“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?
God does not and will not forget us
The bible leaves no doubt where this is concerned. We know that God forms us and knows us in the womb (Jer. 1:5). David wrote about how God knew his “sitting down and rising up”, understood his thoughts, his ways, and even what he was about to say (Ps. 139:2).
God explicitly reminds us in Isaiah that “I, the Lord, made you and I will not forget you” (Is. 44:21 NLT). He knows what we need before we even ask, and even knows how many hairs are on each of our heads (Matt. 6:8, Luke 13:7).
In other words, God doesn’t forget about us, even for a second, starting before we are conceived.
God didn’t ship Noah off on the ark, then put him on a back-burner for a year before suddenly remembering he existed. The Hebrew people didn’t slip His mind for over 400 years, then cause Him to go “whoops, forgot to deal with that!”. And He knew exactly why Hannah hadn’t conceived.
Why does God constantly reassure us of these things? I think it’s because He knows that we don’t know what He has planned for us and we can’t see as He does. So this is one of His ways to help us understand that He’s thinking of us constantly. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.
When we see a statement in the bible telling us that “God remembered”, it is meant to call our attention to His steadfastness—something we can point to when it FEELS like He’s forgotten us, when He’s been silent for a while.
And I don’t believe it’s an accident that we are shown His remembrance in many different types of situations…
It’s showcased in huge moments like saving Noah’s family in the flood that wiped out the rest of humanity. Many of the examples show His faithfulness to the covenants He made with the patriarchs, promises still valid and in effect today. In the New Testament, the only time this phrase is used is before His wrath is poured out on Babylon the Great.
So yes, He calls attention to big events. But it’s also humbling and awe-inspiring that two of the ten examples listed of God remembering (and acting) are simply a woman pouring out her heartbreak over her inability to conceive. The big moments and covenant keeping are critical. But He calls our attention to His faithfulness in personal crises as well, because He is both infinite and intimate.
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Bringing “remembrance with action” into our lives
While the focus of this study is on God remembering His people, it’s worth taking a moment to consider how zakar ayth (or the similar New Testament principle) applies in the lives of His chosen people as well.
What should WE be recalling to mind and taking action on? Why would God ensure these specific statements were included in the bible? We could never cover all of them, but here are a few key themes to dig into more in your personal study.
God’s people throughout the centuries have prayed for Him to remember them and take action on their behalf (zakar ayth), from Job to Hannah, Samson to Jeremiah, and many more. King David poured out his heart to God in the psalms, asking God to remember him mercifully and take compassion on him (Ps. 25:6-7, Ps. 143:5). Have you ever cried out to God and asked Him to remember you in this way?
We’re commanded to “remember (zakar ayth) the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” one of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:8). As we bring to our minds and actively follow God’s instructions on the Sabbath, this repetition week after week, year after year, should help deepen our understanding and ensure we are keeping His plan for mankind at the forefront of our minds.
Throughout much of Deuteronomy, Moses also tells Israel to remember (zakar ayth) everything God had done for them, what He did to Pharaoh, how He carried them through the wilderness. This wasn’t just so they would have fun stories to tell their kids. He knew that it was imperative that they keep God’s providence and the consequences of their past rebellions top-of-mind:
“Lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses…when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt…then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth’” (Deut. 8:12-17)
In a similar vein, King Solomon wraps up the book of Ecclesiastes by cautioning the reader to “remember (zakar ayth) your Creator [bring Him to the front of our minds and take action on that knowledge] in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come” (Eccl. 12:1).
For those of us in first-world countries especially, both Moses’ and Solomon’s words should be sobering warnings. In different words, both are telling us that we need to be careful not to “back burner” God while we are young, healthy, prosperous, or otherwise distracted with the cares of this life.
It’s a warning that we should daily zakar ayth—bring to our minds and act upon—the calling He has blessed us with, spending time with His word and building the godly character necessary for His plan to be fulfilled in us. And it should be a constant reminder that this world is not the end goal.
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The Feast of Trumpets…a remembrance or memorial of God’s future action
As I mentioned earlier, the word zakar means to bring to mind, remember, think on, or “to make a memorial”. It’s the root word for zikron, meaning memorial or remembrance, which is used in God’s commands for both the Passover (Ex. 12:14) and the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24).
These two holy days mark the start of the spring and fall harvest seasons—picturing God breaking the power this world has on humanity and reclaiming dominion, first redeeming His firstfruits and then eventually the whole world. The command for the Feast of Trumpets is very simple:
“In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation” (Lev. 23:24).
That phrase has always confused me a little, since it doesn’t ever say what the memorial is for, or what the trumpets are commemorating. A couple other translations help begin to deepen our understanding here, with the CJB saying “a day of complete rest for remembering”, and the NASB saying “a reminder by blowing of trumpets”.
Which still begs the question, a memorial or reminder of WHAT? Well, one phrase I heard recently really helped unlock the meaning further—“a memorial of a victory that is achieved through the blowing of trumpets”.
Starting to sound familiar??
The phrase translated “a memorial of blowing of trumpets” is zikron teruah, with teruah meaning a loud noise such as a great shout, battle cry, alarm, or trumpet blast. So zikron teruah is a remembrance or memorial of a great shout and/or trumpet blast.
It’s not a coincidence that this phrase is used in the story of the fall of Jericho as well, when the people shouted with one accord, the trumpets blasted, and the walls fell flat.
Every year at the Feast of Trumpets, we commemorate a FUTURE victory, an event that is accomplished by the blowing of trumpets and a loud shout. A victory that is so certain that we memorialize it in the centuries prior as though it has already happened.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thes. 4:16)
In Revelation, after six of the angels have sounded their trumpets, bringing absolute devastation on the earth, we’re told:
“Then the seventh angel sounded [the trumpet]: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and HE shall reign forever and ever!’” (Rev. 11:15)
The Feast of Trumpets pictures the end of this present evil age, which will crumble at the mighty shout that happens with the seventh angel’s trumpet blast. Jesus Christ and the resurrected firstfruits will come to put an end to humanity’s rebellion and begin a thousand-year reign of peace and renewal.
Tying back to where we started, the phrase “God remembered” is only used once in the New Testament, and it’s in the book of Revelation. Speaking of “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots”:
“’Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached [been heaped up] to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities’” (Rev. 18:14-15)
As we’ve seen, this phrase indicates God’s special focus preceding action. He will destroy the political, religious, and economic systems of this world, and with a trumpet blast and a loud shout, He will bring about another step in His plan for mankind—the one we memorialize every fall on the Feast of Trumpets.
The Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) pictures the ultimate final call to repentance (Rev. 14:6-11), which the world will vehemently reject. So God will then prove to mankind that there is absolutely no way they can save themselves without Him.
On this day we remember (zakar ayth) what God has done for us with the calling to eternal life, and we remember what this day pictures for all mankind—the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom and the opportunity to live in a world without Satan’s influence.
God remembers, and He acts. He remembers and acts (zakar ayth) when His people cry out to Him. He faithfully acts upon the covenants He made with His people through the centuries, and He always remembers and honors the promises He has given us through His word.