remember times when you showed yourself faithful? When you failed to step up? Were there any milestone moments you may need to recall at other times when things aren’t going so well?
I encourage you to take some time this week to do such an assessment, and if you find anything you think would be helpful to others, consider sharing it during the “Joys and Concerns” time at the opening of the worship service this Sunday. As the writer of the book of Hebrews admonishes us, “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Heb 10:24–25). See you in church!
Grace and peace,