Last night, preacher David Shannon, at the Mount Juliet, Tenn., congregation, mentioned that God often establishes memorials before the fact rather than after. Examples are the twelve stones at the crossing of the Jordan River when Israel entered Canaan and the establishment of the Lord’s supper before Jesus’ death.
Men establish memorials after the fact. They cannot foresee nor guarantee the outcome. The American holiday, Memorial Day, actually officialized what people were already doing in local communities across America. It gave official recognition to spontaneous actions of decorating headstones in cemeteries of soldiers who had lost lives in conflicts. A far cry from a planned memorial ahead of the event it honors.
That doesn’t mean that Memorial Day is not valid. It does, however, draw a broad line between the actions of men and of God.
God plans to act and then carries out his plan. Man’s plans are not so certain. This is the emphasis of Isaiah 55. The “thoughts” of God are his plans that inevitably come to fruition.
Indeed, my plans are not like your plans,
and my deeds are not like your deeds,
for just as the sky is higher than the earth,
so my deeds are superior to your deeds
and my plans superior to your plans. …
In the same way, the promise that I make
does not return to me, having accomplished nothing.
No, it is realized as I desire
and is fulfilled as I intend.
Isaiah 55.9-10, 11 NET
So when the Lord establishes a memorial ahead of time, it signals a central action of his, the fulfillment of his plans that man ought to remember.
At the heart of the Way is the hand of God. The gospel is not the accomplishment of man, but the movement of God in the world for man’s rescue. Man must respond to and receive God’s salvation, but the keynote is the fullness of deity and the divine threesomeness engaged in the past, present, and future for the drawing of man to himself.
All human activity therefore bases its effort on the divine action. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 4.10, “In fact this is why we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers.”
God is living and active, like his word (Hebrews 4.10). He continues to work in the world. He is designated Savior, for salvation has already been made available through Christ. He desires to save and offers it to all people, for he does not wish that anyone perish (2 Peter 3.9). His saving activity therefore continues today. But it is effective only in those who believe, belief standing for the entire human response to God’s offer (and enveloping repentance, immersion, faithfulness, and obedience).
So God’s memorials, established before the fact, recall the work of God and summon all people everywhere to a proper response. But the main reminder is what God has done and what he now performs, as well as reminding us of the certainty of what he still promises.
For the God who has kept every promise thus far is faithful and worthy of all our trust and confidence.