Throughout the pages of scripture God has given his people reminders of what he has done. After the flood God put a rainbow in the sky as a reminder of his covenant.
“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth’” (Genesis 9:13-16 NIV)
As the Israelites were about to leave Egypt God gave them a national reminder to remember that God spared them and delivered them from Egyptian slavery. Each year they were to have a Passover meal and then eat unleavened bread for seven days.
“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come…When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” (Exodus 12:17,25-27)
As Israel was crossing the River Jordan to enter the Promised Land, God once again gave them a reminder of that event. After the people had crossed the river, which had flooded, Joshua was to send twelve men, one from each tribe, to get a stone from the middle of the river from the spot where the priests were standing when the water ceased to flow. They were to take these twelve large stones to their camp and build a memorial.
“And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their parents, “What do these stones mean?” tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.” For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.’’ (Joshua 4:20-24)
Why did God set up so many reminders (and there will be more throughout scripture)? The answer is quite simple: people are forgetful – they don’t remember. It is so easy to forget why the rainbow is in the sky when it rains, or why the Israelites were a people with a land, or how they got there. Over time it is too easy to begin thinking that they had done it all themselves. So God set up reminders for them – visible signs that he was behind what had happened. Despite these reminders Israel still forgot what God had done for them, turned away from him to serve images of wood and stone, and ended up going into captivity again.
Even today we have a reminder each week to remind us what God did for us.
“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Each Sunday when we eat the Lord’s Supper we are to remember Jesus, that he died for us and that he came back from the dead. This is our reminder of God’s love for us.
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Readings for next week: Revelation 21-22; Joshua 1-7