God’s Remembering and Ours

Zayin (z) Stanza (49-56)

When the child of God calls upon God to remember, it is an act of faith. Not because we think God can forget, but because we are calling upon God to act upon a specific promise on our behalf. When the child of God himself remembers God’s promises, it is an act of faith because we are recollecting God’s promises and God’s past faithfulness to us to stir up faith. Charles Bridges noted, “Recollections without faith are shadowy notions” (138). In this stanza, the Psalmist calls God and himself to remembrance as an act of faith.

God’s remembering (49-50)

49 Remember the word to Your servant,

In which You have made me hope.

50 This is my comfort in my affliction,

That Your word has revived me.

The Psalmist begins by petitioning God to remember. In Scripture, “remembering” is a mental activity that often is a call to pay close attention and results in action. But God never forgets because He is omniscient. When the Psalmist asks God to remember he is calling upon God to take notice and to act on his behalf.

The thing he wants God to remember is “the word to Your servant, in which you have made me hope.” The Psalmist is, as it were, taking his finger and pointing to the Word, the promise, which he has now personalized. He is not simply asking God to remember His Word in a general way, but he wants God to remember the Word He gave to him. The child of God does not look at the Word of God as if it were a general Word given indiscriminately, rather, the attitude of God’s child is “This Word is mine! This promise is mine! It is for me! God has given it to me, He has made me hope in it, and now I am reminding Him!” Bridges says, “Thus is prayer grounded upon the promise, which it forms into a prevailing argument, and sends it back to heaven; nothing doubting, but that it will be verified in God’s best time and way” (123).

As the Psalmist looks back to God’s monuments of faithfulness, he remembers the times God had revived him. This has been and continues to be his comfort during his affliction. He has lived a life of faith in the living Word, his experience of God through the Word is a powerful comfort. Christian, in your affliction do you point out God’s promises to Him? Do you know how to form a prayer, grounded on a promise, into an argument and then send it to heaven? Do you live in confident expectation that He will again come through? He remembers every promise He has ever made, and He loves for you to point them out and call upon Him to remember what He can never forget.

I have remembered Your ordinances (51-53)

51 The arrogant utterly deride me,

Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.

52 I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O Lord,

And comfort myself.

53 Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked,

Who forsake Your law.

Now it is the Psalmist’s turn to remember. The pagans who surrounded Daniel, scorned him and mocked him, his religion and his God. But he would not turn aside, he remained loyal. How foolish to abandon the steadfast Law of God when carnal opinions are against us. The Psalmist would not be detoured for the path of God’s holy Law. He engages himself in the mental activity of remembering. He is paying close attention to God’s ancient words and testimonies, he rehearses them, he preaches them to himself, and is comforted.

Instead of flipping or flopping because of the wicked, he experiences righteous indignation. This is probably not a reference to the pagans in Babylon, but rather Daniel’s fellow Jews who were compromising in Babylon. The compromisers were the wicked who were abandoning God’s Law for the sake of Babylonian acceptance. Such apostasy caused the Psalmist to burn with indignation.

I remember Your name (54-56)

54 Your statutes are my songs

In the house of my pilgrimage.

55 O Lord, I remember Your name in the night,

And keep Your law.

56 This has become mine,

That I observe Your precepts.

These lines, following his burning indignation, give us insight into the character of the Psalmist. He didn’t become an angry blogger who attacked all who were unfaithful, instead he re-focused his heart and mind and worshiped the Lord. He sings Scripture. “In the house of my pilgrimage” is a reference to captivity in Babylon (Ezek. 20:38). Even in a strange land, the Lord’s truth is his song. He again exercises his memory in the night, that blessed time for reflection and meditation.

The last verse is variously translated. The KJV and the NASB remain quite literal. Perhaps the ESV best captures the thought, “This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept Your precepts.” The Psalmist sees his own obedience as a blessing, a gift, which has been given to him. In a faithless generation, it is a great blessing to be among the obedient remnant, and those who are in that camp are there by grace alone.

Application

The role of remembering in the Christian life is so important. God’s remembering His covenant (Ex. 2:24; 6:5) is the foundation for Him acting in the Exodus. God’s people call upon Him to remember again and again. As Spurgeon put it, “Let but the Lord remember His promise, and the promised act is as good as done.”

And yet we are the ones with short-term and long-term spiritual memory loss. Remembering and not forgetting is an ethical issue in the Bible.

The Psalmist does not hesitate to remind God of His promise. This is an act of faith. He also knows that he too must remember. This memory exercise is so poignantly put into practice when we come to the Lord’s Table. We can point to the bread and the wine and say, “Father, remember Your Son’s sacrifice for my sins! Forgive me for Christ’s sake. You have promised that if I confess my sins You will forgive me of my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. You promised.” But the Supper also says, “Child, do this in remembrance of Me. Eat this bread and drink this cup because you remember My great love and sacrifice for your sins. Remember it. Believe it. Act on it!” How such blessed remembrance should stir our hearts to observing the Word of the Lord.