Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Lengthening a short memory

I’VE HAD MY share of “only-God” answers to prayer through the years, but I’m embarrassed to admit my all-too-typical reaction to them. It’s immediate thanksgiving, but often followed fairly quickly by the thought, “What about next time, though?”

It’s some small comfort to know that I am not alone in having a frequently short memory when it comes to recognizing God’s goodness, and not being so trusting in His unchanging nature for the future. Case in point: the Israelites on their escape from Egypt.

In Exodus 16, they’ve just been provided with a supernatural breakfast for the first time when God rains down manna. (As an aside, note that sometimes we don’t immediately recognize God’s miracle in our lives, just as the Israelites asked, “What is that ‘stuff’ on the ground?” Even though God had told them He was going to provide food in the morning.)

And yet just a few verses later, in the next chapter, here they are grumbling again. This time they’re moaning that they are going to die of thirst. So God directs Moses to strike the rock and water gushes out to satisfy the people.

Next thing you know, the Amalekites are attacking. The Israelites finally win the day, but only when Moses holds his hands and his famous staff aloft long after he is too weary to do so. Brother Aaron and helper Hur have to stand on either side to help keep them up.

Why was that? Did Moses’s actions have dramatic powers? Possibly. Or maybe seeing him up on the top of the hill with his arms up gave the Israelites the courage and determination they needed to prevail because it provoked a memory. Perhaps his stance reminded them of the time God had delivered them once before, when their leader lifted his arms and the Red Sea parted to give the people an escape route from the pursuing Egyptians.

After all, immediately after the Amalekites had been defeated, Moses instructed the people to record their victory in a book. He wanted to make sure they would not forget. He also built a memorial to remind them of what God did that day. He knew their short memories needed strengthening and lengthening. What about yours?

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