How many times during the past week or month have you said, “I forgot”?
I found myself saying it just yesterday, after I had put a pot of beets on the stove to boil then left the kitchen to work on this lesson. When I came back to the kitchen and found the mess, my first words were, “Oh! I forgot.” If you have boiled beets, you can guess what it looked like. The covered boiling pot had sprayed beet water all over the stove and onto the floor, the counter, and the backsplash and anything else within reach! We had a grand clean up.
All because “I forgot.”
I think when I was a child and did something wrong, “I forgot” was my common alibi, because when my mother would punish me and I asked why, she would say, “It is to help you remember!” It was a good answer.
Unfortunately, forgetting is built into our human make-up, perhaps more than we would like it to be. And it doesn’t go away by wishing. But on the brighter side, the fact that we forget shows also that we can remember. We can’t forget what we didn’t remember!
We need both, to remember and to forget. Which do we need most? Probably the remembering, which is the equal of “don’t forget.”
However, what we forget is most deeply impressed on our minds because it has consequences: lost time, lost effort, lost opportunity, and whatever else can get lost when we don’t respond (remember) in a timely manner; when we have to say, “I forgot.”
How much more serious are those “I forgot’s” when they are about our responsibility to God and our prospect of eternal life!
Because here are things we must not forget.
When Moses was reviewing Israel’s history he reminded them a number of times of really IMPORTANT issues they MUST NOT FORGET. Let’s look at a few of them. They have “remember” lessons for us today. The first is in Deuteronomy, chapter 4.
Deuteronomy 4:9 9Only take heed to yourself, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life: but teach them your sons, and your sons’ sons;
Take heed… keep your soul diligently.” Why?
“Lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen.”
How much they had seen in those 40 years in the wilderness! There was also a warning against disobeying their sacred covenant:
Deuteronomy 4:23 23Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the Lord your God has forbidden you.
And there was more:
Deuteronomy 6:12 12then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
Moses knew how easily they would forget God who had delivered them! What a rough and rocky 40 years it had been already!
He repeated it again just a little later in chapter 8—what danger they would forget!
Deuteronomy 8:11 11“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today,
Deuteronomy 8:14 14when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
Deuteronomy 8:19 19Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.
If you forget and follow other gods… you shall surely perish! What a warning!
One last warning before we leave Deuteronomy: it is a warning against being too comfortable, too content, and forgetting God.
Moses is speaking of Jeshurun, the endearing name for Israel:
Deuteronomy 32:15–17 15“But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation. 16They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. 17They sacrificed to demons, not to God, To gods they did not know, To new gods, new arrivals That your fathers did not fear. Deuteronomy 32:18
There were always more false gods to draw them away from the true God. Just as we have today—so many distractions, so easily they pull us away from the things that really matter. Deut. 32:18,
18Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you.
He says, you have FORGOTTEN God—your one and only SOURCE of life! How did God respond?
Deuteronomy 32:19–20 19“And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them, Because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters. 20And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be, For they are a perverse generation, Children in whom is no faith.
No faith—because they are forgetting the God who formed them. They don’t even appreciate their breath, their heartbeat, their present LIFE! God says, I will SPURN them… hide my face from them, and see what their end will be. Why? Because they are children in whom is “No Faith.”
The patriarch Job, even before the time of Moses, had the same theme, and another significant warning:
13So are the paths of all who forget God; And the hope of the hypocrite shall perish,
The context makes the point even more meaningful. Job is talking about hope that has no hope—because God is left out.
Job 8:11–14 11“Can the papyrus grow up without a marsh? Can the reeds flourish without water? 12While it is yet green and not cut down, It withers before any other plant. 13So are the paths of all who forget God; And the hope of the hypocrite shall perish, 14Whose confidence shall be cut off, And whose trust is a spider’s web.
No support in a spider’s web—only a snare!
The Psalmist also tells the end of those who forget God:
Psalm 9:17 17The wicked shall be turned into hell [sheol, the pit, the grave, forever darkness], And all the nations that forget God.
What is their end? Death! Forever darkness.
The Psalmist delighted in remembering God as he poured out his heart in gratitude for God’s blessings.
Psalm 103:1–2 1Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
“O my soul… forget not all His benefits.” Let this be our prayer also.
Now let’s think one step further: WHY do we forget?
There could be many reasons including our level of responsibility, or our concern, or our fear of worry. Whatever the reason, one thought becomes dominant over another, more important in our minds, more present. At least more current.
One thought pushes out another, and it is possible that the pushed-out thought is of greater importance. It can happen. Then the “I forgot” may be harder to recover.
This is where we have to be on guard, watchful, alert to where our minds take us.
When we stand before Christ, we don’t want to have to say, “I forgot.” No, no! but I remembered!
“Remember the prize, and keep it in view,
Twill help in our march these sayings to do.”
There will be no hiding of this fact from God. As the Psalmist said,
Psalm 44:20–21 20If we had forgotten the name of our God, Or stretched out our hands to a foreign god, 21Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.
The apostle Paul set us an example of what to forget and what to remember. What was his resolve? Keeping his mind on the PRIZE.
Philippians 3:13–14 13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
If we keep our mind riveted on the PRIZE, there will be no chance for “I forgot” to defeat us.
It will take a lot of diligence and reminding and reviving to remember. But it will be worth it! We certainly don’t want to lose the Kingdom because “I forgot.”
The writer of Hebrews tells us that God will “forget” our sins––if we do not forget Him. Looking far into the future, he says,
Heb. 10:16-17. This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.
Then He adds,
”Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
If we have remorse for our sins and repent, we will cherish these words. We will not forget, but will respond,
Psalm 86:13, 12Great is Your mercy toward me, I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore…
The Psalmist’s heart was fixed on the future reward with forever benefits, a strong incentive to remember!
One day the earth will be filled with those who have kept the laws of God in their hearts and minds and have forsaken all sin. Those sins God will remember no more.
When we meditate upon these words in Hebrews, we see the awesome forgiveness and grace of God Almighty. Isaiah wrote “I, even I, am he that blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isa. 43:25). Not only is He willing to “cleanse and purge” us from our sins, but He promises to “remember” them “no more.” What a promise!
If we keep our mind riveted on the PRIZE, there will be no chance for “I forgot” to defeat us. Yes, God will say “I forgot” when we confess and forsake all our sins. Aren’t you thankful for God’s “forgetfulness”?!!!