Be Stirred, Not Shaken

"We ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled..." ~ II Thes. 2:2 *** "But stir up the gift of God that is within you by the laying on of hands..." ~ II Tim. 1:6

Passover Ceremony Themes: The Bread

Recently I found some of my notes from keeping the Passover as a small group a few years ago.  Rather than the very formal and consistent script that many of the corporate churches of God (COGs) use for Passover, the smaller groups often have a more interactive meeting where multiple people share speaking roles.

This post is adapted from my notes when I presented the portion of the service around the meaning of the Passover bread one year.  While a bit more perfunctory than many studies on the site, these are good themes to re-visit as we prepare for the Passover every year, and may be helpful for those keeping it in small, interactive groups.

If you want to download my speaking notes for your Passover night meeting, you can find that here: Passover Night Service: The Bread.  Also, here is a similar post on the Passover wine.

Themes of Keeping the Passover – Meaning of the Bread

During His ministry, Jesus Christ was already priming the disciples for His eventual institution of new Passover symbols.  We’ll start in John, where He said:

“I am the bread of life…the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world…Most assuredly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you…He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:48-56)

At the time, this was a hard and confusing statement, and it wasn’t until after their last Passover with Christ and His sacrifice that the disciples connected the dots.

Something that is often on my mind at this time of year is how we’ve historically approached deleavening.  (I realize we’re talking the Passover so this feels like a tangent, but stick with me here…)

In the past, so much of the way we’ve de-leavened was about us putting leaven (sin) out.  Sticking the vacuum back behind the stove, air canister-ing our toaster, obsessively reading food labels.

But we can’t put sin out of our lives by ourselves.  Not one iota.  So if we’re approaching “de-leavening” that way, it’s hypocritical and pharisaical, and kind of missing the point.

As a result, we’ve sometimes co-opted the Days of Unleavened Bread into a time focused on ourselves and what we’re trying to put OUT of our lives, rather than orienting around taking IN Christ—the Bread of Life.

Book Reco: “You’ll Get Through This: Hope & Help for Your Turbulent Times” by Max Lucado

Every so often, when we come across a book that we find spiritually educational or inspiring, we’ll share it here in case it’s valuable for others.  I really didn’t know how I’d feel about ‘You’ll Get Through This‘, if I’m being honest.  I don’t often gravitate toward this type of book, and thought it might be a bit melodramatic for where I was in life.  But I really loved it.

A brief overview of “You’ll Get Through This”

Subtitled “Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times”, Lucado blends (short) personal and historical anecdotes with bible scripture, punchy analogies, and questions (with encouraging answers) that examine topics such as patience, anger, forgiveness, trials and testing, family, grief, our perception of God’s involvement, resilience…and ultimately whether we (truly, deep-down) believe God is “good” in both good times AND bad.

Whether we’ve been hit with sudden trials, are dealing with childhood hurts, experiencing one of those “low” periods in life, or simply struggling to process the stress of the world around us day-to-day, this book helps us consider how we react (to circumstances, and to God) and how we move forward.

And it does so in a way that is both encouraging yet realistic.  It doesn’t offer trite platitudes or hit you with guilt trips.  At its heart it focuses on and helps us analyze our perspective, but not in a way that minimizes the pain, stress, loneliness, or anger we may be feeling.

Max Lucado's "You'll Get Through This", offering biblical encouragement, personal & historical stories, & helpful analogies as an examination of how we handle challenging times

FYI, this post contains Amazon affiliate links. We site may earn a small commission from any qualifying purchases through clicks on these links (which we greatly appreciate & at no extra cost to you!)…these help with the cost of running the site. 

Woven through the entire book is an examination of Joseph’s story in the bible.  Lucado really brings the young Hebrew’s experience into detailed focus in a way that modern readers can connect to and compare to their own experiences.  Betrayed by someone we trusted?  Check.  Blamed for something we didn’t do?  Check.  In a long period of struggle with no end in sight?  Check.  Got our hopes up but the person never came through?  Check.

As each chapter’s theme is explored, we gain perspective into how Joseph experienced different events (bad and good) in real-time and what he may have been feeling or thinking.  And then pulling back from the narrative to see the bigger picture of how God was working with Joseph every step of the way, and how He ultimately used everything that was “meant for evil, for good instead” (Gen. 50:20, paraphrase).

How does God use challenging circumstances in our development, and how do we perceive Him during trials?  What do we do when God fails to meet our expectations, or crosses a line we drew in the sand?  How are we supposed to have an “attitude of gratitude” when it’s hard to feel thankful?  How do I truly trust that God knows what He’s doing?  The 150-page book asks these questions, and more.

For such an easy read, there is a lot of substance here.  I found that reading a chapter a few times a week after doing my daily bible reading only took about 5-10 minutes, and put me in a really positive and reflective mindset as I headed into my work day!

The Meaning of Ps. 37:7 “Rest in the Lord, & wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37 Study – Part 6)

“It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. 3:26)

This is the last part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for resisting the envy and anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to other people or struggling with, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into 6 individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading the other sections and this one (linked at the end). 

What does it mean to rest in the Lord?

Finally we examine Psalm 37 verse 7:

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him”

Perhaps the most difficult part in Psalm 37, the hardest thing asked of us, is to rest and wait patiently for God…particularly when we’re “fretting” (worked up) about something.

Or maybe that’s just me??  And I think to some extent, the order of these commands in this passage of Psalm 37 is important because they help us build up to this.

You’re working on trusting God and doing good, abiding in Him and consuming His word, finding delight in His commands, entrusting your whole self, life, and worries to Him…and now He says to rest and wait.

The word for “rest” here means to stop, be still, and be silent.  God is telling us that in order to succeed, we must turn down both the speed and volume of our lives.  That, in order to be attuned to His will and the way He’s working in our lives, we must be better at tuning *out* the world.

Do you sometimes lie in bed with your mind racing, maybe stewing over a co-worker getting credit for something you did, or thinking of something you should have said in response to a criticism?  You toss and turn, running over it in your mind, unable to sleep.  King David sure seemed to struggle with this, and his advice was to “meditate [on God’s word] within your heart on your bed and be still” (Ps. 4:4).  In other words, we must re-orient our focus toward God.

God’s sabbath plays an important role in this idea of resting in the Lord.  On the seventh day of every week, He commands us to stop what we’re doing, step back from the frenetic pace of our lives, and place our attention on Him.  Our core spiritual tools of prayer, bible study, meditation, and fasting are also geared toward helping us shift our focus away from the noise of the world, and toward God’s voice.

After accomplishing some astounding things in God’s name, the prophet Elijah was having a self-pity party out in the wilderness.  He railed at God, as he experienced perhaps his lowest moment physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  And God made a point.  He battered and wowed Elijah through a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire.  But none of those gave Elijah what he was looking for (I Kings 19:12).

Finally He came to Elijah with a “still, small voice” (NIV says “delicate whisper”).  God explained that things weren’t as bad as Elijah feared, and encouraged him with the news that God had been working behind the scenes with thousands of faithful followers (which Elijah had no clue about), preparing them for what was to come.

Despite all God’s miracles and Elijah’s role in accomplishing them, he had temporarily lost his focus on God, taken his “eyes off the prize”…and as a result, he got caught up in the discouragement, isolation, and hopelessness he felt in the world around him.

How often are we like Elijah, fixing our eyes and ears (and our minds and our time) on the circumstances around us, anywhere but on God??

When the world around us gets loud, God speaks in that still, small voice.  Can you hear God when He whispers to you?  Do you know how to “turn down” the speed and noise—in the world, and in your own mind?  Or do you lean into the distractions, filling every spare moment with anything *but* spending time with God?

We should be able to identify when we’re worked up (“fretting”), and consciously work on calming our minds.  This requires focus and discipline, yanking on the ”leash” of our thoughts when they run down a well-worn path, refusing to allow ourselves to dwell constantly on whatever is upsetting us.

What’s your first instinct when you’re worked up about something?  Is it to go to God and place it in His hands (“roll your burden upon Him”, as we saw in the previous study)?  And if so, what comes next?

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10)

What does it look like to “wait on the Lord”?

So, hopefully we’re working on “turning down” the noise of the world around us and being more attuned when God whispers.  How should we then apply the idea of waiting patiently for God?

The word used here for “wait patiently” (chul, H2342), gives us a richer understanding of what’s being asked of us.  It can imply many things, but in this case we should think of it as being firm and strong, enduring and prospering.

The Meaning of Ps. 37:5 “Commit your way to the Lord & He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37 Study – Part 5)

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be shaken” (Ps. 55:22)

This is the fifth part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for combatting the envy and anxiety that results from comparing ourselves to other people or asking, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading this and the other sections (linked at the end). 

Next we look at Psalm 37 verse 5:

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass”

The word for “commit” is interesting, a root word where the literal translation is very broad and figurative, and the word translated “your way” is basically your road, path, mode of action, or course of life.

The way we can understand “commit” in this case is “to roll yourself upon,” like a burden is rolled onto a kneeling camel to be carried away—completely relieving you of that burden and carrying it for you.

We can think about this “burden” we roll onto the God in a couple different ways, one more outward and one more inward:

  • Your “road” – your choices, actions, plans, what happens to you, the direction your life takes
  • Yourself – your health, needs and wishes, thoughts, emotions, heart, spirit

What it means to commit yourself to God

It’s worth asking, have you committed your “course of life” to God, placed yourself body, mind, and heart FULLY into His hands?

Committing yourself that completely takes an immense amount of trust!  And let’s be honest, no one gets it right all the time because we’re all human (I mean, look at how King David handled the Bathsheba/Uriah mess…and he was a “man after God’s own heart!”).  But it should be something we consciously think about and strive for.

It’s interesting to note that the main other way that “commit” is used heavily throughout the bible is to commit adultery, fornication, or (more broadly) sin or iniquity.  It’s the same idea of giving your whole self to something—body, heart, and mind.  We commit or give ourselves to God or to the world, but it can’t be both (Matt. 6:24).

James continues this idea of “rolling our burden upon” God and entrusting our path to Him:

“Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that at the right time He may lift you up. Throw all your anxieties [NKJV “cast your cares”] upon Him, because He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:6-7; CJB).

The Adam Clarke commentary notes that when it says “He cares for you”, what we’re really being told is that “He meddles or concerns Himself with the things that interest you”.  To me, this idea helps it feel even more active and tangible, more real.

And if we believe that what God says there is true—that He concerns Himself with the things that we care about—then that is an incredibly comforting statement!

So the question is, do you believe that?  And if so, how does that change your perspective on the things you’re struggling with?  Have you handed over your worries, fears, struggles, and desperate hopes to your Almighty Father?

This segues nicely into how we can think about the second part of Psalm 37:5, where it tells us that if we commit our way to the Lord, “He shall bring it to pass”, or as the CJB says, “He will act”.

“I will act”:  Do you trust that God will make the right choices?

That seems like a ridiculous question, and it kind of is.  But it starts to get at the heart of our anxieties, and whether we truly trust God (as we explored in part 2).

God tells us that His word “shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please” (Is. 55:1).  He takes an active role in the lives of His people.  God doesn’t have “oopsies”, and nothing happens without His knowledge and permission.

Here are just a few of the many scriptures we can read to remind us of how God views His role in our lives:

  • “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11)
  • “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose…if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:28, 31)
  • “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matt. 10:29-31)

Where we struggle, though, is that our expectations and timing don’t align with His, because we can’t see the “long game” the way He can.  When it says “He will act”, that is not a promise that we will get everything we want, when we want it.

It IS a promise that He is in control, that He knows what we hope for, that He wants amazing things for us, and that “He will act”.  That’s pretty awesome.

So it’s worth coming back to as we wrap up this section…have you committed your “way” to God?  What do you dedicate your time, energy, and thoughts towards?  What burdens are you trying to lug around yourself?  Do you trust God to act on your behalf and direct the course of your life?

“Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” (Prov. 16:3, AMP)

Finally we’ll look at Ps. 37:7…”Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”

Here are the other studies in this series (this is the fifth):

The meaning of Ps. 37:5 "Commit your way to the Lord, & He shall act" | Placing the course of your life & the burdens you carry into God’s hands., what that trust really looks like. Have you TRULY handed over your hopes, fears, struggles, & desires to Him? Psalm 37 study part 5

Ps. 55:22 cast your burdens on the Lord & He will sustain you | Examining the meaning of Ps. 37:5 "Commit your way to the Lord, & He shall act" | Placing the course of your life & the burdens you carry into God’s hands., what that trust really looks like.

What Ps. 37:4 Means: “Delight in the Lord, & He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37 Study – Part 4)

This is the fourth part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for combatting the envy & anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to other people or asking, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading this & the other sections (linked at the end). 

Continuing on to Psalm 37 verse 4, we’re told:

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart”

What does it mean to delight yourself in the Lord? 

That question is a logical place to start.  And for that matter, what does it mean to “delight in” anything??

“Delight” is not a word we use quite as much today, though honestly it’s one that I love.  Some other ways of thinking about this…what do you take great pleasure in, what brings you joy?

What brings contentment to your heart and satisfies your soul?  Can you honestly say that you find enjoyment in God’s commands?  This contentment and satisfaction also builds upon the previous verse’s idea of feeding on faithfulness.

Part of why I love the word “delight” rather than the tamer “happiness” is that it evokes a sense of joy and even childlike or innocent wonder.  It’s also a verb, indicating an active choice to take delight, rather than a passive feeling or reaction.  (There’s that theme of taking action again…)

According to Rhonda Stoppe from Bible Study Tools, “True delight in Him causes us to take our sights off of what we want in order to long for what He desires.”  Now, this doesn’t mean that God will automatically give you that new car you’ve been wanting—this isn’t about a prosperity gospel.

Instead, “The idea behind this verse and others like it is that, when we truly rejoice or ‘delight’ in the eternal things of God, our desires will begin to parallel His and we will never go unfulfilled.”  (link to study on Ps. 20:4 about God fulfilling all your heart’s desires)

What It Means to “Dwell in the land & feed on His faithfulness” (Psalm 37 Study – Part 3)

“You have been a shelter…I will abide in Your tabernacle forever” (Ps. 61:3-4)

This is the third part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for combatting the envy and anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to other people or asking, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading this and the other sections (linked at the end). 

Putting down roots in the land God provides

Let’s pick up where we left off in part 2, with the second half of Ps. 37:3:

Trust in the Lord, and do good…Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness

The second part of verse 3 tells us that if we put our trust in God, He will provide for us both physically and spiritually.  Shelter and food are two of the most fundamental needs of human life.

We’re told to “dwell” in the land He provides.  This word means to settle, permanently live, abide, inhabit, or rest.  Basically, to live and put down roots.  What is the land God has given us?  It’s being in relationship with Him, extended an offer of grace and forgiveness from our sins.

On the night before He was crucified, Jesus spent a long time talking with His disciples.  One of the teachings He gave was that He was the true vine and God the vinedresser, and that we were branches connected to the vine that needed to bear fruit.  He told His disciples:

“Abide [dwell, live] in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you” (John 15:2-6).

Can you truthfully say you abide in, or live with, God and Jesus Christ?  I don’t mean in some weird mystical way.  One way to think about this is being fully present, spending time with.  If you go back to that branch and vine metaphor earlier, the branches literally cannot survive without the vine’s nourishment.  If they get disconnected, they perish.

When we dwell in the land God has given us, we consider God and His way of life our home, and we’re not always looking around at society to see if the grass is greener.  The Israelites always displayed this attitude…*kiiiiind of* dwelling with God in the land He’d provided, but always casting an eye around at their pagan neighbors to see what they were missing out on.

You might also like:  FOMO: How to Derail Your Relationship with God

Taking a “cultivate faithfulness” mentality

The next part of the verse tells us to “feed on His faithfulness”.  While I love the NKJV translation of “feed on His faithfulness”, the Berean Study Bible’s translation also adds some nuance.  It says, “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness”.

This is interesting because it positions us not only as consumers of what God provides, but also as being accountable for actively planting, tending, and producing ourselves (with His help, of course). 

Meaning of Ps. 37:3 “Trust in the Lord and do good” (Psalm 37 Study – Part 2)

“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Ps. 56:3)

This is the second part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for combatting the envy and anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to other people or asking, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading this and the subsequent sections (linked at the end). 

What does Ps. 37:3 mean?

After David tells us not to get worked up when we see bad people get what we feel we deserve, his first instruction is to “trust in the Lord and do good” (Ps. 37:3).

What does it mean to trust God?

The word used here for “trust” means to be confident, secure, or “to hie for refuge” (which makes me laugh).

Ye Olde English aside, that last bit really helps flesh out something we can take away from this…like in Psalm 91 where it speaks of God as “my refuge and fortress”.  He should be what I look to for protection, and who I run to in times of trouble (like peasants running toward the castle walls when the barbarians attacked).

In other words, with my trust placed in God, I am certain of my protection and deliverance.  The word is used many times in the Old Testament, including dozens in the Psalms alone.  And so I have to ask myself, what makes me feel safe and secure?  How certain do you feel about things in your life right now?

Where is your center of gravity, the thing your world revolves around?  Is it in your 401k, or your ability to defend yourself (Ps. 49:6, 44:6)?  Is it in your own judgment, your career, the government, or even your family and friends (Prov. 28:26, Ps. 146:3, Ps. 41:9)?

What is your confidence in?  What is the one thing that, if it became shaky, would rock the foundations of your world?  If you don’t know the answer to that, it might be wise to take some time to reflect on it *before* you’re in a situation where you find out in real time and regret the answer.

“And do good”: The need for action

But we shouldn’t forget the rest of the phrase in Ps. 37:3.  We’re told to trust in the Lord and do good.  As with many of God’s commands, this isn’t only a mind exercise, but rather mind AND body.  Heart and action.

Psalm 37’s Message: A Prescription for the Diseases of Envy & Anxiety (Psalm 37 Study – Part 1)

The meaning of Psalm 37’s command to “Trust, Dwell, Delight, Commit, and Rest”

This is Part 1 (& a high-level summary) in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription to combatting the envy and anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to others, & helping process the question, “why do good things happen to bad people?”  For ease of reading we’ve split this very long study into individual parts, beginning with this and then linking to the subsequent sections at the end.

Do you fret often?  It feels strange even typing that, so let me rephrase:  do you get “worked up” when you see certain people thriving more than you are?  Especially if you think they’re not a good person, or they don’t work as hard as you, or they don’t follow God, or…fill in the blank?

The psalms are a fascinating book, written in poetic verse and covering topics ranging from praising God to Messianic prophecies to lamenting personal trials.  And because Proverbs tends to get the attention for practical life advice, we often forget that the Psalms have a ton of it as well.

Psalm 37 is a psalm of David, and he begins by telling us, “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 37:1).  Fret is a weird word to us in the modern world, and because of that I think we tend to miss what David is really trying to tell us here.

The word translated “fret” (charah, H2734) really means to grow warm, blaze up, be angry, or be incensed.  You know that sudden rush of heat and adrenaline you get when something happens to make you upset?  Your heart starts pounding, you get a kind of hot flash in your head.  That’s part of charah.

So in other words, what David is telling us here is not to get super upset or react intensely when we see people who don’t appear to deserve it get rewarded.  Throughout the psalm it really harps on these “evildoers” and “workers of iniquity” and how God’s people shouldn’t get fixated on what they do or don’t get in this physical life.

This isn’t just about “evildoers” in the truly evil sense (murderers and such), but the way we think about our neighbors, our coworkers, and more—whoever you look at and think “Why do things go right for them and not for me?” (or “Why don’t they get what they deserve?”).

The F.B. Meyer commentary summarizes this idea, noting that David is “grappling with the problem of the inequality of human life and the apparent failure of God to reward His servants and punish His enemies as they deserve”.

And honestly this idea is just so relatable.  It is a core part of human nature to look around and compare our lives to other people, which is a “wide, easy path to both envy and self-righteousness” (see our study on Comparison & Envy: The Key to Unhappiness).

And it leads to anxiety—focusing on other people instead of fixing our eyes on God.

You might also like:  A Practical Approach to Worry & Anxiety in the Bible

What does Psalm 37 tell us to do instead?

Right after warning us not to fret about those people (sure, easy to say!), David lays out his recommended approach:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;

Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Ps. 37:3-7)

When you skim through those verses, they sound really pretty but also a bit…vague.  Like, “Cool, David, love the vibe, but what do I DO with this???  On the surface for a modern reader, these platitudes and abstract commands mirror many other passages in Psalms and don’t seem to offer much practical help.

But once we dig into each command a little deeper, we see that these verses actually give us a clear five-part prescription for the diseases of anxiety and envy brought on by comparison, all having to do with how we relate to God: trust, dwell, delight, commit, and rest.

“God Remembered…”:  Our Father’s Faithfulness in Action, & Future Fulfillment in the Feast of Trumpets

Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.” (Gen. 8:1)

The verse above is just one of several passages where we’re told that “God remembered” one of His people, or a promise He had made.

And to us this may seem like a strange or disconcerting statement…does God forget about us from time to time, we might ask?  You know, He has a lot on His plate, many people have bigger problems, and maybe He “back-burners” us?

Or, maybe we read that kind of statement and just gloss over it as one of those weird old-timey language things in the bible that doesn’t translate in quite the same way today.

We’re used to humans forgetting things, it’s just in our nature.  Some of us forget facts and knowledge, others can’t remember names or birthdays, and most of us get distracted mid-task and forget what we were doing.

So we may read a verse that tells us “God remembered” someone and accidentally take away an idea about the nature of God that isn’t accurate, or dismiss the statement as an irrelevant ancient turn of phrase.  And in both cases we’d be missing something powerful.

Bible verses about God remembering

The statement “God remembered” (or Him stating “I will remember”) is a common theme through the Old Testament…here are the key passages, including one from the New Testament:

  • Gen. 8:1 – “Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.”
  • Gen.  9:15 – “(book-ending Noah’s story)…And I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh”
  • Gen. 19:29 – “And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow”
  • Gen. 30:22 – “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb”
  • Ex. 2:23-25 – “Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and with Jacob
  • Lev. 26:42 – (telling of future events)“…then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac, and my covenant with Abraham will I remember; I will remember the land
  • Ex. 6:5 – “And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant
  • I Sam. 1:19 “…And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her” (she had been crying out in anguish for a child)
  • Ezek. 16:60 – “Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth”
  • Rev. 18:15 “(of Babylon the Great) For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities

It’s a lot!  This could be quite distressing if we believed this meant that God had forgotten and then remembered in all these examples.  But this phrase is a good example of where the English translation is a pale depiction of the Hebrew word’s intent.  So what does this actually mean?

Zakar ayth:  to bring to mind and act

In all those examples in the Old Testament, the word used is zakar (H2142), and specifically the compound phrase zakar ayth (H2142, H853).

Zakar means to bring to mind or recall, to remember, mention, recount, or think on.  It also means “to make a memorial” (more on that later).  It’s used a couple hundred times in the Old Testament, but only about 50+ of those include “ayth”.

Ayth is additive, used thousands of times in the bible, and basically provides a sense of entity, indicating the self and adding emphasis to what’s being remembered.  I’m not a Hebrew scholar in any sense, but the way that I think of is like “recalled to Himself” or “brought to His mind”.

Specifically, this “remembering” precedes acting on someone’s behalf—remembering with a purpose or intent.  It’s remembrance as a full-being activity, using mind and body rather than a simple head exercise.  When applied to God, it’s usually in response to a commitment He had previously made (Ps. 105:42, Ex. 6:5), or to the longing and pleading of His people (Gen. 30:22, I Sam. 1:19).

So we’re not talking “remembering” that’s simply the retention of information, the way you remember your spouse’s birthday, the family pancake recipe, or every lyric to “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

It’s not simply recollection or not-forgetting, like when you remember to pick up milk on the way home or remember that you’d promised to call a friend.

Instead, zakar ayth calls our attention to how God focuses on something or someone in a way that entails action or response.  When we’re told that “God remembered” in the bible, it’s to showcase an example of God’s consistent faithfulness to His chosen people…through ACTING on His promises.

So let’s go back to the original question…does God occasionally forget about us?

Why & How Does God Use the Number 40 in the Bible? 

The lens of periods of 40 in the bible & what God is accomplishing on our wilderness journey

We recently explored the theme of wilderness in the bible, and how—for God’s people—the wilderness symbolizes the spiritual challenges we face as we do our best to navigate life in this carnal world.

Specifically, we talked about how people often associate the idea of a spiritual wilderness only with harsh, debilitating times of trial—but instead we should view our entire journey through this life as a journey through the wilderness.  Sometimes it’s lush pasture, other times barren desert, but always a place where God is guiding us with a purpose.

In fact, the only way to reach the Promised Land lies through the wilderness.  It’s where God calls His people to begin their journey, out of this present carnal world (represented by Egypt) to a place of preparation for the world to come.  It’s also where He reveals more of Himself and His ways, and teaches us how to fully rely on Him to provide.

And while our focus is on reaching the Promised Land of God’s eternal kingdom, we must remember that the experiences we have on the way are critical to our spiritual growth, key to reaching the destination itself.  Even the Hebrew word for wilderness (midbar) implies momentum, driving forward, and a journey with a purpose.

God is accomplishing something in us as we journey through the wilderness, and we have to surrender to Him fully, and trust that He is leading us in the right direction.  And this brings us to one really interesting thematic connection to the wilderness that I couldn’t dig into in the other study, but did want to explore further—how God uses the number 40 in the bible.

This isn’t getting into mystical numerology or anything like that, but God does use certain numbers symbolically throughout His word, and we’d be wise to pause and consider what lessons we can glean.  This study may seem quite long, but each of the examples can be read on their own, a little at a time.

What is the significance of the number 40 in the bible?

The number “40” in the bible appears to be connected to many of the same themes as we saw with the idea of wilderness, and the more I dig into the nuances, I really see the wilderness and the number 40 as two sides of the same coin.  We often see wilderness experiences (literal or symbolic) timebound by periods of 40…days, years, etc.

These shared themes include periods of significant trial or testing, or sometimes punishment for rebelling against God.  Some examples focus on the teaching and preparation of God’s chosen leaders.  And in many examples the number 40 shows how God is redeeming His people from the world, bringing a time of restoration and renewal.

In other words, these are all facets of how God is bringing His people out of (spiritual) bondage, through the wilderness (of this physical life), and eventually into the (eternal) Promised Land.  They showcase examples of God’s intent and direction in His people’s lives.

The number 40 in the bible appears to symbolize completion and accomplishment of God’s purpose, but in more of a physical sense (whereas the number 7 is more about Godly perfection and completion).  It is sometimes 40 years, though often a period of 40 days and nights—a person’s or nation’s success in completing the 40 days/years requires humility, trust in God’s promises, and reliance on Him to sustain.

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