When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid waste-land with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. (NRSV)
There is a saying that warns us that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. We are to remember the past in order that we live more fruitfully in the present and are better prepared for the future.
The people of Israel are gathered on the far side of the Jordan. Before they enter the promised land, Moses issues some encouragements and some warnings. One such warning is about remembering what God has done for the people in their long exodus from Egypt. That journey is about to end: greater security and prosperity await across the river.
That may be something to eagerly anticipate, but there is danger attached. When the danger and threat and hardship has passed, it is so easy to become self-reliant, to discard God. He was useful in a time of crisis but now we have settled down we can dispense with him.
Like those ancient people, we are called to remember how God has worked in our personal history and in the history of his people and even the history of humankind. Otherwise, God becomes a convenient crutch to lean on in hard times and to be lay aside in better times. Our faith is to be a remembering faith.
Just as in our life in general we are to be a remembering people. The good and noble things that happened in the past are meant to shape our present and future. Our memories matter. In faith and in life we must not forget to remember.