When it comes to memories, we all have selective ones at times. Memories can change over the course of a lifetime. What we remember at one time, we may forget another.
Adults just beginning the road to recovery from childhood abuse, may fixate on the negative to the extent that they don’t remember any good times. If in denial, or after a significant number of years of healing, they may focus on the positive memories, leaving the negative in the past. We often tend to focus on memories that reflect positively on ourselves, choosing to ignore those that show us in a negative light.
Such is the situation in this week’s psalm. Psalm 105 is a hymn of praise of our God who remains faithful to his promises to Israel throughout history.
It begins with words of praise and the exhortation to recall all that God has done. “Remember the wonderful works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered.” (5) The writer then goes on to relate that history. How God made a covenant with Abraham, “He is mindful of his covenant for ever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant which he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac.” (8-9)
The story of Joseph, being sold into slavery in Egypt, is told as God’s means to save the Israelites from famine. “When he summoned a famine on the land, and broke every staff of bread, he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.” (16-17) No mention of Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy.
He tells of how the Israelites in Egypt prospered and became hated by the Egyptians. “And the Lord made his people very fruitful, and made them stronger than their foes. He turned their hearts (the Egyptians) to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.” (24-25)
He then recounts the story of Moses and the Exodus. How God sent plagues upon the Egyptian people—verses 26-36—and their time wandering in the desert, fed daily by God who sent manna and quail and brought water out of a stone—37-41. Finally God brought them to the Promised Land, “For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant.” (42)
In this sanitized version there is little mention of the people’s suffering at the hands of the Egyptians, or their grumbling in the desert; no mention of the golden calf and God’s anger at his people. The focus is on God’s faithfulness and saving action throughout history.
There are times in our life when it is good to focus on the positive and forget the negative.
There are other times when we need to be aware of the hurts and suffering from our past in order to heal; also times to be aware of our mistakes and sins in order to avoid the same pitfalls. The history of the Hebrew nation is one of them constantly turning away from their God and worshiping false idols, followed by God’s anger and forgiveness. It’s a reminder to us lest we make the same mistake.
But today is not the time to worry about such memories. Today, while reading Psalm 105, is a day to celebrate all our God has done for the Hebrews and for us. One of the blessings of getting older is having so much more life to reflect back on, just as the Hebrew nation has a long history to remember. It’s also a blessing to be able to forget so much.
As you look back on your life, where do you see the hand of God at work? Have you experienced blessed forgetfulness?