Back in 2015, a three-year-old memory whizz appeared on Ellen and completely dazzled the host with her ability to retain information. She told Ellen that she had memorised all the states and capitals, all the US presidents, and even the entire periodic table of elements. Ellen proceeded to quiz her on the periodic table, of which she displayed extensive knowledge. Astonished and amused, Ellen asked, “You’re three years old. How do you remember all this?” The little girl replied, “My little brain just remembers.” The video is as astonishing as it is cute. And it illustrates, in an adorable fashion, the power of memory.
The Scriptures consistently highlight the power and importance of memory. On Sunday, we studied the law of the red heifer (Numbers 19) and learned that, according to rabbinic tradition, only nine red heifer offerings have ever been made. Clearly, it was a command that the people failed to remember. Later, Josiah reinstituted the Passover, which was meant to be celebrated annually, because “no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah” (2 Kings 23:22). Again, the people had been forgotten God’s command. It was not good for them spiritually. Eventually, the nation was exiled to Babylon for seventy years—one year for each of the seventy sabbatical years that the people had forgotten to keep. God’s people forgot to their own spiritual detriment and eventually ended up enslaved because of it.
Peter did not want his readers to forget God’s grace and therefore fall prey to the demise that God’s old covenant people had experienced. He therefore wrote “to remind” them of key truths (1:12–15). He wanted to “remind” them (v. 12) and to “stir [them] up by way of reminder” (v. 13) so that they would, after his death, be able to “recall” what he had taught them (v. 15). The power of memory plays a central role in this section.
Memory plays a significant role in Scripture—both Testaments.
In the Old Testament, God gave many instructions and implemented many laws to help his people remember his grace to them. The annual feasts served that very purpose. God gave instructions on more than one occasion for altars or memorials to be erected so that his people would remember significant moments of deliverance. These memories were designed for the people’s good. As they remembered, they would increase in gratitude, which would motivate their faithful obedience to Yahweh. But as they forgot about these things, so their holiness was compromised. Memory was, in a real sense, crucial to their spiritual well-being.
The New Testament is no different. Though we do not celebrate all the Jewish feasts, and while building physical altars is far rarer today than it might have been in ancient times, God has still given us tangible reminders of his grace, which are designed to motivate our holiness. We neglect those reminders to our own detriment.
We have in recent times considered various spiritual disciplines, which serve, in some ways, as reminders to us. God has given us the gift of Scripture and prayer and confession to help us grow in our walk with him. We neglect these gifts to our own detriment. If we forget to exercise the graces that he has given to aid our spiritual growth, we should not be surprised if we find ourselves growing cool in our affections. Ignoring Scripture, prayer, and confession is not good for our walk with the Lord.
But God has also given us corporate graces, in which we must discipline ourselves if we will remain fervent in our affections. It should not surprise us that we go the way of old covenant Israel if we neglect the corporate gathering of the saints. It should not surprise us that we suffer spiritually when we neglect the Lord’s Supper. We should not be shocked that our affections grow cold in the absence of devotion to corporate prayer and teaching. If the early church devoted itself weekly to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42) we should not imagine that we will soar spiritually if we forget these things.
The restrictions we have experienced under the extended state of disaster have been tough for many reasons, not the least of which is the cooling of our affections in the absence of regular observance of the graces that God has given to stoke the fires of our devotion. As you meditate this morning on 2 Peter 1:12–16, pray that God will stir up your memory so as to reignite the fires of devotion that may have grown cold in your heart. Pray that, sooner rather than later, we will be able to once again enjoy these graces corporately for the health of our church.