One of my daughter’s favorite toys when she was a little girl was an “Etch-a-Sketch.” It had a red plastic frame with a gray screen and two little knobs at the bottom and looked like a little TV. Moving the knobs caused a black line to appear, and manipulating them enabled the holder to draw or write on the screen. One knob moved the line up and down and the other moved it from side to side. It was a high tech marvel at the time and my daughter had a love-hate relationship with it. After devoting enough time to have drawn 15 pictures on a regular sheet of paper, she’d emit an exasperated groan, turn the device upside down, and shake it side to side, thus erasing everything. Whatever she had drawn or written would magically disappear, and the screen would be wiped clean.
An Etch-a-Sketch Similarity ~
As I reflect on the toy, it occurs to me that its underlying principle may have had a Biblical origin. The recurrent pattern of behavior exhibited by the Jews in the Old Testament certainly had at least one Etch-a-Sketch similarity. Repeatedly, God would deliver His people from oppressive situations and in the process, would carefully etch marvelous images and profound messages on their minds and hearts. But later on, the slightest bump in the road would seem to wipe out all awareness of what God had done for them, and they would begin to live as though it never happened.
For instance, you’d think that no one would ever forget having witnessed those plagues and walking across the Red Sea on dry land, but when Moses was called up on a mountain for some one-on-one time with God, he was hardly out of sight before they were apparently stricken with selective amnesia and started questioning everything. They began to mentally rewrite their recent history and concocted a different explanation for their deliverance. They pressured Aaron to melt their gold jewelry and use it to construct a statue of a bull. Then they declared the ridiculous metal bovine to be the “god” who brought them out of Egypt and proceeded to fall down to worship it. When I first read that, I wondered why nobody stood up to say, “Hey, wait a minute. This doesn’t make sense. How stupid do you have to be to turn away from the God who set you free and start worshipping an amateur art project?”
Saddled with an Oppositional Nature ~
What I didn’t know in those early days was that all of us have the capacity to become a spiritual version of my daughter’s Etch-a-Sketch. The pattern that God’s people repeated over and over can happen to us as well. After marvelous deliverance from a state of misery and hopelessness, we are filled with praise and gratitude for His love and grace. We sincerely believe that we would never forget that feeling of freedom, much less be lured back into the things that caused the misery to start with. Sadly, that is not the case. All of us are saddled with a depraved, fallen nature that will always seek to obscure God’s activity, contradict His principles, subject His will to our desires, and wipe out the power that His deliverance provides.
Thankfully, God has not only exposed the dangers associated with our etch-a-sketch tendencies, but He has provided some counteractive measures. In both the Old and New Testaments, God reminds us that forgetfulness is dangerous, and the only antidote is to remember.
Prior to their entry into the Promised Land, Moses warned God’s people not to forget:
Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9 (NKJV)
Then, in the New Testament, the admonition to remember is highlighted again:
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh–who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands–that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:11-13 (NKJV)
Remembering Is Protective ~
Remembering defends against complacency. Forgetting where we came from opens the door for a gradual slip into a sense of spiritual entitlement. Entitlement promotes complaining, waters down worship, robs God of praise, and strips away the joy that flows from a conscious awareness of the vast difference between what He’s given us and what our sins deserve.
Remembering what He saved us from also protects us from judgmental attitudes and the spirit-deadening, evangelism-killing plague of hypocrisy. Paul reminded the Ephesian believers that their glorious redemption should always be portrayed against the black backdrop of their well-deserved condemnation.
Redemption Changes Everything ~
Effective remembering includes more than a review of the sinful lives we lived. Coming to Jesus gave us more than redemption from the hell we deserved; it changed our whole identity. Paul reminded the Ephesians that before Christ, they were isolated outcasts from the family of God, but in Him, they were born again and made a living part of God’s forever family. Remembering whose we are and where we belong is a powerful deterrent against being seduced into attitudes, relationships, and lifestyles that are foreign to who He made us to be.
God intended remembering to be comprehensive. We prefer to remember the good things and to avoid reminders of our most awful moments. While it isn’t necessary to recall every painful detail, we must not pretend that they never happened. Understanding that He loved us and died for us when we were reprehensible, self-centered, arrogant, and rebellious will always stimulate inexpressible gratitude and praise.
The most profound reminder of all is that God performed His own incredible, eternal Etch-a-Sketch operation. As Jesus used His last tortured breath to exclaim, “It is finished,” God turned Hell upside down, shook the earth violently, and accepted His innocent blood as the means to wipe our record clean.
Just as darkness fills the space when light disappears, forgetfulness results when memories fail. For those of us who trust in Jesus, a marvelous paradox unfolded when Jesus walked out of that tomb on Easter morning. We must never forget that it was our sins that put Him there, but God, on the other hand, will forever refuse to remember those sins, and will welcome us into His presence as though they never happened.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to Tweet & Share from the pull quotes below. Each quote links directly back to this article through Twitter.
- “Entitlement promotes complaining, waters down worship, robs God of praise, and strips away the joy that flows from a conscious awareness of the vast difference between what He’s given us and what our sins deserve.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “. . . (our) glorious redemption should always be portrayed against the black backdrop of (our) well-deserved condemnation.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Coming to Jesus gave us more than redemption from the hell we deserved; it changed our whole identity.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “As Jesus used His last tortured breath to exclaim, “It is finished,” God turned Hell upside down, shook the earth violently, and accepted His innocent blood as the means to wipe our record clean.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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