Forgetting to Remember (Sermon)
2 Chronicles 30
I recently read about two elderly couples that were enjoying a friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, “Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?”
“Outstanding,” Fred replied. “They taught us all the latest psychological techniques – visualization, association – it’s made a big difference for me.”
“That’s great! What was the name of that clinic?”
Fred went blank. He thought and thought but couldn’t remember. Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?”
“You mean a rose?”
“Yes, that’s it!” He turned to his wife. “Rose, what was the name of that clinic?”
Sometimes forgetting is funny, but sometimes it’s not.
A local news station in Miami Florida reported on a birthday party that was held at Chuck E. Cheese. Friends and family were there to celebrate Michael Emmanuel, Jr’s sixth birthday. Here’s what the news report said. “The party itself went just fine. The problem came when it was over. All the children and adults climbed into three different vehicles and headed home. Everyone, that is, except Michael. Apparently, the 6-year-old returned to the play area, and when the party-goers departed, he was left behind. Employees found Michael wandering around the restaurant at 10 p.m. and called the police. Michael's mother had assumed that her son was staying with his grandmother, and didn't even realize he was missing until the next morning." [i]
Sometimes we can laugh about forgetting, but sometimes forgetting is dangerous. It could be dangerous:
to forget a pill you need to take,
to forget a candle that’s still burning,
to forget a burner that’s still lit,
to forget a door that should be locked.
As Christians, we are commanded to remember. Both Jesus (Rev. 3:3) and the apostle Paul (2 Tim. 2:8) issued commands to “remember”.
If we are to move forward, we must stop and look back. Remembering God’s work in the past produces faith for the future. In 2 Chronicles 30, we see both the danger of forgetting and the power of remembering.
Before we dive into this chapter, let me give you a brief rundown of where things stand in the nation of Israel. Basically, the nation is a mess. Years earlier, this once great nation divided into two separate nations, a northern kingdom (Israel) and a southern kingdom (Judah). Both kingdoms were plagued by kings that perverted the worship of the one true god and openly embraced idolatry. As judgment for their idolatry, God had sent the nation of Assyria to destroy the northern kingdom, sending them into exile.
Though things had not been much better in Judah, they were not yet exiled. In our account, a king named Hezekiah rules the nation of Judah. He is one of the good kings. In chapter 29, he cleaned out and repaired the temple. He brought back the priests and had them reinstitute worship in the temple.
Chapter 30, our focus this morning, is the account of Hezekiah reestablishing the yearly Passover celebration.
(2 Chronicles 30:1–8 ESV) Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem to keep the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel. For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had taken counsel to keep the Passover in the second month— for they could not keep it at that time because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient number, nor had the people assembled in Jerusalem— and the plan seemed right to the king and all the assembly. So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem, for they had not kept it as often as prescribed. So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the LORD God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you.
You can see what the spiritual condition has been like in Israel. Hezekiah begs the people to not be “faithless to the LORD” (v.7), and then to not be “stiff-necked” (obstinate, rebellious, v.8). Sadly, faithlessness (unbelief) and rebellion adequately described the nation for many generations.
What led the nation of Israel to widespread unbelief and rebellion? We could give many valid answers to that question, but this text highlights one factor we might easily overlook. Notice verse 5:
(2 Chronicles 30:5 ESV) So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem, for they had not kept it as often as prescribed.
They had not celebrated the Passover, and this was in part what led them to extensive unbelief. Now, let me clarify something. There was no transforming power inherent in the Passover celebration. It wasn’t some magical panacea that would keep their hearts from turning to idolatry. But the annual Passover feast was not a worthless ritual. God instituted it for a very important reason.
Passover has its roots early in Israel’s history. The account of the first Passover is recorded in Exodus chapter 12. Turn there in your Bible.
The nation of Israel was in captivity in Egypt. Oppressed and afflicted by a wicked Pharaoh, they begged God to deliver them. He heard their cries, raised up a deliverer named Moses and sent Moses to rescue His people. The rescue took place through 10 plagues that God brought upon Egypt. After the final plague, the Egyptians begged the Israelites to leave, even giving them all of the gold and jewels in Egypt on their way out.
Pharaoh had a change of heart and pursued the nation. God miraculously delivered them by dividing the Red Sea so they could walk through on dry ground. When the Egyptian army tried to follow, the walls of water caved and swallowed them up. From there, the nation of Israel began their journey to the land God had promised to give them.
Let’s go back to that final plague, the one that caused the Egyptians to say, “Go. Get out!” It was the death of the firstborn. God sent an angel to kill all of the firstborn in Egypt. The Israelites were given a way to protect their firstborn. They were to kill a lamb and spread the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their home. Look at verse 13 (of Exodus 12).
(Exodus 12:13 ESV) “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
Now look at God’s instruction in verse 14:
(Exodus 12:14 ESV) “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.”
Each year they were to celebrate God’s great salvation. The day God delivered them from slavery and death by the shed blood of a lamb was to be memorialized forever. Here’s the reason.
(Exodus 12:24–27 ESV) “You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’”
Remembering the Passover each year would help future generations place their trust in the one true God. The Passover was a yearly appointment to remember what God had done for His people. It was a yearly reminder to believe in His promises for the future. It was a yearly invitation to trust in His care.
Brothers and sisters, forgetting undercuts faith. When you forget what God has done and what God has promised to do in the future, you chisel away at the foundation of your faith. Forgetting what God has done and promised is the spiritual equivalent of taking a jackhammer to the footings of your faith.
Each one of should be wary of contracting spiritual amnesia. It’s a dangerous diagnosis. It’s dangerous because faith is not blind. Real faith rests on something. It rests on what God has done and what God has promised. When we forget that…when we can no longer remember His works, we are vulnerable to unbelief.
Both kingdoms (north and south), Israel and Judah, were eventually exiled. Listen to how the prophets describe the reason for their exile.
(Jeremiah 13:24–25 ESV) “I will scatter you like chaff driven by the wind from the desert. This is your lot, the portion I have measured out to you, declares the LORD, because you have forgotten me and trusted in lies.”
(Jeremiah 18:15, 17 ESV) “But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods…Like the east wind I will scatter them before the enemy.”
(Ezekiel 23:35 ESV) “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, you yourself must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring.”
There is tremendous danger in forgetting. God, all wise and knowing, instituted the Passover to help the nation remember who He was, what He had done and what He promised to do. Yet, His people ignored the Passover, forgot what He did and turned away from Him in unbelief and rebellion.
If forgetting undercuts faith (and it does), we could say that remembering undergirds faith. When we forget, we chisel away at faith’s foundation, but when we remember we place mighty stones and strong beams around the foundation. Remembering is a way of lending support to our faith. Remembering helps our faith stand against the mighty winds of difficulty and doubt.
We see it in our passage this morning. As they reinstituted the Passover, the people’s faith grew. As they remembered God’s work in the past, God worked in their hearts in the present.
(2 Chronicles 30:21–27 ESV) And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with all their might to the LORD. And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the LORD. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD, the God of their fathers. Then the whole assembly agreed together to keep the feast for another seven days. So they kept it for another seven days with gladness. For Hezekiah king of Judah gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep for offerings, and the princes gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep. And the priests consecrated themselves in great numbers. The whole assembly of Judah, and the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the sojourners who came out of the land of Israel, and the sojourners who lived in Judah, rejoiced. So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven.
What a difference remembering makes. As they remembered God’s great salvation and his future promises, they were moved to faith-filled worship and celebration. I love that they decided to do an extra week of Passover. They didn’t want to stop.
We see evidence (a few chapters later) that their faith was undergirded by remembering what God had done in the past. Turn to chapter 32. Sennacherib, king of Assyria, (the nation who had defeated the northern kingdom of Israel) invaded Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem. The people were getting scared, but look at what Hezekiah told them.
(2 Chronicles 32:7–8 ESV) “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
Where did Hezekiah’s faith come from in this situation? Why was he confident that God would fight their battle for them? He remembered that God had done it before. God had delivered Israel from the mighty Pharaoh and his army. Do you know how this siege ends?
(2 Chronicles 32:21 ESV) And the LORD sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria.
That sounds familiar. That sounds like a previous time in Israel’s history, when God sent an angel to deliver them from the hands of a pagan king.
Remembering God’s work in the past produces faith for the future. Hezekiah remembered God’s work in the past, and when his faith was assaulted it stood strong. His faith was supported and strengthened by those weeks of reflecting upon God’s faithfulness and power in the first Passover.
Let’s take a little time to consider how this applies to us. Hopefully, you’re convinced of the importance of remembering, and how remembering strengthens faith. If this example doesn’t convince you, do a search for remember in your Bible and read all of the times God commands His people to remember.
The most significant application comes when we consider what they were to remember. They were to remember the great works of God in the past and the great promises of God for the future.
We could picture the Passover celebration as a bridge from the past to the future. It was a bridge from past rescue to future rescue. The Passover looks back to the Exodus and also looks forward to the Cross.
Celebrating the Passover, the people of God would remember the lamb that was slain to rescue them from the Angel of Death, but they would also remember the promise of a future Lamb who would be slain to rescue them from eternal death. Just as God was faithful in the past to deliver them from slavery, He would also be faithful in the future to deliver them from sin.
Looking back at the Passover is a reminder to turn and look ahead for the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah wrote that the Messiah would come “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Is. 53:7). When the Messiah, Jesus Christ, appeared before John the Baptist, John said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The apostle Paul calls Jesus “our Passover Lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7). Peter reminds us that we were ransomed with the “precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18).
Looking back on God’s mighty work of deliverance would strengthen the Israelites faith in God’s marvelous promises of a future, fuller, more complete deliverance. God would work in the future just as He had in the past.
And God did. He sent the Lamb. He sent His Son to die for sinful men. Jesus Christ shed His blood so that God’s wrath would pass over us.
Friend, before we go any further, I want you to think about your own life. You are guilty of sin. I say that with confidence, not because I know the intimate details of your life, but because I know what God has said. He said that “all have sinned” and that “there is not one single righteous person”. He also said that the wages of sin is death. Your sin deserves and demands punishment. But He sent His Son as the Lamb to be slain so that your sin could be taken away. I urge you to repent of your sin and trust in Jesus’ death in your place. If you do so, God will apply Jesus’ blood to the doorposts of your life, and He will pass over you at the time of judgment.
The Lord’s Supper
Brothers and sisters, just as Israel was given a special time to remember what God had done in the past and what He had promised in the future, we too have been given such a time. In fact, it was during the Passover celebration that Jesus gave His disciples a new ceremony. Like the ceremony of old, its purpose was to prompt remembrance.
The Passover was based upon an old covenant and remembered the shed blood of animals, but the Lord’s Supper is based upon a new covenant and remembers the shed blood of God.
Jesus, the night before He died, broke a piece of bread and said, “This is my body broken for you. Do this to remember me.” He poured out a cup of wine and said, “This is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as you drink it, to remember me.”
Like the Israelites of old, we are prone to bouts of spiritual amnesia. We forget what Jesus has accomplished on the cross, and we forget what God promised for the future. We need to be reminded. We dare not forget.
The Passover was a bridge from the Exodus to the Cross, and the Lord’s Supper is a bridge from the first coming of Christ to the second. As Jesus instructed His disciples about the Lord’s Supper, He told them that the Supper proclaims His death until He comes.
Looking back gives us hope for the future. Looking back at His death for sin give us faith to trust in a final deliverance from sin. Looking back at His resurrection gives us faith to wait for His return.
We could say it this way: past grace assures us of future grace. His grace in the past (most notably in the cross) assures of His grace in the future. The apostle Paul said it this way:
(Romans 8:32 ESV) He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Hezekiah and the Israelites remembered His salvation and saw their faith strengthened for the day of opposition. Brothers and sisters, remember His salvation and see your faith strengthened.
Remember His grace in your failure.
Remember His strength in your weakness.
Remember His hope in your despair.
Remember His help in your need.
Remember His light in your darkness.
Remember His mercy in your sin.
Don’t forget to remember! Because remembering God’s work in the past produces faith for the future.
This sermon was originally preached at Redeemer Community Church in 2012.
[i] "Mother Forgets Child at 6th Birthday Party," CBS4.com (6-5-06).