(November 10, 2018) Tomorrow, Sunday, is Remembrance Day and Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, reminds us to remember some important matters we should never forget…
100 years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, World War 1 came to an end following a signing of an armistice between the Allies and Germany. After four and a half years of bitter fighting, which directly involved 32 countries and in which around 100 more participated in that bloody conflict with countless tragedies, peace was finally agreed.
Horrendous destructive trail
The war had lasted for 6 years and was now over. But what a horrendous trail it left in its wake. There was destruction everywhere. The human toll was truly overwhelming. It has been estimated that the total number of military and civilian casualties was around 40 million. Life would never be the same again for countless people whose families were torn apart, whose homes were reduced to ruins and whose countries were almost wiped off the face of the map. Wars had always played a gruesome role in human history but no war had ever before been more devastating than World War 1. It was truly the first global war.
Woodrow Wilson, the United States President at that time described it as ‘The war to end all wars.’ But it wasn’t! Twenty one years later and World War 2 began with even more sophisticated weaponry and once again Germany engaged the Allies and again another horrendous cacophony of hatred, lies, violence, inhumanity and destruction was visited upon the earth. Before it ended, around 80,000,000 people were dead.
You would have thought that, following this devastation of nations and individuals and economies and cultures, sense would have prevailed and warmongers would have learned a lesson. But sadly sinful human nature often chooses the path of death and destruction and, in the 70-odd years since the end of WW2, many bloody, cruel and hate-filled wars have continued to be inflicted on mankind and have manifested their inherent inhumanity and hatred.
- How consistently the sicknesses of human ambition, pride, greed, envy, resentment and violence have followed the paths of destruction and hate.
- How often have nations and individuals chosen the ways of death.
- How regularly nations today continue to threaten each other.
Truly Jeremiah declared, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked’ (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV). The root of the world’s problem has never been political but spiritual. It is a heart failure that no cardiologist can heal – only God.
Lest we forget
Each year in Australia and various other countries Remembrance Services are held to consider the horrendous nature of all wars, the violent destruction of human lives, and the sacrifice that many made in defence of their country. And it is highly appropriate that we pause in our busy lives to remember this.
One of the phrases that is often quoted at Remembrance Services and Commemorations is, ‘Lest we forget.’ It is good for us to remember!
Isn’t memory an amazing thing? My earliest, most vivid memory is an event that happened in Northern Ireland when I was just 4 years old. When Japan surrendered in 1945, thus bringing an end to the 2nd World War, the women in the street where I lived arranged a street party for the children. There was a festive air that day. Tables were brought out of the houses and joined in one continuous line up the middle of the street. And, despite the fact that war-rationing meant that party-food was in very short supply, the tables were laden with ‘goodies’ of all kinds of things the children loved.
I had never before experienced such a thing in my short life and so the event so fixed itself in my memory that I continue to think back to it as an amazing experience even if I didn’t then understand its significance at the time. And how significant that celebration was! I still remember the vibrancy and the joy of all the people in the street that day.
The Bible makes many references to remembering
The Hebrew word is used 231 times in the Old Testament and the Greek word is used 21 times in the New Testament.
Let us look at three things that we should never forget…
1. Remember the wisest advice of all
‘Remembering’ is so much more than merely digging into the memory banks and coming up with mental videos of past events. A major aspect of remembering is not forgetting! That seems to stating the obvious, but let me explain what I mean. In Psalm 119 the psalmist make this affirmation nine times: He will not forget what God has declared his word, values, directions and principles. ‘That’ says the psalmist, ‘I will not forget!’ The interesting thing about this Hebrew word (shakach) translated ‘forget’ is that it is related to ‘ignoring’ and ‘not caring.’ Once we stop caring about the standards and the ethical values that God has given to humankind, we stop remembering them.
Some past events have a profound significance for the present. This is what the writer of Proverbs wants us to grasp. In Proverbs 22:28 he wrote, ‘Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set’ (NKJV). The ‘landmarks’ were stones that were set up to determine the boundaries between properties and they were a visible reminder of where the property boundaries and the limits that must not be violated. The warning given in Proverbs was to prevent those boundaries from being moved or ignored for personal profit or personal convenience.
To remove a boundary stone was to steal another person’s land. The writer of Proverbs was in effect saying, ‘Remember where the ancient boundaries are and let them stay where they are! Don’t forget them. They are there for a purpose. They are there for your survival. They are there for your benefit. They are there to give direction.’
Boundary stones established limits and in Deuteronomy 19:14 we see that moving them was prohibited by the Mosaic Law. So the people of Israel were told to remember exactly where those stones were and why they were there. Their presence triggered the memory of their purpose and it was never intended that they should be removed or re-located.
That is the point being made in Proverbs 22:28. Of course the proverb was not only about physical boundary stones. There was a fundamental principle being affirmed here, which is that in life there are basic and unchangeable values that have been established by God. Those ‘ancient landmarks’ are still as valid today as when they were first laid down.
There is a reason for the spirit of unrest among people today… many are wondering what is happening in today’s world that is causing it to be unsettled. Why is there so much discontent and anxiety and trouble today despite the fact that materially we are so well off?
The answer is that God’s boundaries are being moved – at times even by the Church. Let me suggest just four of them.
(i) The boundary stone of the sacredness of life is being forgotten and removed
Life is precious. It is precious because it is sacred. And it is sacred because all humans are made in God’s image, as we are told in Genesis 1:26-27, and our life has a quality that must be treasured and honoured. Human life has an inherently sacred attribute that should be protected and respected at all times. It begins at conception and ends at death and the taking of innocent human life is morally wrong.
Today that boundary stone, that God-given value, has been removed and governments throughout the world have passed laws permitting the taking of life from its beginning to its end for reasons of convenience.
Take abortion, for example. From the beginning Christians have held that abortion is wrong. An early church manual called the Didache, which summarised was early Christian belief and practice and was written around 80 AD, makes this unambiguous and categorical statement, ‘Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant’ (2:2).
Yet the killing of unborn children is commonplace and legalised today and many people stridently argue that they have a right to abort a child if they so desire for whatever reason. The World Health Organisation estimates that around 40-50 million abortions take place each year. When we ignore or fail to remember the ‘boundary stone’ of the sacredness of human life this slaughter of the innocents takes place.
(ii) The boundary of the covenant of marriage is being forgotten and removed
From the very beginning marriage was seen as a covenant between a man and a woman. In Genesis 2:24 we read, ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’ And Jesus reminded his hearers of this boundary stone in Matthew 19:5 when he said, ‘… a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’
Jesus made it clear that marriage could only be between a man and a woman. God in his wisdom made men and women to fit together both biologically and emotionally. Regardless of what many people say today and regardless of what some Christian churches are now declaring, the union of a man and woman was a boundary stone that God set down from the beginning and we have seen in recent years the moral degeneracy that has followed its removal.
(iii) The boundary of gender identity is being forgotten and removed
Jesus said, ‘He who made them from the beginning made them male and female’ (Matthew 19:4). There is no gender ambiguity here, no foolishness about choosing our own gender. Today men are dressing as women and claiming to be women are demanding the right to access women’s toilets and changing rooms. Some schools have banned children from using words like mum and dad.
God’s boundary stone of gender distinction has been removed and in its place has been set a false marker that leads only to personal chaos and many kinds of social disruption.
(iv) The boundary of the integrity of scripture is being forgotten and removed
This is the most fundamental boundary stone of all. As militant atheism becomes increasingly fashionable, the scriptures directives, which have for many centuries provided a moral foundation for societies worldwide, are being increasing discarded and declared to be out-dated and irrelevant for today’s society which often doesn’t need to be burdened by ancient writings.
Today’s mantra, which ignores and doesn’t care about God’s word, is this: ‘We can decide our own values – values that are relevant to a modern scientific age.’ The psalmist has shown considerable more wisdom when he declared this about God: ‘I will never forget your instructions, for by them you have given me life’ (Psalm 119:93).
Those ancient landmarks, God’s boundary stones given for the good of humankind. They represent God’s wisest advice of all for the benefit all and they never become outdated! What God has established for our good must not be modified or ignored.
2. Remember the best gift of all
Let me tell you about another memory I have as a child. I really wanted a 2-wheeler bike for Christmas but I realised that there was very little possibility that my parents could afford to buy one for me.
Christmas morning arrived and I was still excited when I awakened and was eager to see what presents awaited – knowing that the longed-for bike wouldn’t be among them. When I went downstairs and into the living room that morning, I couldn’t believe what I saw – a brand new two-wheeler bike! I was stunned, excited, overwhelmed. The very best gift I could ever receive was sitting there waiting for me to ride it.
And it was a great gift… but some years later I discovered that it wasn’t the best gift of all. The best gift was given to me when I discovered the truth that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.’ And I well remember that day when I received that gift from God. I was only 15 years old at the time and still attending Sunday school in the Presbyterian church which I fully intended to jettison very soon. But on one particular Sunday afternoon the old Sunday school teacher shared the story of the ‘Ten Bridesmaids’ – and God captured my attention! I went home and thought deeply during the following week about the significance of that parable for me.
The following Sunday I sat impatiently through the lesson, and when it was over and the rest of the class had left, I went to the teacher and asked with a sense of urgency, ‘What do I have to do to become a Christian?’ And he told me. And I discovered God’s wonderful Gift of Jesus who has forever changed my life.
When Paul the apostle reflected on the giving of this breathtaking and wholly undeserved gift of Jesus Christ, he poured out his heart saying, ‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’ (2 Corinthians 9:15). Or, as the CEV translates it, ‘Thank God for his gift that is too wonderful for words!’
This is what we remember at Christmas – not just the birth of a baby but the coming of the Son of God into our world. That is the glory and the wonder of Jesus’ coming. Paul wanted us to remember the greatness of the gift of Jesus; he wrote about him, ‘Who, being in very nature God … made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness’ (Philippians 2:6-7). And this is how God gave his best gift of all to us – Jesus stepped from the glory of his kingdom into our broken world that we may discover just how much our Creator loves us!
We should never allow ourselves to forget that because being a Christian is not just about following a set of directions or rules for living. It begins for us as individuals when we actually, personally, deliberately receive God’s gift of Jesus into our lives.
3. Remember the greatest sacrifice of all
On Remembrance Day we think about the sacrifice of millions of lives during the various wars that human sin has caused – wars that have wreaked destruction in our world. And we are indeed grateful to those who died and to whose lives were shattered in many ways as they fought to defend their nation. The sacrifice in terms of numbers of human lives is enormous.
But there is one sacrifice that surpasses all others. It was the sacrifice of just one man but the consequence of that sacrifice was matchless. Just outside Jerusalem there was a hill on which executions took place. When Jesus was nailed to a cross no one would have thought that he was a man who would forever impact the world. No one who saw him die that day was aware that they were witnessing the greatest sacrifice the world had ever seen or ever will see.
What made his sacrifice unique was the fact that he was the Son of God who had come into the world for this purpose. He came knowing that this was how he would die, knowing too that his death had been foretold by the prophets of old and knowing that the destiny of the whole world rested on him.
Jesus’ death on the cross that day did not reveal an enormous failure of a good intention. Instead his sacrifice was the means by which the greatest victory of all would be won. Jesus died, not as a victim but as a victor! He came into the world on a rescue mission and it was only through his incomparable personal sacrifice that his mission was accomplished.
- Hebrews 9:28 declares, ‘Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.’
- Peter wrote, ‘For he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’ (1 Peter 2:24).
- Jesus sacrificed himself for us.
- He took our sins on himself.
- He died in our place.
- He reconciled us to God.
- This is something we should never forget!
In fact we need to reflect on all these points often. Jesus knew how easy it for us to take for granted or not really call to mind the unrivalled significance of the greatest sacrifice of all.
And lest we forget what it involved, what it accomplished and what it cost God to secure our salvation, Jesus did an amazing thing. Just before he was taken to the cross, he met with his disciples and shared a simple meal of bread and wine with them. He picked up a loaf of bread, broke it and said, ‘This is my body, broken for you. Do this is remembrance of me.’ Then he took the cup of wine and said, ‘This is my blood shed for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’
And here is the wonderful thing – the one who died on the cross as our substitute rose again to be our Saviour.
Have you grasped that? Are you captivated by it? Has it evoked your response? Has it impacted your life? Have you sworn your allegiance to Jesus Christ who sacrificed his all for us that we may enter into eternal life, never again to die?
Lest we forget – what a Saviour!
Dr Jim McClure, author of several books and Bible study series, welcomes questions from Christians seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives.
Recommended are his enlightening Grace Revisited and Looking for Answers in a Confusing World; also Overview of the Old and New Testaments, Love, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, The Masonic Deception, Word of Life in the Old and New Testaments, Interpreting the Letter of James. All are available in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats with hyperlinks and offered free. Link for orders and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org