Every year in early November, within the space of less than a week, we have two historic events to remember and to celebrate in Britain.
The evening of November 5th is bonfire night when we recall, with firework displays, the gunpowder plot that failed. However, while the British all know the day and the month, very few can tell you the year when Guy Fawkes and his Roman Catholic gang had planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament, from the membership of which they were barred. Decades ago I decided to etch the full date in my memory because I had conducted a non-denominational Bible study in Guy Fawkes House in the village of Dunchurch just outside of the town of Rugby! That house meeting was conducted in 1966, over three-and-a-half centuries after the gunpowder plot of 1605. In that house with its timbered beams is where the rest of the gang had met to await the news that the Houses of Parliament had been destroyed or at least damaged. It was now a normal family home.
The poem for children to recall the incident says:
‘Remember, remember the fifth of November,// Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I can’t find a reason why gunpowder treason //Should ever be forgot.’
We also ‘remember, remember’ on November 11th all those killed in two world wars, the date on which the Armistice that ended four years of international conflict was signed ending World War I. On the nearest Sunday to that date the British monarch or a royal representative will lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in London in commemoration of those who were killed in those wars.
Now here are some significant facts about God’s memory:
God can never forget
For instance, Psalm 9:11-12 tells us that ‘The Lord … does not forget the cry of the afflicted.’ And in particular he remembers his own people: ‘my servant … Israel, you will not be forgotten by me’ (Isaiah 44:21, all references from the English Standard Bible).
But God can choose never to remember!
He sealed the new covenant (or agreement) at Calvary through the death of his beloved Son. In Jeremiah 31:34, and repeated in Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17, he promises about us who are his redeemed people: ‘they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin(s) no more.’
Indeed, those who have stopped trying to justify themselves, and have yielded to Christ and his finished transaction on the cross, can confidently claim: ‘in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back’ (Isaiah 38:17). Many of us will recall a party game from our childhood when a note was pinned to the back of a volunteer who then, by asking questions of the others, discovered what, or who he or she had been labelled according to the unseen note. For, when something is behind one’s back, it impossible to read it – and that is how God describes that he no longer remembers the misdemeanors in thought and word and deed of those who have put their hope in Christ Jesus.
‘Satan’ means ‘accuser’. If he goes into the presence of the Almighty (as we see him doing in Job chapters 1 and 2), and protests to the Lord: ‘You know So-and-so (mentioning you by name and in detail)? Do you remember on such a day and at such a time he/she did this or that?’, God would reply, ‘I don’t know to what you are referring, for I simply don’t remember!’
Realising that is surely reason enough for our constant thanksgiving and praise.