“Remember the Days Gone By”—Why?
“REMEMBER the days gone by.” This admonition by the apostle Paul, written about 61 C.E., was directed to the Hebrew Christians in Judea. (Hebrews 10:32, The New English Bible) What prompted this remark? Why was there a need for those first-century worshipers of Jehovah not to forget the past? Can we benefit by heeding a similar reminder today?
Over the centuries, Bible writers have repeatedly warned against disregarding or being inattentive to the past. Former times and events were to be kept in mind and considered. Even Jehovah said: “Remember the first things of a long time ago, that I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me.” (Isaiah 46:9) Let us examine three powerful reasons for heeding this admonition.
Motivation and Encouragement
First, it can be a great source of motivation and encouragement. When Paul penned his letter to the Hebrew congregation, he was writing to fellow Christians who daily had their faith put to the test because of opposition from the Jews. In recognition of their need to build up endurance, Paul said: “Keep on remembering the former days in which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great contest under sufferings.” (Hebrews 10:32) Their calling to mind past acts of loyalty in spiritual warfare would serve to give them the needed courage to finish the race. In like manner, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “Remember this, that you people may muster up courage.” (Isaiah 46:8) It was with a similar desirable effect in mind that Jesus Christ told the congregation in Ephesus: “Therefore remember from what you have fallen [the love you had at first], and repent and do the former deeds.”—Revelation 2:4, 5.
The exhortation to “remember the days of old, consider the years back from generation to generation” was a recurring element in the speeches Moses gave to Israel, as he called the nation to fearless loyalty to Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 32:7) Note his words, recorded at Deuteronomy 7:18: “You must not be afraid of them [the Canaanites]. You should by all means remember what Jehovah your God did to Pharaoh and all Egypt.” The recalling to mind of Jehovah’s saving acts in behalf of his people was to be an inducement to their continued faithful adherence to the laws of God.—Deuteronomy 5:15; 15:15.
Sadly, the Israelites often yielded to the sin of forgetfulness. With what result? “Again and again they would put God to the test, and they pained even the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his hand, the day that he redeemed them from the adversary.” (Psalm 78:41, 42) Eventually, their forgetfulness of Jehovah’s commands resulted in their being rejected by him.—Matthew 21:42, 43.
A fine example was set by the psalmist who wrote: “I shall remember the practices of Jah; for I will remember your marvelous doing of long ago. And I shall certainly meditate on all your activity, and with your dealings I will concern myself.” (Psalm 77:11, 12) Such meditative calling to mind of past loyal service and Jehovah’s loving acts will provide for us needed motivation, encouragement, and appreciation. Also, “remembering the former days” can serve to dispel tiredness and can spur us on to do all we can and to faithful endurance.
Learning From Past Mistakes
Second, not forgetting can be a means of learning from past errors and their consequences. With this in mind, Moses counseled the Israelites: “Remember: Do not forget how you have provoked Jehovah your God in the wilderness. From the day that you went out of the land of Egypt until your coming to this place you people have proved rebellious in your behavior with Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 9:7) The result of such disobedience on the part of the Israelites was, as Moses pointed out, that ‘Jehovah their God made them walk forty years in the wilderness.’ Why were they encouraged to remember this? It was in order to humble them and to serve as a correction of their rebellious ways so that they would “keep the commandments of Jehovah [their] God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-6) They were to learn in the sense of not repeating their past mistakes.
Observed one writer: “A prudent person profits from personal experience, a wise one from the experience of others.” While Moses called upon the people of Israel to benefit by considering their own former errors, the apostle Paul admonished others—the first-century Corinthian congregation and, by extension, us—to absorb a lesson from the same historical record. He wrote: “Now these things went on befalling them [the Israelites] as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) Jesus Christ had in mind yet another ancient Biblical event and the need to learn from it when he said: “Remember the wife of Lot.” (Luke 17:32; Genesis 19:1-26) Wrote the English poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!”
Modesty and Gratitude
Third, remembering can engender in us the God-pleasing qualities of modesty and gratitude. As we rejoice in the many aspects of our worldwide spiritual paradise, may we never forget that it rests on certain building blocks. These include loyalty, love, self-sacrifice, boldness in the face of adversity, endurance, long-suffering and faith—qualities shown by our Christian brothers and sisters who decades ago opened up the work in various lands. In concluding its report on the modern-day history of God’s people in Mexico, the 1995 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses said: “For persons only recently associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses, the trials confronted by those who shared in opening up the work in Mexico may come as a surprise. They are accustomed to a spiritual paradise where there is an abundance of spiritual food, where there are hundreds of thousands of God-fearing associates, and where service to God is carried out in a well-organized manner.”
Those early trailblazers often worked alone or in small isolated groups. They faced loneliness, deprivation, and other severe tests of integrity as they persevered in proclaiming the Kingdom message. Although many of these servants of former times have departed the earthly scene in death, how heartwarming it is to know that Jehovah remembers their faithful service! The apostle Paul confirmed this, when he wrote: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.” (Hebrews 6:10) If Jehovah appreciatively remembers, should we not do likewise in a spirit of gratitude?
Those who are newly acquainted with the truth can acquire this historical perspective through the publication Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom.* Further, if we are privileged to belong to a family or to a Christian congregation whose members include long-serving older brothers or sisters, we are urged in the spirit of Deuteronomy 32:7 to “remember the days of old, consider the years back from generation to generation; ask your father, and he can tell you; your old men, and they can say it to you.”
Yes, recalling former acts of godly devotion can incite us to continue to endure joyfully in our Christian service. Too, history contains lessons that we need to learn. And meditating on our God-blessed spiritual paradise engenders the becoming qualities of modesty and gratitude. Truly, “remember the days gone by.”
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.