In the darkness and difficulty that have been 2020, where is God? In our individual and collective suffering, has He forgotten us? While writing God Remembered: Reflections on Faithfulness last week, it struck me that the ultimate demonstration of God remembering was the sending of Jesus, God in flesh, to the earth to bring deliverance from sin. Especially this Christmas season, what a gift it is to know that God has not forgotten us!
God Has Not Forgotten
Just like the Israelites’ long wait for deliverance from slavery in Egypt (which I detailed in my last post), the world has suffered for millennia under the devastating effects of sin. Ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, humanity has been beset with selfishness, pride, betrayal, violence, abuse, pain, grief, and loss. Yet God has not forgotten the world He created, as some think, setting it in motion and then busying himself with other affairs.
The Plan for a Messiah
God’s plan of redemption has been there from the very beginning, intricately woven through the lives and times of the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Kings, and the commoners throughout history who sought the Lord.
Beginning with the Patriarchs
When sin entered the perfect world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God promised enmity between the serpent (the devil) and Eve, between his offspring and hers. Foretelling the coming Messiah in his curse of the serpent, God said, “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:14-15).
Generations later, God chose Abraham, calling him out of an idolatrous people, making a covenant with him and promising, “I will make you into a great nation,” and “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
As He promised, God delivered Abraham’s descendants from slavery in Egypt. He settled them in the land of Canaan after wiping out the nations whose sin was too grievous to allow it to continue (child sacrifice, among others—see Leviticus 18, specifically verses 21 and 24-28).
To guide the Israelites in their new land, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law. Obedience to this Law, and God’s presence with His people, set them apart from other nations, holy to God, so they could “live long in the land that the Lord swore to [their] forefathers to give to them and their descendants….” (Deuteronomy 11:9).
Continuing to the Kings and Prophets
Though Almighty God was their king, the Israelites eventually begged for a human king like other nations. When the first king (Saul) failed to follow the the prophet Samuel’s directions, the Lord chose David, “a man after God’s own heart,” to lead his people. Through David and his descendants, the Lord established the lineage of the promised Messiah: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).
Unfortunately, most of the succeeding kings were not good, and the people turned to idolatry again and again, and God’s plan of blessing for his people was not realized.
Throughout the history of Israel’s kingdoms and exiles, God sent prophets, constantly speaking words of warning, punishment, and forgiveness to the people. “Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin. But he took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented” (Psalm 106:43-45). Eventually, a remnant was brought back to the land of Israel.
Then there was the 400 years of silence, when prophets ceased appearing. For all those centuries, God’s people lived without any new revelation of His word.
Finally Revealed to Commoners
And finally, at just the right time, quietly and humbly, the long-promised Savior appeared. Born to a virgin, in a stable (or a cave)—not in a palace—and announced only to lowly, dirty shepherds, he was hunted by a greedy, insecure King Herod, so that His family had to flee in the middle of the night to escape the massacre.
As an adult, this Jesus of Nazareth spent three years teaching and performing miracles. He challenged religious leaders’ view of righteousness while revealing God in the flesh to common, humble people with eyes to see. Described by the prophet Isaiah as “despised and rejected of men,” this unlikely Messiah was scorned, challenged, and finally crucified by His own people to whom He was sent.
Yet three days later, astounding both His adversaries and his followers, Jesus rose from the grave, defeating sin and death forever.
All that selfishness, pride, betrayal, violence, pain, grief, and loss that plagues every culture on earth? A way was provided to break the power of evil, and to bring forgiveness, comfort, and healing.
You see? God remembered humanity, his creation. He had never forgotten.
Promises for Us Today
The world is certainly in chaos rather than experiencing the “peace on earth” we sing about at Christmas. Maybe God has not answered our personal prayers the way we expected, either. Though we believe, pain continues.
While God certainly sees, hears, and remembers us in our individual needs, His ultimate provision lies in what He has done for the world. He has not forgotten the world He created.
In remembering us, the Father sent Jesus, who…
- …has not left us helpless: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6).
- …has not left us in our sins: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
- …has not left us orphans: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (Jn. 14:18, 20).
These promises are for us. Thousands of years after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, God has not forgotten us. His promises and His provision still stand.
When we groan under the heavy burden of sickness and oppression and unrest and hatred and catastrophe that is our world, know that God has not forgotten us now, either.
He is still working out His plan until the end:
- “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
- “He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” Psalm 98:3
In this season of celebration and gift-giving, let us remember that whether our circumstances are happy and comfortable or filed with grief, conflict, or fear, God has not forgotten us.
Our God is a God who remembers.