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There’s a phrase in the scriptures that in times past, always left me a little unsettled. It’s the places where it says, “…and God remembered.”
Those instances of its occurrence in scripture made me uncomfortable because from a human perspective, God “remembering” implies that God forgets, which then makes me even more nervous about a bunch of things I’ve requested of Him in the past. Here are three samplings of verses where God seemingly forgot stuff.
- Genesis 8:1 says, “God remembered Noah” (as if to say, “Dude, sorry about leaving you stranded on the ark. I forgot you were still alive after that whole worldwide flood thingy”).
- Genesis 30:22 says, “God remembered Rachel” (as if to say, “Oops, my bad. I totz forgot you wanted a child.”)
- Then in Exodus 2:23-25, it says, “God remembered” the children of Israel after some 400 years of slavery in Egypt (as if to suggest He was a forgetful grandfather who took a 400 year nap!)
There are a few more verses like that in other places in scripture, but for now, those are enough to leave us scratching our heads. The phrase “God remembered” was puzzling and bothersome to me because everything else I’d read in the Bible told me that God was perfect in knowledge and wisdom, thereby making it impossible for Him to ever forget.
- The Psalmist says in Psalm 139:4 that God knows every thought that passes through my mind before I can even formulate it.
- The prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 46:9-10 that God was around long before ancient times even began, [hence He’s got madd data on pretty much everything].
- The author of Hebrews says in Hebrews 4:13 says that no secret event escapes His eye, and Matthew the Gospel writer says not even the birds in the Amazon forest fall ill apart from His will (Matthew 10:29-30).
So what in the world is happening? Does God suffer from short/long term memory loss or is the scripture simply trying to convey in human terms something too super-complex for my puny little mind to comprehend?
I’m obviously leaning towards the latter. In light of the Biblical evidence (that God is eternally brilliant), we’re compelled to understand the phrase “God remembered” as an anthropomorphism, (the process of assigning human characteristics to God so that He feels more relatable). The author’s intent in those instances where the phrase is used is not simply to offer comfort to the reader that God is aware of all things and is therefore aware of their need, but rather, that God’s intent to do what He has always intended to do is now being put into action. It’s literally God saying, “It’s time!” when the circumstances are perfectly aligned.
I take the time to explain that aspect of how God relates to humans in moments when we feel like He’s forgotten us because in this sixth installment of this blog series through the Old Testament of Esther, it would appear that God is finally “remembering” the dire prayer needs of the Jews in Persia and a particular good deed by His man in office, Mordecai.
The deed I’m referring to is an easily overlooked event that occurred at the end of Esther 2. In that account, Mordecai uncovered an assassination plot to take the king’s life. He reported it to Esther who in turn conveyed it to the king, giving full credit to Mordecai. The matter was investigated, found to be true and the culprits were tried and executed. Unfortunately, Mordecai was never rewarded. He was simply given a high five, and his good deed was written down in the king’s journal.
As you’ll learn shortly, though the king may have overlooked Mordecai’s good deed, God never forgot, but was in fact moving kingdom pieces around like a chess player waiting for the right time to reward his servant. In the four life lessons I'll be pulling out from Esther 6 in this blog post, you’ll discover that God’s delayed rewards are not a matter of Him suddenly remembering to show up, but are very much about Him choosing to bless us in the moments when it will do us the greatest good and bring Him the greatest glory.
Let’s do a quick recap to bring us up to speed on Esther 6. A Persian royal official named, Haman hates Mordecai and Jews in general. He has even gone as far as securing palace permission to commit genocide and annihilate the Jews. Queen Esther, Mordecai, and every Jew in Persia has prayed and fasted for three days to seek God’s deliverance. Esther has also approached the king to seek a pardon (and has been favorably received by the king), but is being tactical in how she goes about making her actual request. Haman, on the other hand, is increasingly infuriated with Mordecai and is counseled by his wife and friends to build a sharpened pole that stands seventy-five feet tall and impale Mordecai on it. Haman excitedly orders the builders to begin the pole project and hurries off at night to the palace to get official permission from the king to immediately have Mordecai executed.
That's the story so far. This first life lesson is a little bit of a play on words in Esther 1:1 where it says king Xerxes has a sudden case of insomnia. Though it seems like any other sleepless night to us, the hidden sovereign hand of God keeping Xerxes's eyes open cannot be overlooked .
LIFE LESSON 1: WHEN GOD "REMEMBERS" YOU, HE LOOKS OUT FOR THINGS YOU WOULDN'T THINK TO LOOK OUT FOR
While Haman waits in the inner courts of the palace to be summoned by the king, God was busy taking sleep away from king. In the original language, verse 1 literally translates as, “the king’s sleep fled.” Make no mistake about it, this is a picture of God in motion, a picture of how God works behind the scenes when He “remembers” you. The king is an indirect enemy of the Jews because he signed the death-edict that has kept the whole city restless and sleepless for several weeks, possibly months (at least since the end of Esther 3). Now, God is causing that same restlessness to fall back on him! This sleeplessness is actually the beginning of the spiritual breakthrough the Jews have been seeking God for in prayer, but we'll get to that shortly.
To help him sleep, Xerxes orders his servant to read to him from the book of Chronicles where all his kingdom quests were recorded. By sovereign design, in the process of reading, the servant happens to come across the story about Mordecai’s foiling of the assassination attempt on the king. The king then inquires about Mordecai’s reward for that good deed and the servants tell him, “Nothing has been done for him.”
Clearly, it's time for the king to bless someone’s socks off!
It’s worth pausing here and pointing out that 5 years have passed since that moment at the end of chapter two when Mordecai rescued the king! That’s five years of waiting and feeling like heaven never even saw him lift a finger in its name. This of course leads us to a second lesson about God remembering.
LIFE LESSON 2: WHEN GOD "REMEMBERS" YOU, HIS TIMING IS IMPECCABLE
God could have orchestrated events so that Mordecai was immediately rewarded way back then, but He providentially “distracted” Xerxes so that Mordecai’s deed wouldn’t really catch the king's attention till five years later when the reward would be most meaningful. Mordecai may have gained greatly were he rewarded and celebrated five years ago, but in light of what Haman is threatening (something God sovereignly knew would happen even five years ago), that reward would be most meaningful in this present season.
Once again, it’s not that God forgets to fulfill His promise in our lives; rather, it's that He is moving according to His schedule and in so doing, determining the best moment when His blessing will have the greatest exponential impact in our lives.
When I look back on my life and think of how and when God answered certain prayers, I am so deeply grateful that He chose to work according to His calendar and clock, and not the timing of my request. While I have no ill will towards the girls I dated prior to meeting my wife, I am so thankful that those relationship ended when they did because when God finally opened the door for me to meet my wife, I was in a clearer state of mind and was more secure in my identity, then, than I’d ever been in any other season of my life. In other words, God “remembered” my prayers for a godly wife when I was most ready to receive it and when He was all set to lead her into my life.
You may find that God's delay in your life isn't about you being ready, but about the circumstances He's leading you into being ready for you to step into.
Anyway, back to the palace.
Realizing that Mordecai was never celebrated and rewarded for his good deed, the king sought counsel and asked his servants to bring in any of his advisors who were present in the palace. Lo and behold, who was in the king’s court waiting to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on a pole? Haman! (Oh the sweet irony).
I find it interesting that once Haman enters the presence of the king in verse 6, the king doesn’t directly bring up Mordecai’s name, but poses a hypothetical question of what should be done for the man the king especially wants to honor. I don’t suppose the king knew Haman was secretly plotting to kill Mordecai, but I suspect the king was aware of Haman’s ego and ambition. Based on how Haman bragged about his wealth and influence at the party in his house in the previous chapter, we can surmise that the king may have been a little wary of offering him anymore power or influence than he already had. This dude probably wanted to be king himself! It’s for this reason that I believe the king’s keeps his request generic enough so that Haman doesn’t catch on.
As if to prove my point, when asked for what should be done for the man the king especially wants to honor, Haman, thinking the king was referring to him (because after all, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?”) says in verse 7-9, “For the man the king delights to honor, do this: Bring a royal robe that the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crown on its head. Then give the robe and the horse to one of the king’s most noble princes. Have him robe the man whom the king especially wants to honor; have the prince lead him on horseback through the city square, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man whom the king especially wants to honor!”
This is a good time as any to point out another life lesson about God remembering.
LIFE LESSON 3: WHEN GOD "REMEMBERS" YOU, HE TAKES INTO ACCOUNT HUMILITY (BUT ALSO, PRIDE).
The truth is that God remembers the humble as much as He remembers the prideful; it’s just that He remembers them in different ways.
To the humble, God remembers them in the sense that He will suddenly show up to elevate them to a position of honor they haven’t sought for themselves [Like He did with Mordecai]. To the proud, God remembers them in the sense that He suddenly shows up to kick the legs out from under their stool so their kingdom comes crashing down [as we’ll see in a moment and in the next chapter with Haman]. It’s for both these reasons that James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 3:34; and 1 Peter 5:5 pretty much say the same thing).
The point? Stay humble while you wait. The question, of course becomes, what does true biblical humility look like?
The answer to that question is in Philippians 2:3-4 where it not only shows us what humility looks like, but also tells us what gets in the way of humility. In those verses, Paul instructs Christians to do nothing out of “selfish ambition”(wanting to do better than everyone else simply for the sake of being better than everyone else). He also instructs us to do nothing out of “vain conceit”, (getting angry and upset when others win, or in some cases, rejoicing when they fail). Instead he says, “… in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
So then, here is what humility is not. Humility has nothing to do with having a low view of one’s self. Someone smart (whose name I honestly don’t recall) once said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it is thinking less about yourself” [and more about the needs and interest of others]. That’s what Paul is getting at in those verses. Humility at it’s finest is others-focused. It is putting the interests and well being of others before yours, and it is deeply attractive to God.
LIFE LESSON 4: GOD NOT ONLY "REMEMBERS" & REWARDS YOUR FAITHFULNESS, BUT HE ALSO REMEMBERS THOSE WHO OPPOSED YOU
While Mordecai has this lesson locked down, Haman is so wrapped up in his own prideful glory that he fails to see his kingdom slowly crumbling all around him. In his hastiness and pride, he has just stepped into a divine trap. After suggesting to the king a ridiculously elaborate parade for the man the king delights in (convinced the king was thinking of him), the king drops a bombshell on him. Feel free to smile as you read Esther 6:10, “Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.”
Oh how I wish I could have been there to see the look on Haman’s face! Think about how humbling those next few hours would have been for him. Haman not only had to be Mordecai’s personal escort through the city, but he also had to dress him up personally! It’s a good place to once again reiterate that the scriptures say that God “opposes” the proud, as in, He actually fights against them and even “mocks” them .
But this blog post is not about one man’s failure, it’s about how God remembers His own.
Consider how great an honor this reward was for Mordecai. Being offered the king’s robe and horse is tantamount to being offered the present-day president’s personal secret service to escort you around town in his personal limousine motorcade, the beast! That sends a message to everyone who gets a glimpse of you that you and the king are tight and you are not to be touched! This, of course was what king Xerxes was intending to do. Xerxes wanted as many citizens of Susa as possible to see Mordecai so that they might aspire to similarly distinguish themselves in service to him.
Mordecai’s actions right after the parade tells us a lot about the king of humble man he was. Esther 6:12 says, “Afterward Mordecai returned to the king’s gate.” In other words, he went right back to work. He didn’t try to leverage his 5 minutes of fame into a book deal, a TV special, or higher pay, but he simply went back to doing what he was faithfully doing before God honored him in the presence the whole city! This becomes even more telling when you compare he did to what Haman did right after he was honored by being invited to the most an exclusive party in the royal palace in Esther 5:9-12 (He basically went home and threw another party in his own honor to celebrate how wealthy and influential he was!)
In this chapter, however, roles have clearly been reversed and God is holding true to His word about what happens when we humble ourselves in His presence (or choose to walk in pride). Haman not only runs home covered in shame, literally, but when he gets home, he meets with even more awful news. His advisers and wife, after having heard all that happened to him at work, conclude that his luck in life has run out because the Jews are clearly a special people governed by a supernatural God.
You know what I was thinking when I read his wife and friend’s counsel in verse 13? Why the heck did you all not tell him this yesterday when you counseled him to build a 75 foot sharpened pole to impale him in?!?
There’s a lesson in there about asking God to help you marry the right wife and pick the right friends, but I’m not going to go there now because we need to wrap this up. Suffice it to say, while Haman is reeling from the calamity that is clearly about to befall him, news comes in from the palace that his presence was immediately requested at the 2nd party queen Esther was hosting (a party in which his evil plot will finally be exposed).
Though the chapter ends here, it will serve us well to remember that the behind-the-scenes sovereign hand of God in this chapter is in response to the whole city of Jews praying and fasting for three days. Though God’s will WILL be done regardless of human opposition and demonic schemes, He has ordained the heaven-moving program of prayer and fasting to guide His hands in the affairs of humanity.
So, while God remembering us centers around His putting into action what He always intended to do in the timing when it’ll do us the greatest good and bring Him the greatest glory, we still bear the responsibility to engage regularly in the act of calling on Him by faith in prayer. May God hear and remember your prayers today!
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.