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Memorial Day Message
“Our Need to Remember”
Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering and giving honor to the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.
The holiday is observed every year on the last Monday of May. While the commemoration began after the Civil War as the graves of soldiers were decorated with flowers along with prayers being recited, it wasn’t until 1967 that the day was officially known as Memorial Day, and in 1968 the traditional day of May 30th changed to the last Monday in May.
Further, it is during this time that we see the American Legion selling silk poppies outside many of our stores. In 1920 the American Legion adopted the silk poppy as their official symbol of remembrance. This was inspired by the poem, “Flanders Fields,” and it’s opening lines referring to the fields of poppies that grew among the soldier’s graves outside Flanders, Belgium, where rests 368 American soldiers who died liberating Belgium in World War I.
Also, on Memorial Day the American flag is lowered to half-mast in this special ceremony to remember the over one million men and women who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.
And so, Memorial Day isn’t the official start of summer, nor is it about a weekend where we get three days off. It is about remembering those who died for our freedom and the victories they won.
Today, I’d like to take a look at the memorials we build in our lives as believers, memorials of the victory that was won for us, and the One who gave His life for our freedom, a real freedom, a freedom that can never be taken away, and that is freedom over sin and death.
And the question becomes, “Where do we go from here?” “What’s next?” Also, for those men and women who recently returned from the Women and Men’s retreats, “How do we maintain our intensity and our purpose?”
The problem is that far too many of the defeats we experience occur immediately following great victories when God has done so many great things, especially the greatest victory of them all when we came to faith in Jesus Christ.
How can these possibly be prevented?
The answer lies in our need to set up a memorial. The story is found in the book of Joshua, the fourth chapter where twelve stones were carried over the Jordan River and a memorial was built to remember what God had done for them in bringing them into the Promised Land.
“That all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:24 NKJV)
While I’m not a big fan of physical representations, there’s something that speaks to me when the children of Israel set up a memorial to remember the miracle God gave in stopping the waters of the river Jordan allowing them to cross over to the Promise Land.
A memorial is an object that serves to focus a memory of something that has occurred, whether it has been a person who has died, or an event. The most common memorials are landmarks or art, such as sculptures, statues, or fountains. People have placed memorial plaques on park benches or at the site where the event occurred.
This is done to let others know about what happened, or the person being commemorated. Its purpose is to give testimony.
In Washington D.C., there are many such memorial.
• Washington Memorial, honoring our first president, George Washington, and reminding us of the struggle our country went through to gain its independence.
• Lincoln Memorial, honoring Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth president, and reminding us of the terrible slave trade going on in our country and the horrific war that divided our country known as the Civil War.
• Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with the names of 58,318 who died or are missing in action from 1955 to 1975.
Now, I don’t believe God is calling us to build such structures when it comes to our faith, nor to be like the children of Israel to stack stones as an altar, although many have and there’s nothing wrong in doing so. What is important, however, is that we remember and not forget what God has done in our lives.
“Remember” is a powerful word. As believers in Jesus Christ we’re told to remember the Lord and what He’s done for us.
“I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” (Psalm 77:11)
We also use the word “remember” when we ask God to remember His promises and help us in our time of need.
Samson’s prayed, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once” (Judges 16:28). And the thief on the cross said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
But I believe the most powerful use of the word “remember” is when God says that He remembers us and His covenant promises towards us.
This is seen in God’s promise and covenant He made with Noah and the human race.
“Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing … (saying) ‘I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh … The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth’” (Genesis 8:1; 9:15-16)
God had just finished His judgment against humanity’s wickedness, and the flood He sent upon the earth. And it says God remembered Noah and the creatures on the Ark, and made a covenant with Noah never to destroy the earth again by way of a flood, and He set a rainbow in the sky to remind us of His promise.
No matter what we may be going through, whether it is feeling forgotten, down, and dejected, or whether we’re suffering from an illness or disease, what we need to remember is that God remembers His promises. Promises like He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), or Jesus’ promise that He will be with us to the end (Matthew 28:20).
And so today remember that God remembers you, and that He will be there for you through thick and thin.
Now, from our text in Joshua 4, there are several things that are brought out as to what we are to remember.
What God Has Done
“This may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:6-7 NKJV)
This memorial was to remind the people how God caused the waters to stop, and thus allowing them to cross over into the Promised Land.
Again, look at what the Psalmist said.
“I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old” (Psalm 77:11).
The Psalmist was both consoled and strengthened as he remembered all of God’s redemptive acts for His people, that is, His wonders of old.
Now you may be thinking, “But I haven’t seen anything like this in my life, nor anything that resembles it, nor anything so often.”
There are two aspects to this I’d like to address.
First, what takes a couple of minutes on our part to read in the Bible generally took a generation or longer to play out in the people’s lives.
Second, we always need to celebrate and remember the victories, no matter how small or great they may be. We need to stop waiting for God to part some wall or barrier in our lives, or bring fire and brimstone down upon our enemies.
When we celebrate the small victories, then we’ll start being open to seeing and experiencing so much more, as the Bible says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)
In my over 40 years of being a believer, I’ve seen dead off miracles. In some instances God changed the course of nature, as well as outright healings. I’ve also experienced setbacks, defeats, and heartache as well. All of these, both the good and bad have strengthened my faith and walk with the Lord, because I know and have experienced His love and faithfulness in every one of them.
The point is that we need to remember and never forget what God has done, because if we do forget, there will be a price to pay.
“They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” (Psalm 106:13-15 NKJV)
Instead of remembering the mighty works of God, they remembered the food and the fullness of their bellies while back in their bondage to the Egyptians. And so God sent to them and abundance of quail. He gave them what they wanted, but in their lustful appetite they never cooked it, the blood was never rendered out, which is against the law not to eat meat with the blood (Deuteronomy 12:23), and so while the meat was still between their teeth, God struck them.
Now, the idea of leanness to the soul brings the picture of a starving person who is nothing more than skin and bones. This is what our soul starts looking like when our fleshly wants overtake our faith in God.
If we don’t want this sort of leanness of soul, then we need to remember what God has done, along with being faithful to His word, or better yet, obedience.
This was the Psalmist take when he wrote, “You are my portion, O Lord; I have said that I would keep Your words.” (Psalm 119:57 NIV)
The next aspect of our remembering is our need to remember God’s promises, or covenant.
“Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho.” (Joshua 4:19 NKJV)
Now, you may be wondering what this verse has to do with remembering the covenant or promises of God? The tenth day of the first month is extremely significant. It was on this day forty years earlier that God told the Jews to prepare for God’s final plague. And four days later, the day we commemorate as Passover, was when God delivered His people from their Egyptian bondage (Exodus 11).
In other words, the day God told them to prepare to leave is the day they entered into the Promised Land.
The whole purpose was so that God could fulfill His covenant, His promise to Abraham Isaac, and Jacob that God tells us to always remember.
“Remember His covenant forever … The covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel for an everlasting covenant.” (1 Chronicles 16:15-17 NKJV)
Now, while we are to remember this covenant of God’s promise to the Jews and their release from their Egyptian bondage, the covenant God desires for us to remember more is His new covenant. It’s the covenant promised by God through the prophet Jeremiah.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke … But this is the covenant … I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV)
It’s a covenant that the writer of Hebrews calls a better covenant.
“But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6 NKJV)
It was a better covenant because it was made on a better promise, that is, the Lord God Himself instituted and fulfilled it. All we have to do to enter into it is accept its Mediator, Jesus Christ (We’ll delve into this title next week in our ‘Names of Jesus” series.)
Now, Jesus Himself gave us the memorial to remember this new covenant, its called Communion, or The Lord’s Supper. It’s a symbolic act where through the bread and cup we remember what Jesus did and the new covenant He instituted in His blood. (We’ll be participating in this memorial today.)
And so, we remember first what God has done in our lives, and then the covenant Jesus made with all who believe. But in verse 24 we see something else we’re suppose to remember.
God Is The True God
“All the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:24 NKJV)
The way it reads is that all people would realize that it the Lord God and Him alone that wrought this wonderful miracle, and not the gods that they worship.
But seeing that it was written to the Jews, it would be for them not to forget who the real God is, and not all these false and strange gods of the land they were about to go in and conquer.
We see this in God’s warning to the people
“Beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. … You shall not go after other gods … for the Lord your God is a jealous God among you, lest the anger of the Lord your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 6:12-15 NKJV)
Moses is reminding them that it is God who delivered them, therefore, they shouldn’t be chasing after other gods, and I believe that this is the same warning God is giving to us, which is actually the first commandment, to have no other gods before Him.
What we need to remember is that it is the Lord God who delivers, not the many gods we seem to follow today, the gods of finance, capitalism, medical technology, and scientific breakthroughs. Now, God can and does use these secondary causes in His overall plan, but make no mistake about it, it is the Lord that is in control.
I remember an instance where God had answered a prayer in just such a way, and I said, “Thank God.” Now the person who had been involved that God used to help deliver His miracle said, “Hey, don’t thank God, thank me. I did it!”
Now, while I did thank him, I tried to explain how God uses others in working out His will, but the person never got it and became a little upset. All I did at that point is to start backing up not wanting to get in the line of fire when lightning came down from heaven.
Now, in Deuteronomy 6:13 we actually see this last thing we’re suppose to remember, and that is …
To Be Loyal To God
“You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.” (Deuteronomy 6:13 NKJV)
Seeing what God has done and how He has kept His promises, this should lead us to fear the Lord.
Now, this word, “fear,” means to show respect and reverence for God. It is to stand in awe and amazement, and to worship God for who He is and what He has done.
Now, our loyalty stems from not only our fear or reverence to God, but also it’s from our remembering that it is the Lord who remembers us.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.” (Isaiah 49:15-16a NKJV)
The Lord was telling the people who are now in exile in Babylon, and who think that He had forgotten all about them that He will never forget them. And He does so by likening it to a mother’s love, a love that soothes in times of suffering, a love that surrenders all for her child, a love that’s always there, and a love that follows us throughout life.
But even though parents have been known to forsake their children, God, however, never would, and that’s because He never gives up, and He never lets go of His love for us.
“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.’” (Jeremiah 31:3a NKJV)
It is this everlasting love that the Lord says is indelible, that is, it can never be removed.
“See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.” (Isaiah 49:16a NKJV)
He has indelibly engraved our names into His hands, hands of power, hands of authority, but most importantly hands of love.
It was on the day of His resurrection that Jesus appeared and showed His disciples His hands, and in essence said, “See, here is where I have inscribed you.”
Knowing this and seeing this, can we be anything but loyal and worship Jesus Christ?
And so, on this Memorial Day, as we remember those who have died to protect our freedom, let’s remember Jesus who died to give us true and lasting freedom. Let’s make this day a Memorial Day by remembering and not forgetting not only the sacrifices that were made by those men and women in our armed forces, but also the ultimate sacrifice that was made by Jesus.
Have you set up some sort of memorial to commemorate the miracle God has done your life? And do you know what sort of testimony that you will give when others ask the meaning of what you have erected in your life? And please know that ultimate memorial and testimony is the life we live for Christ.
When it comes to your testimonial, your memorial, what has God done in your life? Remember the promises He has made, and the ultimate promise of eternal life for all those who believe, and then be loyal and worship the one true God.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study