Every year our nation commemorates the sacrifices of those who have given their lives in the service of our country. We call this holiday Memorial Day. It is a time for remembering the men and women who gave what President Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address called, “the last full measure of devotion” on fields of battle in defense of our land. Like many of our nation’s important commemorations, Memorial Day has no significance for many beyond being a day off from work or school, or a time for family gatherings and recreation. Those who only see it in this fashion have forgotten both the intent of the day and the sacrifices which prompted its creation.
It is sad and discouraging that the meaning of Memorial Day has been lost on so many in the current generation of Americans. It is dangerous, also. The danger comes from the possibility of this commemoration becoming something far different from its original intent. When Americans forget why we have a day like Memorial Day, they also forget how we came to be who we are as a nation. When this happens, it is a simple thing for those with unscrupulous agendas to lead us far afield from what the founding fathers envisioned for this nation.
The danger of forgetting from whence we have come, and how we have come to where we are, is not solely an American problem. It goes back virtually to the beginning of time, and has been played out in the history of God’s people over the course of multiplied generations. This human tendency prompted our Father in heaven to make stipulations in the Law of Moses so that His people would not forget what He had done for them. Moses wrote of this in Deut. 4:9, challenging the Israelites to “keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen. . .” God knew that if they ever forgot what He had done for them, they would quickly depart from His ways.
The period of the Judges is an excellent example of this truth. Over the course of more than 300 years the people of Israel turned away from God multiple times and were oppressed by their enemies as punishment. Jdg. 3:7 says that they “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God. . .” Each time they forgot God they turned away from Him and consequently suffered the consequences for doing so. The testimony of scripture is that forgetting God and His word always results in sin.
This message still applies today. God still requires us to remember what He has done for us, so we will obey Him and receive His blessings. The greatest gift of God is the sacrifice of His Son on the cross as the atonement for our sins. We are called upon to remember this sacrifice each Lord’s Day as we break the bread and drink the cup of communion (Mt. 26:26-29). When Paul corrected the Corinthian Christians for the way they had abused this memorial, he reminded them that on the night He initiated it Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24). If we forget that the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to “proclaim His death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26), we will open ourselves up to being led into sin by turning this commemoration into something far different than the Lord intended.
In the same way, we must not forget what the Lord’s apostles taught and recorded for us in the pages of the New Testament. It is this book that will judge us at the last day (Jn. 12:48; Rev. 20:11-15), and we must always be diligent to remind ourselves of these things, and to practice them, lest we forget them and stray into sin. God has given us sufficient means to remember what He has done for us through His Son. He has given us sufficient means, through His word, for us to know how to please Him. Let us never forget.