“And God remembered Noah…”
– Genesis 8:1
God does not forget like we forget, but He does remember.
Once a year my wife and I fly from our home in Nevada to visit my parents in New Jersey. When the visit is over, we fly back home. The trip takes about five hours. If the flight is during the day, I like to look out the window to see where we are. Below I see cities and towns and the Appalachian mountains. Later I see the Mississippi river, then the plains, followed by the Rocky Mountains. But when the canyonlands of the southwest come into view, I know soon the pilot will remember to adjust the controls to begin our descent. It was always the pilot’s intention to land the aircraft at our destination, but first he had to fly the plane at cruising altitude for a while before he put that plan into action. It would have been useless to ask the pilot to land the plane early, for then we would not have arrived at our intended destination. In the same way, some time must elapse before God “remembers” and acts to begin a new phase of His plan.
In Genesis 7, God sent the flood to destroy all life on the earth except for Noah and those with him on the ark. For forty days and nights, the floodwaters increased until they covered everything. But it was never God’s plan for the human race to live on a permanent cruise. When the 40 days were over, God remembered Noah by turning off the heavenly spigots so the waters could begin to recede. God said earlier the rain would last for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:4), and in the fullness of time, He acted to save Noah.
God remembered other people in the Bible, and every time He remembered, He acted in some way to change their circumstance…
- In Genesis 19:29, He remembered Abraham by saving Lot. In the previous chapter, the patriarch reasoned with God to save his brother from the doomed city of Sodom. When God did so, He acted by sending His angels to bring Lot, his wife and daughters out of the city before it was destroyed. So God remembered Abraham.
- In Genesis 30:22, God remembered Rachel. Like the other wives of the patriarchs, Rachel was barren. But in God’s perfect time, He acted to enable her to conceive. Earlier in Genesis 21:1, God “visited” Sarah to enable her to conceive, which is another way of saying He remembered her. God also remembered Hannah the same way in 1 Samuel 1:19, 2:21.
- In Exodus 2:24, God remembered His people suffering in Egyptian slavery. God had told Abraham his descendants would be slaves in Egypt for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13), but only at the end of the four hundred years did He deliver them from their oppressors.
- In Luke 1:72, Zechariah gave praise to God for remembering His people by sending Jesus to save them. Hundreds, even thousands, of years had passed since God promised to send a Savior, and in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4), He acted to do so.
In each of these examples, God’s people were going through a difficult phase of life. Those who knew the character of God waited patiently for Him, trusting in His wisdom and timing. When we call on God to remember us in our suffering, it is not because we think He has forgotten us (…at least we shouldn’t think that way), but because we desire Him to act now on our behalf. Before He acts, we wait patiently for Him to remember us. But whether we trust Him or not, He will do so and bring us into a new and better phase of life. For a time, life is hard, then God makes it better. Knowing God remembers is the basis of our work and prayers of faith.
For God is not unrighteous, so as to forget your work and the labor of love which you showed toward his name, in that you served the saints, and still do serve them.
– Hebrews 6:10
God does not always act in ways that are beneficial to us. If we rebel against God, He allows it to go on for a time to give us ample opportunity to repent. Just as when God remembers for good, there can be a long period of time before He acts to repay our evil, but eventually He does so if we remain stubborn and refuse to repent.
- In Jeremiah 14:10-12, after hundreds of years of repeated warnings, God remembered the sin and idolatry of His people and acted to punish them.
- On a much larger scale, God will soon remember “Babylon”, the great anti-God world system (Revelation 16:19, 18:5). At that time, He will cause her to drink to the dregs the full cup of His wrath.
For good or for evil, you can count on the fact that God always remembers. One of the differences between the righteous and the wicked is that the righteous know God remembers, so when they sin (for everyone sins), they repent, seek forgiveness, and trust in His mercy and forgiveness. But the wicked don’t know God remembers. They continue in sin because they’re unaware of the consequences of their rebellion. They don’t believe God will pay them back for their actions.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
– 2 Corinthians 5:10
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
– Revelation 20:11-15
This is why, in the book of Acts, the need for salvation in Jesus focused on the final judgment rather than where people would spend eternity. The roads to both heaven and hell go through the judgment seat of Christ.
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
– Acts 17:30-31
Of course, everybody sins. Everybody does things that offend God. If God were to remember our sins, we would have no hope. (“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” – Psalm 130:3) But God has provided a way for sins to be forgotten for those who humble themselves and repent. This Way is based solely on God’s remembering Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice. Jesus’ death on the cross is the sole means by which God forgets our sins.
You can use this fact to your advantage. You now have a choice as to how God will remember you. He can remember you for good, or He can remember you for evil. He can remember you for eternal life, or remember you for eternal torment. Billions of people have gone to hell when they didn’t have to. It takes virtually nothing on your part for Him to remember you for life. All you need to do is humble yourself before Him, repent and put your trust in Jesus, and God will remember you for life. I strongly recommend you choose life.
“…he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
– Acts 10:42-43
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will by no means remember any longer.
– Hebrews 8:12