Monday, October 28, 2019

Yad Vashem

“Watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” -Deut. 6:12 “Yad Vashem” is a Hebrew phrase literally meaning “a monument and a name” (my Hebrew professor at Baylor is smiling right now). It is used in the context of the Holocaust of the 1930’s by the Nazi regime against European Jews, and it carries the motto to “never forget.” What we remember and what we forget makes all the difference in the quality of our lives. One of the most famous monuments in the world is called the Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It is dedicated to preserving the memory of the dead; honoring Jews who fought against their Nazi oppressors and Gentiles who selflessly aided Jews in need; and researching the phenomenon of the Holocaust in particular and genocide in general, with the aim of avoiding such events in the future. God, in His creative design, built man with a phenomenal computer called a brain. Even the most powerful computers of today don't come close to equaling the brain’s power. Perhaps the most amazing part of the brain is the cortex, the seat of the brain that involves short and long term memory. We are designed to be able to forget some things and remember others. There are people today who claim that the Holocaust never took place. They do concede that the Jews were mistreated, but they claim there were no gas chambers or persecutions or murders. Yet, as the aged survivors testify, these events did happen. By remembering, we recognize that we all have the capacity to do it again. That evil lurks in all of our hearts. We like to think of the Nazi regime as being a mentally ill, incapacitated people. Truth is, they were people like us. Yet they justified and reasoned away their actions. They had forgotten the atrocities of people before them. Civil War monuments and confederate flags are being taken down across the country like never before. They are seen as offensive by many people as supporting racial inequality. But the Civil War actually took place. Removing the monuments will only numb us to the reality of the price we paid, as a country, for being divisive. Edmund Burke, the famous British statesman in the 1700’s, said "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." A classic example is Hitler's invasion of Russia. Napoleon had tried that, and Hitler made the same mistake, and suffered the same fate. On both occasions, the Russians simply retreated, drawing the enemy further and further into Russia in their advance, and then, when they Russian winter struck, and the invaders were unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with it, they were slaughtered by the thousands during their retreat. We do the same thing and we are not aware. We tend to forget what we need to remember and remember what we need to forget. Most of us remember our failures. Sometimes the “memory tapes” and memories of difficult times haunt us, even though they are in the past. Paul, who did some pretty terrible things before he came to know Christ (Acts 8:3) was not afraid to share that part of his past, even though those things did not define him. He wrote, “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”- Phil. 3:13-14. He let go of the past, not literally forgetting (which would require a frontal lobotomy- not a good thing), but by letting those things go and moving on. Paul was able to spread the good news of Jesus and not forget His faithfulness. Jesus had just fed the five thousand. Then He fed the four thousand. They were both miraculous and the disciples were there. They saw and experienced both events. Then, the disciples became hungry and realized they had no food. “Where will we get food” they wondered? “Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?” -Matt. 16:10-11. As my brother-in-law Brian would say, “They were as sharp as a marble.” Their hearts and spirits were dull. But they were learning as we are. Our challenge is to keep our spirits and souls sharp. We do that by remembering what God has done for us. He has always been faithful. He has always provided. His will is perfect and true. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to us and His timing is not ours, but it’s always best. May we remember the things that matter. May we always remember the faithfulness of our wonderful God and Yad Vashem, “never forget”… …even when we’re hungry. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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