Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

by Steven Harper

Many a monument has been erected with those words somewhere engraved on its surface in the hopes that those who see it will be reminded of the sacrifices made and the lives lost for the cause [whatever the cause may have been]. It is usually found on some sort of war memorials, but it is also used to remind us of the ugliness of slavery and of political oppression. But those words should be taken to heart for every disciple of Jesus Christ, too. There are some important things we should not forget, but we do. Consider ...

Both Moses and Elijah were ostensibly revered in the time of Christ; especially among the religious leaders, they were prone to refer to Moses or Elijah as a matter of spiritual reference and their standing before God. When the man who was blind since birth was healed and he pointed to the glory of Jesus, the religious leaders said, "You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this Man, we do not know where He comes from" (John 9:28-29). Jesus recognized they placed a high value on the name of Moses even as He accused them of failing to heed his words (John 5:45-47).

And who can forget the scene at the mount of transfiguration? It was there that some of the apostles saw Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah and Peter sought to build a tabernacle for them (Matthew 17:1-4). At least in the mind of Peter, Elijah was just as worthy of honor as Moses. Between Peter's perception of Moses and Elijah and the view of the religious leaders about Moses, we can see that, at least in the first century, these men were respected. But what about when these men were alive?

Well, that's another story.

When Moses was sent back to Egypt to deliver God's people from bondage, the people didn't exactly welcome him with open arms as "The Great Deliverer." At first, the people believed Moses and, upon seeing the signs, they bowed their heads and worshiped (Exodus 4:31), But when Moses demanded Pharaoh let God's people go and their labor was increased, the people started complaining and said, "The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us" (Exodus 5:21). Needless to say, they were not pleased at the latest turn of events. When Moses came back to them to speak to them God's word, the people were not so willing to hear him this time (Exodus 6:9).

And when Moses did lead them out of Egypt, they got as far as the edge of the Red Sea before they again complained, saying, "Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness" (Exodus 14:11, 12). It apparently didn't matter that they had witnessed the great power of God performed by the hand of Moses and Aaron, for they now believed they had escaped Egypt just to die in the desert!

And when they successfully crossed over, the complaining did not end. Not by a long shot. Not even two months into their exodus, the people came to the Wilderness of Sin and began complaining again. It was there that they said, "Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (Exodus 16:3). Just a little ways down the road [so to speak], they complained again at Rephidim for lack of water (Exodus 17:2, 3). The frustration of Moses was evident in his words to the Lord (Exodus 17:4), and his frustration drove him to err in bringing water forth from the rock (Exodus 17:5-7). We could go on to mention other troubles such as Sinai (Exodus 32) or the complaints of Aaron and Miriam (Numbers 12) or Korah's rebellion (Numbers 16), but I think we get the point.

And what of Elijah? Was he so honored in his day? Not quite. Remember that it was during Elijah's day that Ahab and Jezebel ruled and Jezebel had the prophets of God massacred (I Kings 18:4) and she certainly sought his life, too (I Kings 19:2). To say the least, neither Moses nor Elijah enjoyed much honor while they were alive, and the "honor" that they received from men many years later was superficial, if not outright hypocritical. Those who cited Moses as their "man" and who claimed to be his followers were none of the sort; it was all talk.

And then there is Jesus Himself. Today, we have many men who claim to "honor" Jesus about as sincerely as the religious leaders of the first century "honored" Moses and Elijah. There is a lot of talk about honoring Jesus and a lot of talk about their churches and their work being "Christ-centered" but is really all about the people and their fleshly desires. If many of these same people lived during Christ's time, they would have walked hand in hand with the Pharisees and the other religious leaders and not had a second thought.

So, if He is so "honored" by men today, what about during His lifetime? Of course, we know that He died by being crucified — a horrible and tortuous death — but what about while He lived? How was He treated?

If we consider the holy revelation we find that, when alive, Jesus did not receive much honor, either. He was chided for eating with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10, 11), accused of casting out demons by the ruler of the demons (Matthew 12:24), and treated with general contempt (cf. Luke 7:39). When He was taken and tried, He was abused and mocked (Matthew 26:67, 68), and this continued all the way up to the point of crucifixion (Matthew 27:27-31) and even after He was nailed to the cross (Matthew 27:38-41).

Why is it that some profess to honor Him now when He did not receive honor from men while alive? What has changed? Has anything changed? Would those of us who honor Him today with our lips today have been with those who honored Him as He entered into Jerusalem for the last time (Matthew 21:8, 9) or with the mob who shouted, "Let Him be crucified!" (Matthew 27:22)?

And now, let us get to the point: To what degree do we honor God's written word, the Bible? I know we vocally honor the written word and we solemnly say, "We speak where the Bible speaks and we are silent where the Bible is silent," ostensibly honoring God's written word, but do we really honor it, or is it all just a bunch of talk? Do we respect the authority that is contained within those written words, understanding that Christ has been given all authority (Matthew 28:18) and that it will be those words by which we will be judged in the end (John 12:48)? Do we live like we believe these things?

Let us understand that the written word of God is important to all who seek to know God's will and who seek to please Him. Jesus cited the written word in answer to every temptation (Matthew 4:1-11); in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham told the rich man that the written word was sufficient to convict (Luke 16:29-31); John said the things he had written regarding the miracles of Jesus were sufficient to convict us of belief that He was the Son of God and to give us live through Him (John 20:31).

But do we value it as we should — and I mean really value it? I don't mean "honor" by picking it up on Saturday night before going to bed or Sunday morning in the parking lot of the church building to scan over the lesson and satisfied that we have done our "Bible study" for the week; I mean honoring it by learning it, hiding it in our hearts, and exalting it as the rule for all we say and do (cf. Colossians 3:17). Do we?

Friends and brethren, these are the words of eternal life! (John 6:68)