Bob Kelleman, a Christian counselor, author, and speaker, has a great perspective on this. His claim is that the Bible reveals the importance of remembering, reflecting, repenting, reinterpreting, and retelling the story of our life in its entirety.
“Remember” is used 167 times in the Bible (at least in the NIV), reminding us of the importance of remembering. We see it both in the Old Testament and the New. Usually, it has to do with remembering events in order to remember that God was at work in the midst of those events
- “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-18)
- In Deuteronomy 32, God warns Moses that the Israelites will break their covenant with him. He tells Moses to write down a song of God’s presence (with all the interaction, faithfulness, and blessings and cursing of the covenant) and teach it to all the people so it will be a witness. One portion of the song says, “Remember the days of long ago; think about the generations past. Ask your father, and he will inform you. Inquire of your elders, and they will tell you.” (Deuteronomy 32:7)
- When Jesus and disciples participated in what we call the Last Supper, Jesus said, “Keep doing this to remember me.” (Luke 22:19)
There are times we read about forgetting the former things, but this idea is often misunderstood. Here are the two verses I hear quoted the most:
- After citing all the ways He has redeemed or saved the Israelites, God says through Isaiah, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
- Paul writes in Philippians that “…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
The writers were not urging people to develop amnesia. In both cases, it means not being distracted by success and blessing. Isaiah was referring to good things, not bad ones (and actually tells them several verses later to “review the past for me”). Philippians is referring to good things in Paul’s life that could lead to self-righteousness, pride in personal accomplishments, and complacency. Bruce Springsteen was right: Glory days really will pass you by.
Remembering the past is important for at least two reasons: our past clearly forms or informs who we are today, and God was present (and He is worth remembering).