5. Forgotten

Meditations in Ecclesiastes : 5 :  Forgotten

Eccles 1:11 There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.

I’m sure that there are many of us who give no thought to what future generations may think of us; we are too self-deprecating to believe anyone in the future would think about us and we certainly don’t think they will think highly of us. However, there are many of us who start out careers wanting to change the world. We want our lives to have impact so that they count for something, so some of us rise up in our careers and achieve great things, and then one day suddenly the enemy drops in the thought that Solomon had been having: what’s the point of this, a few years after I pass off this planet all this will be forgotten; I will be forgotten!

There are others of us for whom these sorts of thoughts come in completely different ways. We just got on with life; we started off a career and worked hard at it. Yes, we progressed and did well. We had children and they grew up, left home and started off their own careers, and then suddenly we found ourselves one day wondering about the future. “I’m into my fifties and the generation immediately above me is coming to retirement. One of these days that will be me!  What have I done with my life? Will I be remembered? Have I done anything of lasting value with my life?” These are the thoughts of ‘midlife crisis’. For a woman it is all about no longer being able to have children – not that you had wanted them for many years, but you no longer have the choice now. Even more the children have now flown the nest and we’re all alone. What have I got left in this world?  Yes, these are the thoughts of people later in life, and mostly they don’t tell you about this beforehand; it just hits you one day without warning!

But these are godless thoughts and by that I don’t mean to sound morally condemning but just descriptive, for no where in these thoughts was there a mention of God, and that’s what it was like with Solomon, and so thoughts about the apparent meaninglessness of life included the future when we are no longer here, which reflects back on the value of what we are doing now. So what value do I have today? What hope is there for the remaining years that I have left?  Let’s focus this for a moment for those who are in their fifties or sixties. The first thing to note is that if you live in the West today, you are quite likely to live into your eighties at least and some of us will live to be over ninety. What a prospect, you may think! Whatever, but it does mean that you possibly have another 25 to 35 years to live, which is a long time by human standards.

The first thing to do, as a Christian, is to surrender those years to the Lord. A natural fear is that you will deteriorate physically and mentally.  Now here’s where trust and faith come in. Listen to this: Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.” (Deut 34:7). This was a man who had lived his life out with God. Pray for the same – but note it does mean being used by God right through to the end. Look at this: The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock.” (Psa 92:12-15). Does that touch your heart? It is the offer to be received by faith, of fruitfulness in old age so that you still have a good testimony right up to the end of your time here.

The second thing to do is ask the Lord to guide you into fruitfulness in your latter years. Yes, we may not be as strong physically as we once were and our memory may not be as good as it once was, but we can take steps to remain healthy in body and mind by regularly exercising both. We may have accumulated years of experience and wisdom. How can the Lord use these to bless others through me in my ongoing years. Can we echo Isaiah with, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa 6:8). It’s not something we can make happen but we can remain open to the Lord for Him to take us and fulfil the offer of His word in us.

The future, as far as we are concerned after death, is irrelevant. We’ll be in heaven, but what we can hope is that somehow we will have left an example for the next generation to follow. Can we be such a blessing to our families and others around us, that when it comes for our time to depart, there is a real sense of loss because of what we continued to contribute to their lives?  Can we seek to build in place in the next generation things of God that will last? It doesn’t matter what most people think about us when we are gone. The key question is what will we keep doing with God’s grace in the years that we have left to us?  Can we remain fruitful? Can we remain a blessing to others? When we leave for our next stage in eternity can we know we’ve run a good race? Can we say with Paul, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7) May it be so!

41. Who Remembers

God in the Psalms No.41 – God who remembers

Psa 25:6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the next verse which is about God forgetting, but before we get there comes the verse about remembering. Memory is an amazing feature of being a human being who is made in the image of God (Gen 1:26). Most of us take it for granted. I certainly did until my father-in-law had a series of strokes which left him with no short term memory. When you walked in he would ask you how you were and what was happening to you and you’d tell him. Three minutes later he would be repeating the questions and three minutes after that you’d start the cycle again and again. Thinking about that I realized how much of our conversation is about the past. Our conversations are mostly based on what has already happened – you watch yourself over the next day. In fact if you take that in, you’ll see that if we had no memory, we would even forget  who we are. That is the problem of the person who wakes up in a hospital after a serious accident and suffering amnesia, and who can’t remember who they are.

So here we are now in the above verse with David basically saying, “Lord remember who you are, remember what you’re like!”  You want to see more of the significance of that?  Stop and think about your life when things are going wrong. On a good day you might be thinking (in accordance with Scripture and your experience), “I am a child of God with all of the grace of God available to me. I am full of His Spirit and all of His characteristics, I am a child of the king!”  Then suddenly you are attacked with a verbal attack that takes your breath away. Suddenly you forget who you are and you go on the defensive and attack back. You shouldn’t but sometimes you do, because the emotions that suddenly arrive overwhelm you and make you forget who you are. That’s why David is saying, “Lord remember who you are” because he knows the experience of forgetting in the face of adverse emotions.

Now of course the funny thing is the Lord never forgets who He is.  He has no cause to feel defensive, but David needs to remind himself of these characteristics of the Lord. Some times when we pray things about the Lord, it’s not because the Lord needs telling them – He already knows – but it’s for our own benefit; we need reminding, we need encouraging by the truth.

So here is the truth that David is declaring: the Lord won’t forget who He is. The Lord won’t forget that He is full of mercy and love. Moses had to tell his people that the Lord would not forget His covenant (Deut 4:31). Sometimes David asked the Lord not to forget, because it seemed the Lord was not moving and had forgotten. Of course He hadn’t; He was just biding His time. Hence David asked the Lord not to forget the helpless – himself (Psa 10:12) or him generally (Psa 13:1). One of the other psalmists asked the Lord not to forget their oppression (Psa 44:24). The Lord declared through Isaiah, O Israel, I will not forget you (Isa 44:21). For the Lord to forget His children today is an impossibility. You forget someone who is away from you perhaps, but the Lord actually dwells within His children today by His Holy Spirit. How can He possibly forget us?  He won’t but there may be times when, for His own purposes, He may appear to delay and we’ll find ourselves saying, “Lord don’t forget….” because that’s the fear we have, of being forgotten by our loving heavenly Father and being left alone in the corner of upset. It’s all right, you’re not alone, He hasn’t forgotten (Deut 31:6, Heb 13:5,6)

19. Forgotten?

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.19

Psa 42:9 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

There is in one sense a commonality in many of these particular studies, a question mark over God’s behaviour as it is seen from our standpoint; it’s just that it comes in a variety of ways. But that is the key: it is from our standpoint. Standpoint is very important. For instance someone once pointed out to me many years ago, the phrase that crops up again and again in Ecclesiastes, “under the sun”. Now “under the sun” means as seen from down here on earth. Ecclesiastes is an earthly assessment of life and as such is very jaded. It was the assessment of Solomon after he had been led away from the Lord by all his foreign wives, an assessment that had little of God in it. As such it is brilliant at helping us see the meaningless of life without God, but it is a very limited viewpoint. The apostle Paul had the exact opposite, a tremendous insight in God’s purposes, but contrary to popular belief, being very heavenly minded doesn’t make you of no earthly use. If makes you far more effective in your use on earth, this side of heaven.

Jesus had the incredible ability to see everything from the heavenly perspective because he had come from there (Jn 6:32 -) and, even more, knew that he was going back there to receive the glory as the Saviour of the world (Heb 12:2). Every time we come up with a “Why?” question it means we have lost perspective. Somehow something has happened which makes us feel one thing that is contrary to the truth.

In the same psalm we looked at yesterday, the psalmist expresses the feeling that he has. He is not only feeling disturbed, he is feeling forgotten. Imagine you were a little child and you were taken by your parents to visit another family and when you arrived at their home, they left you in the front room and said, “We’ve just got to go upstairs and visit Aunt. Your cousins will come and play with you in a minute and we won’t be long.” and they leave you there. Minutes pass, and then an hour and then two hours and no one comes. You have been forgotten. Do you sense the feeling of the little child? Two hours with love and companionship absent. Or perhaps you are an adult and at work your boss has promised you a promotion, but it never seems to come. You feel forgotten. Hopes for something better denied. Or suppose you have a serious accident and they rush you to hospital. You are wheeled into ‘Casualty’ (or ER) and left at one side. No one comes near you. Everyone is hustling and bustling with other patients and you are left there unattended in pain. You are forgotten. Your needs are being unmet. Or suppose you are part of a small army troop sent on special operations in a foreign hostile country. You fight your fight and make for the rendezvous where you will be picked up by helicopters. You arrive at the pickup point and wait, and wait. It is likely the enemy will pursue you. You have only limited time. Where are our helicopters? Time passes and they don’t come. You have been forgotten. Hope of salvation dwindles.

The sense of being forgotten is a sense that someone somewhere doesn’t care. You are not important enough to be in their thoughts and so they have simply forgotten you! The sense of being abandoned is a demeaning one, a belittling one. You are so small that you don’t warrant the attention of someone else. There are a lot of other feelings associated with this feeling of being forgotten! And that is how it seems with God sometimes. Or perhaps we should say, that is how Satan suggests it is with God sometimes, for the truth is that God sees everything, God knows everything and God misses nothing. But perhaps that makes it worse, this thought that He sees me in distress and still doesn’t seem to do anything about it. Why?

The answer of faith has to be that God has a reason, a perfect reason that we may never fully understand this side of heaven. That’s why, as we saw yesterday, sometimes all we can do is say, Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him.” (v.11). Without God we would be stuck in a hopeless situation anyway. At least I know that in the past God has always been there for me, He has always turned up and saved me. I also know what His word promises. His word and His past actions on my behalf can give me confidence for the present. That is what Isaiah knew when he cried, To the law and to the testimony(Isa 8:20). When God seems out of sight and we feel forgotten, we need to restate the truth: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb 13:5) and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Rom 8:28 ). We may not sense Him but He is there and He is there always working for my good. That is the wonder of the Christian life. Hallelujah!