“God has made me forget”
Beloved Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
We usually spend a good bit of time remembering as we come to the end of another year, and also as we arrive at the end of another decade.
• we remember either highlights or low points in our personal lives, our families, the church, the nation
• Calvin’s birthday
Remembering is an important part of our lives
• in fact, God tells his people in his Word that there are certain things that he wants them always to remember
• the weekly Lord’s Day
• their deliverance from Egypt (Deut 5:15; cf. Eph 2:12)
• Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
• remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
• what happened to those who were disobedient (“Remember Lot’s wife!” Luke 17:32)
• Remember your creator in the days of your youth. (Eccl 12:1)
• Jesus tells us to remember
• the words he’s spoken to us (Jn 15:20)
• his sacrifice (at the Lord’s Supper) (1 Cor 11:24,25)
• The apostles tell us to remember
• Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David (2 Tim 2:8)
• our own times of strength and faithfulness (Heb 10:32): Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.
• your leaders (Heb 13:7)
As we stand at the brink of a new year and another decade, and look back upon the decade and year that have passed, however, there may be things that we’d rather remember than forget.
• through God’s Word this evening, I would like to encourage you to make it your goal in the new year, and the new decade, to remember to forget
• if you’re into making new year’s resolutions, you could make that one of your top priorities: Remember to forget.
Are we allowed to forget, though?
Is it healthy to forget?
And if so, what are we allowed to forget?
In seeking an answer to these questions, let us consider the situation of Joseph.
• thrown into a pit by his brothers
• sold for 20 shekels to Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt
• slandered by his master’s wife who wrongfully accused him of raping her
• thrown into prison
Once Joseph had been freed from prison and made Pharaoh’s right hand man, had settled into married life and started a family, Joseph expressed his thankfulness for how the God had allowed him to forget his troublesome past
• we’re told in our text then when his twin sons were born, “Joseph named the his firstborn Manasseh and said, ‘It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’”
Now we’re told in the NT that these things have been written down as examples for us.
• be careful about exemplarism; sometimes we’re given examples that we must be careful not to follow (as warnings for us)
Here we have an example, though, that we may follow
• it was a sign of God’s mercy that Joseph was able to forget the troubles that he had gone through
• it was a gift of God’s grace that he was able to forget the cruelty of his brothers, who had allowed their envy for him get the better of them, and who had been so wicked and hateful towards him
Obvious that Joseph didn’t completely forget
• he hadn’t lost his mind or been in denial, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to remember that which God had allowed him to forget
• he certainly remembered the love and affection of his now heart-broken father Jacob
• he no doubt longed for his brothers, by God’s grace, to become brothers of a different sort.
• it is clear from what developed later, in fact, that his deep hurt came to the surface when he saw his brothers again, and, no doubt, his deep longing to have his family back
Indeed, there are things that we cannot completely forget
• loved ones whom we’ve lost (spouse, child, friend, parent)
• hatred, betrayal, envy by which others have hurt us
Yet, God does allow us to forget the intense pain and heart-wrenching sorrow that accompany such afflictions
• we will never forget how great our pain was
• but God does allow the torment that we once experienced to subside and lessen, even if not all at once
That is, unless we refuse to forget, or let God allow us to forget
• example of a student who has performed poorly on a major test
• he can learn from his failure, and work hard to avoid such a failure in the future
• or he can brood over his failure, dwell upon it, beat himself up over it thus making it impossible for himself to carry on
• instead of simply remembering the good lesson, he refuses to forget his failure
This all being said, there is a right way of remembering what is best forgotten, and that is, in the perspective of God’s mercy
• beautifully expressed by Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:19-24
• if we must remember the things that are better forgotten, then let us do it that way, making sure that our bad memories are well-accompanied by the good memory of God’s great love which has never failed us!
Now there are a good many things worth forgetting, besides our troubles and afflictions
• the bricks we’ve dropped
• the embarrassing things that we’ve done on account of our shortsightedness or awkwardness or indiscretion
• the things that we’ve done which make us blush to think about
• our sins
• when we are truly repentant and have done everything possible to make things right, then we should forget about it
• if we’ve made false statements and corrected them; if we’ve hurt others’ feelings and apologized, then we should forget about it
• we should never forget the lesson we’ve learned, but we should forget that miserable sin that is better forgotten
• that is how God is with us:
• “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isa 43:25)
• God is the one who treads our sins underfoot and hurls our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19)
• “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Ps 103:12)
• why should we try to remember what God is determined to forget?
• Is this not also what the apostle Paul taught?
• There’s no question that Paul remained deeply sorry, all his lifelong, about his previous way of life, and how he had persecuted the church before he was converted
• by the grace of God, Paul was able to make it his goal to forget what was behind, and to strain toward what was ahead.
• and he encourages each one of us to do the same: to forget what is behind and to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philip 3:13,14)
• Paul did not brood of his past serious sins, but surrendered himself to God’s service
• Peter, the same!
• take some time over the next few days/weeks to think about those sins that you need to remember to forget (from past year, decade, even longer)
• dark past
• hurtful things that you have done or said
• taking a distance from God
• sinful lusts and desires that you’ve indulged
• sinful relationships that you’ve engaged in
• make sure, of course that you’ve truly repented, and done everything possible to make things right
• after that all there is left for you to do is remember to forget
• the sins against you
• this is where things get really difficult, because often we find it easier to forget our own sins against others, than to forget the sins of others against us
• remember 5th petition, and what follows in Jesus’ sermon: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive you.”
• is it not our inability to do this, and our desire for revenge, that often becomes such a burden for us?
• how easily we are slighted, offended, hurt by what others have done to us
• often, we are justified in our hurt, and I certainly don’t want to minimize the trail of pain and hurt and misery that is left behind in our hearts and sometimes even our bodies by those who have been hateful, abusive and worse towards us, even physically and sexually
• then, too, we need to remember to forget!
• We need to have the same attitude as the Lord Jesus Christ who in his deepest suffering prayed for his tormentors, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”, even as they were dividing up his clothes by casting lots (Lk 23:34)
• however justified our resentment towards others is, to harbour that resentment is to poison ourselves, and we need to get rid of it.
• We need to remember to forget!
As we look back, there’s lots to remember.
There’s lots we should remember.
As we press towards our heavenward goal in 2010, though, let’s also remember that there’s lots behind us that’s worth forgetting.
Let’s remember to forget.
And may God grant us his grace so that we are able to say, with Joseph, “God has made me forget!”