Wise King Solomon wrote, “There is a time for everything:
A time to be born and a time to die,
a time to tear down and a time to build up,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
He could have added one more:
There is a time to forget and a time to remember.
We cannot live in the past, but neither can we forget the past. The present is enriched by remembering the past. The future is shaped by our experiences in the past. This is what God says in His Word.
For many years the Israelites lived in Egypt as Pharaoh’s slaves. Then one day God appointed Moses to lead them out of Egypt to a land of their own. For 40 years Moses lived with these rebellious Jews in the wilderness and was their leader. Now it was time for Moses to die, and, under new leadership, Israel would move into the Promised Land where they would be free.
In some of his parting words, Moses told the Israelites to remember their days of slavery. They had been overworked and beaten. The Jews’ job was to make bricks. In the making of these bricks, they used straw. In the past, general laborers brought the straw to the place where the bricks were being made; but then there was a change. The Israelites were to get their own straw, but were required to make an equal number of bricks in the same time as before. “Do not reduce their quota,” was the order. If they did not make their quota, the slave masters would beat them.
Moses told the Israelites to learn from these terrible experiences. “Let what happened to you as slaves shape your future, as in the future you will have people working for you.” Hear his words:
“Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there.” (Deuteronomy 24:14f)
Just remember the difficult times of the past and learn from them. That was the message.
This is Memorial Day weekend. Remember, the freedoms we enjoy in America came at a great price. Always remember. I visited East Germany before the wall came down. The sad look on the children’s faces was heart-breaking. A mother told me the government had broken her son’s initiative to do his best in school. Whether you were an engineer or a person who swept the streets, your pay was the same. So the boy reasoned, “Why study?” The churches were either boarded up or used for some secular purpose. The wall separating east from west was the symbol of captivity. This could have been my plight if others in the past had not died for these freedoms America now enjoys, but takes for granted.
I learned from this experience how blessed we Americans are. We are free. Our children are happy. The youth have every opportunity in the world to move ahead with life, but all of this was not without a price.
My friend, Christian, died on the battle field of France so I might be politically free. My friend, Charlie, a man with five children and a wife at home, died in the Battle of the Bulge only a short time before the war ended. He sacrificed his life for this country. We had better remember these sacrifices, lest we take our freedom for granted.
I am a child of the great depression. Even as a child, these were not easy days. Many people were hungry and had no shelter or clothing. Today, as I remember the past, there is no question but that those days were good for me. It taught me the value of a dollar, and that is needed in an affluent society like ours. It tells me that it does not take a lot of money to be content. In fact, it reveals how wealth can play tricks with me and distort my understanding of life’s real meaning. Moses was right. Always remember the past. It can enrich the present and shape the future.
Remember those last days when a loved one was dying. A friend came by to hold your hand and shed a tear with you. How it helped! Do you remember how hurt you were when the next door neighbor didn’t even inquire as to how things were going, to say nothing about offering a helping hand? You learned from the experience. Now another person is living through these tough times. Will you be the sympathizing friend or the indifferent neighbor? Remember the past. It will direct your behavior today.
Remember how empty life was before you were a Christian? Your soul was filled with guilt. “How can I make up for all the wrong things I did?” was an important question. You lived with fear wondering how you would ever face those difficult times. There was little direction in making the big decisions of life, like raising children and having a good family life together. Then Christ became a part of your life. Through his suffering, death, and resurrection, He has atoned for your sins and assures you that, trusting Him, your guilt is taken away. His grace is sufficient for the difficult times. His Word directs your life as a parent or spouse. He has made all things new.
As you remember your life before you had a personal relationship with Christ, think of the people close to you who have yet to meet the Savior. Does this not motivate you to share your Savior with them? Shouldn’t you at least offer them the new life that can be theirs in Christ Jesus?
On this Memorial Day weekend, take some time to look back in your life and write down five experiences or five people who have made a difference in your life. Then follow God’s Word and let these experiences or people enrich your presentnand shape your future in blessing someone else. Amen.