“Did you remember to stop at the grocery store and pick up the items on our shopping list?” How many times have you heard something similar to that statement? What does it mean to “remember?” The dictionary defines “remember” as “bring to one’s mind an awareness.” However I think that “remember” includes the concept of action. The implication of the opening statement is not just to be in awareness but complete it with action. If you didn’t stop at the store and get the items, you really didn’t “remember” even if you had an awareness of wanting to do the action.
The Book of Deuteronomy in the Bible uses the term zakar 14 times. It is usually translated into English as “remember.” Zakar implies action with awareness. As the people remembered what God has done they were to respond in certain ways. We might say that the recent National Day for Truth and Recognition on September 30th implies that people ‘do’ something and not just have an awareness of the meaning of the day. The same could be said for Canada Day, Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day, and other civic holidays. The day or weekend has meaning as some action is taken in remembrance. The Hebrew word zakar is to observe the awareness, to call to mind by affecting present action. In other words, if you are to remember something, you should be doing something to complete the action of remembrance.
The story of the Great Flood in Genesis records, “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” The implication is that as the rainbow appears, God’s remembering action will be to never allow another flood to wipe out all life on the earth.
In the Book of Exodus it is written, “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” It’s not as if God forgot the descendants of Abraham. But when God remembered, he acted. The emphasis is on the acting, not awareness. So when Moses said, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place,” the expectation was that the people would do something special to zakar the event. Thus developed the Passover rituals.
Ezekiel the prophet told the people, “Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.” There will be action with remembering. And so developed the practice of confession/absolution in many Christian denominations. As God said through the prophet Isaiah, "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not zakar your sins.” It is not that God just forgets the sins, but also acts to reinstate people into a relationship with himself.
When the Psalmist prays, “Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old,” the expectation is that God will do something, not just have an awareness of his mercy. The command in Exodus, “Remember the Sabbath day,” is to lead into doing unique actions to observe the day, not just being mindful that it is the seventh day of the week. Zakar is used in Psalm 20:7, ““Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” As we zakar (remember) the name of the Lord, the implication is to trust, an action with awareness.
This concept of “remembrance” has shaped the Christian ritual of the Lord’s Supper. In the sacred meal of bread and wine there is more than just an awareness of the death of Jesus Christ.
How did you “remember” September 30th and October 11th? Will you zakar November 11th and December 25th? Remembrance involves awareness fulfilled by action.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.