Associate Professor of Biblical Studies (New Testament)

In our HDB, there is a poster giving tips on how to avoid the COVID-19 virus: “Wash your hands regularly; do not touch your face; wear a mask only if you are sick,” etc. And the last line says, “We will overcome this.” As a foreigner, I appreciate Singaporeans’ resilience. A few Taxi drivers have told me, “We survived SARS, we’ll get through this too.” As I hear them say that, I am reminded of the Bible’s repeated emphasis on remembrance.

First and foremost, God himself remembers. Of course, this is an anthropomorphic term, meaning biblical writers describing God in human terms for us to comprehend him. God isn’t a human who is plagued by forgetfulness; yet, the authors say that he doesn’t forget, or he remembers, for our benefit. After the great flood, for example, the Lord placed a sign in the heavens and said, “I will remember my covenant between me, you, and all the living beings – never again will I destroy all life with a single flood” (Gen 9:15; mine). The message is simple: regardless of how much damage a flood, a hurricane, a typhoon, or a tsunami causes, the entire world will not be destroyed by a single flood. Similarly, when Rachel was unable to conceive a baby, God remembered her as the daughter of the covenant (Gen 12:2–3) and enabled her to conceive children (Gen 30:22). As the flocks of Abraham and Lot multiplied, they didn’t have enough grazing space. So, Abraham and Lot decided to go separate ways. Lot chose the choicest land near Sodom and Gomorrah. When the people in those cities rebelled against God and he decided to destroy them, he remembered Lot and spared his life (Gen 19:29). Similarly, when the Egyptians oppressed Israelites and they cried out to God, he heard their groanings, remembered his people, and delivered them (Exod 2:24). God remembers his people; he doesn’t forget them.

Second, since God remembers, his children appeal to his remembrance in times of trouble. David, for example, says, “Remember your compassions and your mercies, O Lord – they are eternal. Do not, however, remember the sins and ignorance of my youth. By your mercy, remember me. You – in your own goodness – O Lord” (Psa 25:6–7, mine). Three times David calls for recollection or remembrance. He doesn’t want God to remember his volitional sins or sins done in ignorance. But he wants God to remember his own compassion, mercies, mercy, and goodness. Whereas David’s sins are young – implying temporariness and foolishness, God’s compassions and mercies are eternal, never ceasing. David basically wants God’s remembrance of his own attributes to overshadow his recollection of David’s sins. Other psalmists follow a similar pattern and appeal to God’s remembrance in times of trouble. Asaph sings, “O God, why have you rejected us forever? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed” (Psa 74:1–2, NIV, emphasis added). Since God remembers his covenant and his people, his people cry out to him to remember them in times of trouble.

Third, God’s people remember his faithfulness. When God rescued the Israelites from the oppressive Egypt, Moses commanded them: “Remember this day in which you came out of Egypt, the house of slavery. The Lord alone delivered you by stretching out his mighty hands to accomplish this” (Exod 13:3, mine). Moses had to instruct them to remember because people have poor memory. They soon forget their former days of pain. They become complacent and forget past suffering. Sometimes, they even forget God who rescued them. The danger to forget

God is so real that Paul instructs his young protégé, Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ” (2 Tim 2:8). People have short-term memories and Christians are no exception. So we must constantly exhort one another to remember God’s faithfulness – past, present, and future.

As the poster says, “We will overcome this.” There will be a remedy for this COVID-19 virus. Then, we’ll forget the turmoil we went through in these days, until of course another disaster strikes. Instead of waiting until then, we must constantly remember God’s faithfulness to us. Repeatedly he rescues us – from natural disasters, personal crisis, family turmoil, economic crisis, plagues, and diseases. We recall them and recite them. We repeat them to our families so that our children, nephews, and nieces grow up hearing of God’s faithfulness. And when we are plagued by fear and doubts, we cry out to God and ask him to remember his compassions, mercies, and goodness and to deliver us. With his everlasting love, we will overcome this COVID-19 crisis!

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