Several days ago, on June 6th, survivors of the Normandy Invasion on the shores of France, as a part of Operation Overlord, stood in silence as dignitaries and onlookers from around the world paused to remember those brave soldiers who gave their lives for the cause of freedom seventy years ago. Commencing at 6:30 am, the same time as the invasion began, taps was played and the ceremonies started. To this day, France considers that it owes the Unites States a debt of gratitude for helping stem the tide of the Nazi advance during World War II.
That was quite some time ago and survivors of that engagement on the shores of France are dying from old age and a host of illnesses that will soon make it impossible to get first hand accounts of the invasions from people who had been there. But we are to remember the past – even a past from 70 years ago. It will start to fade and details will be lost as the invasion moves further into the background as more recent recollections take its place. Kind of like Pearl Harbor, which Janet and I visited last summer – we have all heard of it and the horrors of what happened there but eventually the survivors will pass away and be lost to history.
There is a similar event in the Bible. That is when the people of God, the Israelites, fell away in exile and became slaves in a foreign land. And do you know what period of time they were gone from their own country? Yep, 70 years – the same amount of time that it has been since the Normandy invasion back in 1944. This gives us a great illustration of how history can be lost. Think of all the ways that we have today to ensure that we record history so it won’t be totally forgotten. But the people of God in exile didn’t have all the nifty things we have at our disposal to make sure they remembered their past and their heritage.
So what did they do? They sang songs. That’s right – they sang songs – and I don’t mean any old songs. They sang the Psalms. Most of us don’t know that the Psalms were written to be sung by the people during their times in exile so the people wouldn’t forget their history. In fact, the Psalms are really broken into 5 smaller “books” reminding us of the 5 books of the Pentateuch written by Moses. This was the way that the young ones, born in captivity, could still claim their heritage and connect with their past. And the older ones could still pass along the stories of the old ways – knowing that eventually, just like the situation with the survivors of the Normandy invasion, they would pass away. Sooner or later, we will have to rely on the records, just like the Jewish people had to rely on their songs.
The verse for this evening is from the Psalms. We are told, in Psalm 137:4-6, “How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill]. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.” My encouragement this evening is that God always wants us to remember Him. And my prayer is that you will be as diligent in maintaining your remembrance of God in your life as the Jewish people were in remembering God during their 70 years of captivity. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…