Spirit of Grace Ministries
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When God Remembers

mom and child

by Dennis Pollock

--- Then God remembered Noah… (Genesis 8:1)

 --- Remember me, O Lord, with the favor You have toward Your people; Oh, visit me with Your salvation… (Psalms 106:4)

The idea of God remembering someone sounds illogical. After all, when we talk about remembering something, the clear inference is that we had previously forgotten about it. Surely it isn’t possible for the Almighty to forget! Yet the Bible uses this terminology concerning God again and again.

The Scriptures describing God remembering His people are not to be taken in a literal sense, but rather refer to our Heavenly Father responding to the needs and desires of His children after a long period of quietness and seeming unconcern. The God who appeared not to notice the struggles, prayers, and tears of His people suddenly rises up and swings into action. The Psalmist looks forward to this as he declares, “You will arise and have mercy on Zion; for the time to favor her, yes, the set time, has come” (Psalms 102:13). 

Barrenness & Blessing 

A classic example of this is seen in the life of Rachel, wife of the patriarch Jacob. Rachel and her sister Leah both ended up married to Jacob, due to a devious “bait and switch” con by their father, although Jacob’s love was clearly for Rachel. Leah quickly began to conceive and bear children, but Rachel was barren. As the years rolled by and Leah’s children increased, Rachel became more and more desperate. Finally in her frustration she told her husband, “Give me children, or else I die!” Jacob, not the most sensitive of husbands, responded angrily, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”

Desperation and intense desire are not necessarily bad things, when they lead us to God. And this is exactly what happened in Rachel’s case. She began to pray. Although the Bible doesn’t give much detail about the nature or length of her praying, we know she sought God over this, because after a period of time we read, “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” God’s time for Rachel had come. He granted her not merely a child but He gave her Joseph, the future number two man over all of Egypt, the greatest empire of the world at that time.

A similar story is found in the life of Hannah. Here also we have a barren woman desperately wanting a child. She too, was one of two wives married to the same man, and like Rachel, her rival wife was fertile and had no problem conceiving and bearing children. The Bible tells us, “And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb.” Day by day Hannah was having her own barrenness rubbed in her face. Desire became longing, and longing turned into near obsession. She frequently wept and lost her appetite. Her husband, like Jacob, was not particularly sensitive, telling her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”

It is interesting that the Scriptures tell us, “The Lord had closed her womb.” It was not an accident that Hannah was barren. Yet God surely knew that eventually He would bless her with a son. Why would God close a woman’s womb, only to later open it? It seems that it is one of the ways of God to deliberately delay certain blessings He intends for His children for the purpose of increasing desire and intensifying their prayers. No woman who gets pregnant in her first year of marriage could ever pray the way Hannah prayed. We are told that fervent prayers of righteous people “avail much” (James 5:16). But prayers that are answered within the first days they are uttered will never attain the fervent stage. Long delay is the primary means to accomplish that! And that is exactly what happened to Hannah.

One day Hannah and her husband were visiting Shiloh where the tabernacle was in those days. Hannah was praying silently when the high priest Eli noticed her. Because her lips were moving but she was praying silently he mistakenly thought she was drunk and began to rebuke her. She explained her situation, and Eli told her, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.”

Somehow this simple word from Eli was a tremendous encouragement to Hannah. She had a meal and “her face was no longer sad.” After returning to their home town of Ramah, the Bible tells us, “And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son.” 

Holy Darkness 

Dark tunnel

Within the idea of God remembering His people is the concept of His apparent forgetfulness. Of course He has never forgotten us, but circumstances and delay give us the distinct impression that He has. And while God never truly forgets anything, He most certainly does allow His children to go through dark seasons of their lives where He is silent and gives the impression of being totally unresponsive to our prayers, wants, and needs.

 John Michael Talbot sings a beautiful and haunting song called Holy Darkness, which describes these seasons well: 

Holy darkness, blessed night,
heaven's answer hidden from our sight.
As we await you, O God of silence,
we embrace your holy night.

(God speaking) I have tried you in the fires of affliction; 
I have taught your soul to grieve.
In the barren soil of your loneliness,
there I will plant my seed.

In your deepest hour of darkness
I will give you wealth untold.
When the silence stills your spirit,
will my riches fill your soul.

Any Christian who walks with God for any length of time will sooner or later face this holy darkness. During these times circumstances not of our liking seem so frozen in place that they will never change. We have little to encourage us other than God’s presence within – certainly nothing from without seems to hold much promise. Desires that have their roots in our very nature are long withheld. By the latter part of these seasons God appears to be either very, very late, or else not coming at all (which we conclude is more likely). 

Late for a Date

Lonely womanIt is like a young lady who has finally been asked out by the man of her dreams. He has her to meet him at an expensive restaurant. Thrilled at being shown attention by her prince charming, she shows up fifteen minutes early. As she sips on a glass of water her eyes are constantly focused on the entrance. Minutes go by and various people come and go but still her date has not shown. At 7 pm her heart is pounding, sure her beloved will walk through that door any second. But minutes pass and there is still no sign of him. By 7:15 she is starting to worry. Why would he be late like this? But perhaps traffic was bad or he was held up by some last minute business. By 7:30 depression has set in. How could he do this to me? Still she dares hope their evening could be salvaged by some extraordinary tale of bad luck. When her watch reveals he is one hour late, depression has become mixed with anger. Either this man, whom she had pinned all her hopes and dreams on, is inexcusably late or else he has blown her off.

This is precisely the attitude we can take with God when we fail to understand His purposes in our seasons of darkness and delay. It is enlightening to consider how many of the mothers of prominent men in the Bible started out barren. Each of the first three patriarchs of Israel had barren wives – Abraham’s wife Sarah, Isaac’s wife Rebekah, and Jacob’s wife Rachel started out unable to conceive, and it required prayer and faith for them to produce offspring. Hannah, mother of Samuel, the unnamed mother of Samson, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist were also barren.  God appears to have withheld children from them until their prayers and tears mounted up to heaven. When He does finally remember them their sons become some of the greatest men in the history of the world.

There is an interesting verse in Isaiah which declares, “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice…” (Isaiah 30:18). When we think of delay, we sometime picture an uncaring, indifferent, reluctant God who coldly watches us in our misery and refuses to act. In truth our loving Father may well be waiting because He wants to bless us beyond what we are asking or imagining. For this reason, waiting on God is highly commended in Scripture. The verse above concludes, “…blessed are all those who wait for Him.”

Later Isaiah writes, “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him” (Isaiah 64:4). When God finally does act on behalf of His people, after allowing them a prolonged season of darkness, this “remembering” brings the darkness to an end and makes the wait well worth it. Let’s return to the illustration of the woman waiting for her date in the restaurant. Just as she is getting up to leave, her date comes through the door. Relieved to see him but upset at his late arrival, she asks, “What happened to you? I thought you were going to meet me at 7:00?”

He replies, “No you didn’t understand me. I told you I would like to meet at seven but it would be closer to eight because I had something I needed to do. You see, I’ve been frantically running around trying to find you a present to let you know how much I care about you. It took a while but I have your present out in front of the restaurant. Do you see that little red sports car…?” 

Light in the Darkness 

There is a wonderfully encouraging verse in Psalms which declares, “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness” (Psalms 112:4). In the midst of our confusion and darkness suddenly a small light appears, telling us God’s answer is on the way. Our dark seasons will not last forever. It is one of the great joys and privileges of the children of God to see those rays of God’s light piercing our darkness and thrilling our hearts with the knowledge that God has not forgotten us after all.

The coming of Jesus Christ into this world followed this pattern. Between the last prophet of the Bible, Malachi, and the appearing of Jesus Christ was a period of around four hundred years. These are known as the “silent years.” There was no major prophetic revelation. God seemed silent and Israel held onto the promise of a Messiah while subjugated by different nations, with her glory days long past. Generation after generation passed and still there was no Messiah.

After four centuries God remembered His promise to His people. Paul writes, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son…” One day a teenage virgin had an encounter with an angel who told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.”  Isaiah, seeing the appearing of the Messiah prophetically, had written, “the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

During our times of holy darkness, we may not be able to see or understand what God is doing, but we can trust Him with it, knowing that His light will surely arise in our darkness. Our God is a God who remembers.


For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Free Devos Catalog Page.


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