Psalm 77:11-12 says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.”
When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, Psalm 78:18-19 says, “they willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert?'” They wouldn’t have asked that simple question if they had remembered that the same God they were challenging can do more than satisfy their appetites. He is the same God who brought the plagues in Egypt so by His might hand, He can lead them out of the land that held them captive for 430 years (Exodus 7-12:42; Psalm 78:12), the same God who divided the sea and led them through it (Exodus 14:21-22; Psalm 78:13), the same God who provided a pillar of cloud and fire to guide their way day and night (Exodus 13:21-22; Psalm 78:14), the same God who heard their grumbling and made the bitter water sweet and led them to camp in the springs (Exodus 15:25), the same God who brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like river (Exodus 17:6; Psalm 78:15-16). They forgot what He had done, the wonders he had shown them. (Psalm 78:11)
Everytime we grumble over simple things in life like food, money, weather, relationships, etc…we show how forgetful we are of what bigger things God has done in our lives. If He has done those in the past, recent as they may be sometimes, and we have known God beyond what He has given but for who He is as the Giver, the faithful deliverer, the restorer, the generous guy, the protector, the promise-keeper…and all these attributes that He has revealed about Himself***, there would be no need for such questions.
Yet God is merciful because He knows the frailties of our human heart: the forgetfulness, the short-sighted vision of looking at the need in front of us and missing out on the promise ahead. Several times in the book of Exodus, God answered with instructions and more promises after He had just performed a miracle, and several times the Israelites turned from their ways and came back to the Lord. God always addresses their complaints as a reaction to fear of a challenge with deliverance to victory. Yet when faced with another unknown, the viscous cycle starts again…yet “time after time, He is merciful…” (Psalm 78:38) Why? Because “He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return (Psalm 78:39). And how about the people? “Again and again they put God to the test…” (Psalm 78:41). Why? Because verse 42 says, “they did not remember his power…” The cycle starts again when people forget. God shows His mercy when He remembers and we turn away when we forget.
May God grant us a good memory to remember history for all its worth and for what it is teaching us about who God is.
Everytime we are in doubt, it’s as though we grieve God in the wasteland. (Psalm 78:40)
***The plagues in Egypt which prompted Pharaoh to release the Israelites show how God works in ways we cannot imagine but in the end, He vindicates in His right time, and He makes all things good for His people. The pillar of cloud and fire that led them through the Red Sea manifests that He will never leave us nor forsake and will be ahead of us to show the way. The drawing of the sweetness out of the bitter water reveals His gentleness and care amidst turbid times. The parting of the Red Sea proves that He is the protector of the promised and that He knows the better way even if it seems longer and quite an unusual choice than normal.