You Must Not Forget Jehovah

SOME in the group had done something like it before. For the majority, though, it was the first and only time they would walk across the bed of a body of water without getting wet. Jehovah had just caused the waters of the Jordan River to be dammed up. Now, in a long, wide procession, millions of Israelites advanced over the streambed into the Promised Land. Like their ancestors 40 years earlier at the Red Sea, many now crossing the Jordan must have thought, ‘I will never forget what Jehovah did here.’​—Josh. 3:13-17.

Jehovah knew, however, that some Israelites would ‘quickly forget his works.’ (Ps. 106:13) So he ordered Israel’s leader, Joshua, to take 12 stones from the river bottom and deposit them at their first encampment. Joshua explained: “These stones must serve as a memorial to the sons of Israel.” (Josh. 4:1-8) That monument of stones would remind the nation of Jehovah’s mighty acts and impress on them why they should always serve him loyally.

Does that account have importance for God’s people today? Yes. We too must never forget Jehovah; we must continue to serve him loyally. Other warnings to the nation of Israel can be applied to Jehovah’s servants today. Consider Moses’ words: “Watch out for yourself that you may not forget Jehovah your God so as not to keep his commandments and his judicial decisions and his statutes.” (Deut. 8:11) That links forgetting Jehovah to willful disobedience. The danger is real in our day too. In writing to Christians, the apostle Paul warns against “the same pattern of disobedience” that the Israelites displayed in the wilderness.​—Heb. 4:8-11.

Let us consider some events in Israel’s history that will underscore that we should not forget God. In addition, lessons from the lives of two loyal Israelite men will help us to serve Jehovah with endurance and gratitude.

Reasons to Remember Jehovah

Through all the years that the Israelites were in Egypt, Jehovah never forgot them. He “remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Ex. 2:23, 24) What he then did to free them from slavery was truly memorable.

Jehovah struck Egypt with nine plagues. Pharaoh’s magic-practicing priests were powerless to stop them. Still, Pharaoh defied Jehovah, refusing to let the Israelites go. (Ex. 7:14–10:29) The effects of the tenth plague, however, forced that proud ruler to conform to God’s will. (Ex. 11:1-10; 12:12) With Moses in the lead, the nation of Israel and a vast mixed company, perhaps totaling 3,000,000 people, left Egypt. (Ex. 12:37, 38) They were not long gone before Pharaoh changed his mind. He ordered his armed chariots and cavalry​—the most powerful army on earth at that time—​to recapture his former slaves. Meanwhile, Jehovah told Moses to take the Israelites to a place wedged between the Red Sea and a ridge of mountains, a seeming dead end called Pihahiroth.​—Ex. 14:1-9.

Pharaoh believed that the Israelites had walked into a trap, and his army was about to attack them. But Jehovah kept the Egyptians back by placing a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire between them and the Israelites. Then  God split the Red Sea, opening a corridor of seabed with walls of water perhaps as much as 50 feet [15 m] high on each side. Israel began crossing the sea on dry land. Soon the Egyptians were at the shore, watching the Israelites draw away toward the other side.​—Ex. 13:21; 14:10-22.

A more prudent head would have abandoned the chase​—but not Pharaoh. Brimming with self-confidence, he had his chariots and cavalrymen charge down onto the seabed. On and on the Egyptians rode. But before they could overrun the Israelite rear guard, their mad chase came to an end. The Egyptian chariots would no longer roll! Jehovah had taken their wheels off.​—Ex. 14:23-25; 15:9.

While the Egyptians struggled with their crippled war vehicles, all Israel reached the eastern shore. Moses now stretched out his hand over the Red Sea. At that, Jehovah made the walls of water forming the corridor collapse. Millions of tons of water roared in upon Pharaoh and his warriors, drowning them. None of those enemies survived. Israel was free!​—Ex. 14:26-28; Ps. 136:13-15.

News of this event left surrounding nations with an enduring sense of dread. (Ex. 15:14-16) Forty years later, Rahab of Jericho told two Israelite men: “The fright of you has fallen upon us, . . . for we have heard how Jehovah dried up the waters of the Red Sea from before you when you came out of Egypt.” (Josh. 2:9, 10) Not even those pagan nations had forgotten how Jehovah delivered his people. Clearly, Israel had even more reasons to remember him.

‘Safeguarding Them as the Pupil of His Eye’

After passing through the Red Sea, Israel entered the Sinai Desert, a “great and fear-inspiring wilderness.” As they trekked across that ‘thirsty ground with no water’​—and no food for such a multitude—​Jehovah’s hand was not short. Moses recalled: “[Jehovah]  came to find [Israel] in a wilderness land, and in an empty, howling desert. He began to encircle him, to take care of him, to safeguard him as the pupil of his eye.” (Deut. 8:15; 32:10) How did God care for them?

Jehovah gave them ‘bread from the heavens,’ called manna, which appeared miraculously “upon the surface of the wilderness.” (Ex. 16:4, 14, 15, 35) Jehovah also made water flow “out of the flinty rock.” With God’s blessing, their mantles did not wear out, nor did their feet swell up during the 40 years they spent in the wilderness. (Deut. 8:4) What did Jehovah rightly expect of them in return? Moses told Israel: “Watch out for yourself and take good care of your soul, that you may not forget the things that your eyes have seen and that they may not depart from your heart all the days of your life.” (Deut. 4:9) If the Israelites gratefully remembered Jehovah’s saving acts, they would always serve him and strive to obey his laws. What would Israel do?

Forgetfulness Breeds Ingratitude

Moses declared: “The Rock who fathered you, you proceeded to forget, and you began to leave God out of memory.” (Deut. 32:18) Jehovah’s acts at the Red Sea, his provisions that kept the nation alive in the wilderness, and all the other good things that Jehovah had done were soon ignored or forgotten. The Israelites became rebellious.

At one point the Israelites reproached Moses because of a supposed lack of water. (Num. 20:2-5) Regarding the manna that kept them alive, they complained: “Our soul has come to abhor the contemptible bread.” (Num. 21:5) They questioned God’s judgment and rejected Moses as leader, saying: “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness! . . . Let us appoint a head, and let us return to Egypt!”​—Num. 14:2-4.

How did Israel’s disobedience affect Jehovah? Looking back on those events, a psalmist later wrote: “How often they would rebel against him in the wilderness, they would make him feel hurt in the desert! And 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, how he put his signs in Egypt itself.” (Ps. 78:40-43) Yes, Israel’s forgetfulness deeply hurt Jehovah.

 Two Who Did Not Forget

Some Israelites, however, did not forget Jehovah. Two were Joshua and Caleb. They had been in a group of 12 spies sent out from Kadesh-barnea to explore the Promised Land. Ten made a negative report, but Joshua and Caleb told the people: “The land that we passed through to spy it out is a very, very good land. If Jehovah has found delight in us, then he will certainly bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that is flowing with milk and honey. Only against Jehovah do not rebel.” When the people heard those words, they spoke of stoning Joshua and Caleb. But the two of them stood firm with confidence in Jehovah.​—Num. 14:6-10.

Years later, Caleb told Joshua: “Moses the servant of Jehovah sent me out of Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I came bringing him back word just as it was in my heart. And my brothers who went up with me caused the heart of the people to melt; but as for me, I followed Jehovah my God fully.” (Josh. 14:6-8) With trust in God, Caleb and Joshua endured various hardships. They were determined to remember Jehovah all the days of their life.

Caleb and Joshua also showed gratitude, recognizing that Jehovah had fulfilled his promise of a fertile land for his people. Yes, the Israelites owed their lives to him. Joshua wrote: “Jehovah gave Israel all the land that he had sworn to give to their forefathers . . . Not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made to the house of Israel; it all came true.” (Josh. 21:43, 45) How can we today show gratitude like that of Caleb and Joshua?

Be Thankful

A godly man once asked: “What shall I repay to Jehovah for all his benefits to me?” (Ps. 116:12) So large is our debt to God for his material blessings, his spiritual guidance, and his means of future salvation that eternity will not be long enough for us to repay him. Actually, we can never repay Jehovah. But gratitude is within the reach of us all.

Has Jehovah’s counsel helped you to avoid problems? Has his forgiveness helped you to  regain a clean conscience? The benefits from those acts of God last a long time, and so should your gratitude toward him. A 14-year-old girl named Sandra faced serious problems but overcame them with Jehovah’s help. She says: “I prayed to Jehovah for help, and his ways of working things out have impressed me. Now I know why my father often spoke to me about Proverbs 3:5, 6: ‘Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.’ I am sure that just as Jehovah has helped me till now, he will always help me.”

Show That You Remember Jehovah by Enduring

The Bible emphasizes another quality linked to remembering Jehovah: “Let endurance have its work complete, that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” (Jas. 1:4) What does being “complete and sound in all respects” involve? It involves developing the qualities that will help us to face our trials with trust in Jehovah and with determination to see them through, not giving up. That kind of endurance brings great satisfaction when tests of faith end. And they always end.​—1 Cor. 10:13.

A longtime servant of Jehovah who has faced many severe health challenges explains what has helped him to endure: “I try to think of what Jehovah is doing, not what I want to do. Integrity means keeping my eyes on God’s purposes, not my desires. When facing problems, I don’t say, ‘Why me, Jehovah?’ I simply go on serving him and stick with him even when unexpected trouble comes up.”

Today the Christian congregation worships Jehovah “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) As a group, true Christians will never forget God the way the nation of Israel did. But being part of the congregation does not in itself guarantee our personal integrity. Like Caleb and Joshua, each one of us must show gratitude and endurance in Jehovah’s service. We have good reason to do so, for Jehovah continues to guide and care for us individually in this difficult time of the end.

Like the monument of stones that Joshua erected, the record of God’s saving acts assures us that he will not abandon his people. So may you share the feelings of 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.”​—Ps. 77:11, 12.

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The entire nation had to trek across “thirsty ground”

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Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.

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While Israel encamped at Kadesh-barnea, spies were sent into the Promised Land

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Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.

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After years in the wilderness, the Israelites could be thankful for the fertile Promised Land

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Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.

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Focusing on Jehovah’s purposes enables us to endure whatever challenges we face