This week, we are going to consider another principle from PRO 31:28-29.
Verse 28 begins with the Hebrew letter qaph, which pictures the back of the head and speaks of remembrance. Verse 29 starts with the Hebrew letter resh, picturing the front of the head and speaks of knowledge. With the combination of remembrance and knowledge, I would like to consider the importance of memory in our spiritual life. God has given us the ability to remember the past for a reason. We are not to live in the victories or the failures of our own past (PHI 3:13), but we are to gain strength and perspective through remembering God’s faithfulness in our life.
This principle is perfectly illustrated in the life of Jeremiah. In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah is in the midst of a horrific time from both a personal and national standpoint. Jerusalem is under siege by the Babylonians, and Jeremiah is watching the destruction of his land and people with his own eyes. He is witnessing the very national discipline that he so passionately warned the people would come if they did not turn back to God. The small children are faint from hunger, women are eating their young, and the youth have fallen by the vicious sword of the enemy. To “lament” means to “cry aloud,” and this is exactly what Jeremiah is doing throughout the book—crying out to God in the midst of severe pain.
In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah describes to God the depth of his hurt and the condition of his soul. Jeremiah is walking in darkness, his skin wasting away, his bones broken; he is besieged with bitterness and hardship. His chains are heavy, and even his prayers seem to fall on deaf ears. He feels as if the Lord is a lion that has torn him to pieces, an archer who has impaled his heart with fierce arrows. Consider the words of his lamentation:
Jeremiah’s suffering is so severe that he has lost all hope; his “soul … is bowed down” under the heavy weight of his thoughts. But then, in LAM 3:21, Jeremiah makes a deliberate decision to turn his thoughts from dwelling on the suffering surrounding him. He decides to remember instead the faithfulness of God. This results in an immediate change—not in the circumstances of Jeremiah’s life, but in the condition of his soul. He continues to lament, but his lamentations are ones of hope and assurance:
What an incredible difference the faithfulness of God makes in our life! But we must learn to take note of His faithfulness, and remember it when we feel like lamenting our current situation. Everything we know of God from the past should cause us to hope in Him for the present and for the future. Hope is a Person—the Person of Jesus Christ—and He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His faithfulness is as sure as the dawning of the day. His mercy, comfort, and love are renewed to us with every sunrise. The record of His faithfulness should be stored in the memory of our heart and pulled out as a mental scrapbook to give hope in times of trial.
Let’s see what this principle looks like in the life of a young woman named Mary:
We all know the beautiful story of the birth of Jesus Christ. God honored a young Jewish woman with the ministry of giving birth to the long-promised Messiah. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Mary in Luke 1, he repeatedly assured her of the working of God in her life to give her the grace necessary to wilfully surrender to this mission. The angel says, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you” (LUK 1:28). Mary expresses the confusion in her heart, and the angel replies, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God” (LUK 1:30). When she once again questions the miracle that is about to happen to her, the angel says, “Nothing will be impossible with God” (LUK 1:37). After this conversation, there is no doubt left in Mary’s heart. She willingly responds to this call to ministry with this heartfelt statement, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (LUK 1:38). Mary was all in!
Along with the privilege of giving birth to the Son of God, there would be a certain amount of shame from misunderstanding people who would question the validity of the virgin birth. But far beyond the shame would be the certain pain of raising your firstborn son to be crucified for the sins of the world. Mary was being called into ministry, and ministry involves sacrifice and suffering.
Mary was a student of God’s Word and an observer of God’s faithfulness. In her song of exaltation to God (LUK 1:46-55), she repeatedly expresses the mighty things God has done on behalf of His people. She recalls the history of His faithfulness to herself and to the nation of Israel. No doubt, like Jeremiah, she is pondering on the working of God in the past, and it is giving her strength for the future.
Aristotle said, “Memory is the scribe of the soul.” From this point forward, Mary begins to keep a soul-diary of the faithfulness of God in her life. In Luke 2, the shepherds came to worship the newborn Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem. They made known to Mary and Joseph the statement which the angels had told them about the Child; “... today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (LUK 2:11). “All who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (LUK 2:18-19).
There are two very important words in this verse. The first is the word “treasured up,” which is suntereo in the Greek. Suntereo means “to keep closely together” and, by implication, “to guard, to keep the eye upon, to keep from escaping.” The other word of importance is the word “pondering.” It is sumballo in the Greek and means “to consider” and, by application, “to personally aid.” This verse tells us so much about where Mary was spiritually—and where we should be spiritually. She was paying attention!
If we don’t pay attention to the faithfulness of God in our lives, then we have no way to build up the memories we need of His faithfulness. Mary is not only paying attention, but the verse indicates she is building a “treasure chest” of memories in her heart, writing a diary of God’s faithfulness for future reference. Later in the chapter, Simeon tells Mary and Joseph that the Child “is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul ...” (LUK 2:34-35). If you knew a sword would soon pierce your soul, it would be wise to prepare your soul for that piercing. This is just what Mary did.
At the end of Luke 2, we have the story of when Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem to study in the temple. When His mother finally found Him there, she asked why He had caused them so much worry by not accompanying the family on the trip home. Jesus said, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (LUK 2:49). Jesus was verbally declaring His commitment to the will of the Father for His life. Once again, “His mother treasured all these things in her heart” (LUK 2:51). Mary had a spiritual habit of “treasuring up” the manifestations of God in her life so she could properly understand His plan and have hope in times of trial.
When the inevitable time came for the Lord Jesus Christ to be nailed to a cross for the sins of the world, Mary was there. JOH 19:25 tells us that at the time of the crucifixion, His mother “stood” by the cross. The word “stood” is the Greek word histemi, meaning “to stand firm, to stand erect.” The crowd mocked, the disciples ran, the priests jeered, the soldiers cast their lots—but Mary stood!
This was the very time that Simeon had told her would come. This was the piercing of the sword into her motherly heart, but Mary was prepared to stand in this time of trial because she had built a treasure chest in her heart of God’s faithfulness. We know from ACT 1:14 that Mary continued on in the faith to the end of her life. When the newborn Church gathered together with one mind in prayer, Mary was there!
The day before my husband and I were moving back to America from Australia, I was walking along the ocean cliffs of Sydney with my daughter-in-law, Kristy. She was recently married to my son, Wil, and was all-aglow with love and admiration for her new husband. As we were walking along, we noticed a full rainbow forming across the Pacific Ocean. I said to Kristy, “that is the very direction we will be flying out for America tomorrow,” and I took encouragement from its promise. As we were marvelling at its beauty, a second full rainbow formed—just as radiant and colorful as the first! I said, “Kristy, there is one for each of us!”
There were many people on the cliffs and beaches of Sydney who saw those rainbows that day, but I am quite certain they were created and delivered from the hand of God just for me and Kristy! God deals with each of us in a very individual and determined manner. He knows the plans He has for each of us, and He knows that those plans will, at some point, involve suffering, trials, tests, and pain. Because God is faithful, He faithfully prepares us for such times. But like Mary, we must pay attention and build a reservoir in our soul of God’s Word and God’s faithfulness.
So, what’s in the treasure chest of your soul? Do you take note of prayers that God has answered? Blessings He has given? Needs He has filled? Do you remember promises He has kept and problems He has solved? I hope you do.
We may very soon find ourselves in a situation like Jeremiah—one of personal and national disaster. Even apart from that happening, we do not get through life without a sword piercing our soul from time to time. When those times come, remember the faithfulness of God to you in the past, and let it give you stability in the present and hope for the future! I’m pretty certain the sun will rise tomorrow morning; and when it does, we will receive a brand new portion of God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness. What a treasure!