For eight years, noted Russian author and historian Alexander Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to exile in a Soviet labor camp. While there, his parents died, his wife divorced him, and a tumor was found on him that began the spread of cancer in his body. Under the weight of the unbearable burden, Solzhenitsyn saw no reason to keep living and continue to fight with his struggles. Solzhenitsyn dropped his shovel to the ground and sat down on a bench and waited for a guard to come beat him to death when he refused to go back to work. As he waited, an older prisoner walked by and could see the hopelessness in Solzhenitsynʼs eyes. Without saying a word, the older prisoner stooped down beside him with a stick and traced a cross in the dirt. The older prisoner then stood to his feet and went back to work. As Solzhenitsyn stared at the cross drawn in the dirt, he found hope and encouragement through a simple reminder that he had not been forgotten.
Recently, I was reviewing the life of Noah in scripture when the canvas of my heart was touched with strokes of reassurance in Genesis 8:1, “And God remembered Noah…” Similar words are recorded on several other occasions in scripture, and it is encouraging to me to note that each time these words were written about God, it came in a time of personal distress in the lives of His servants. One of manʼs greatest fears is being left all alone to face lifeʼs dilemmas, defeats, and desperations. Like the chief butler who “…did not…remember Joseph, but forgot him,” we fear God will abandon and forget us. When Samson was blinded as a consequence of his sin, he did not pray to regain his vision, he simply prayed, “God, remember me…” When Nehemiah saw the desecration of the Holy place, he cried, “remember me, O my God.” At the news that his days were numbered, Hezekiah cried out, “O Lord, remember (me)…” Each one made the incredible discovery that they were not forgotten, but were rather at the forefront of Godʼs mind. It is heartening to know that while the Lord looks over our lives, He never over-looks our lives! Just what does it mean to know “God remembered…” you?
“God remembered…” speaks of His awareness of our problems. In I Samuel 1, Hannah was so burdened with grief over not having a child, when she prayed, “…her lips moved, but her voice was not heard.” At the conclusion of her prayer, there was no audible voice from Heaven nor was there lightning bolts and thunder. But, verse 19 records, “…and the Lord remembered her.” The implication is not that God needed reminding of Hannahʼs grief, but rather that He was touched by it! When my children are hurting, their pain does not cause me to “remember” I am their father, but I do “remember” the depth of my love for them. Seventeenth century Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks once wrote, “A Christian is never out of the reach of Godʼs hand, so he is never out of the view of Godʼs eye.” When Job was buried beneath a mountain of sorrow, he stood on the fact in Job 23:10, “He knoweth the way that I take…” When David assessed all of his circumstances, he understood in Psalm 139:3, “Thou…art acquainted with all my ways.” Whether it be the hairs of our head or the tears that we shed, the Lord considers even our smallest details as treasured knowledge.
“God remembered…” speaks of His appointment with our problems. At the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, we are told in Genesis 19:29, “…God remembered Abraham…” Perhaps it was Abrahamʼs prayer or his faith, but the remembrance of Abraham resulted in Lot being rescued from the tragedy. The word “remembered” means “to mark for easy recognition and remembrance.” When there are sheep that the shepherd becomes particularly fond of, the shepherd will mark those sheep to enable him to quickly locate them when the flock becomes distressed. However, this marking can come in the form of a hot branding iron or a broken ear. Painful experiences earmark our lives with Divine notoriety. When Peter faced an extreme sifting of his life, he discovered the Lord had already walked through and prayed over his sifting before he got there. When the three Hebrew children were bound and tossed into the crucible of the furnace, the Lord was already waiting just inside the furnace door. As Stephen was being stoned to death, he saw the Lord already standing to receive him. That is why Hebrews 4:16 has the deeper meaning, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace…and find grace to help in the nick of time.” The arrival of difficulty and struggle merely serves to guarantee the simultaneous movement of the Lordʼs presence in our lives.
“God remembered…” speaks of His adequacy for our problems. In the flood of Genesis, from the time the rain began to fall until the day the ground was dry again, nearly a year, Noah received no recorded words from God. But, there is also no recorded panic in Noah. Genesis 8:1 perhaps records the secret why, “And God remembered Noah…” The second idea behind the word “remembered” is to erect a memorial. When we visit a cemetery where a loved one is laid to rest, it is customary to bring flowers to leave on the grave. We do so not to commemorate their death, but to honor their life and influence. Noah simply rested in the ark of Godʼs presence, and promises while God honored his life with blossoms of provision. When God remembers our lives, we do not always get what we want, but we do get exactly what we need. Perhaps Noah thought he needed sunshine after the rains. However, had God sent sunshine, Noah and all aboard the ark would have suffocated from the heat, humidity, and limited ventilation. But, when God remembered him, he was sent a wind that kept him cool, blew the waters back, and blew the animal stench away. It was just what he needed! The Lord will seldom explain our trials or remove our sorrows, but what He will do is fill them with Himself!
In the shadow of the cross of Jesus, the dying thief cried out in Luke 23:42, “Lord, remember me…” His solace and serenity in the face of difficulty came because of the reality of the cross in his life. Victorious lives are not those who avoid and escape the dilemmas of life. Victorious lives are those who face the dilemmas of life without becoming distracted from the shadow of the cross lying in their pathway. As long as you can still see the cross there is full assurance you will never be forgotten!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2008 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.