Root: זָכַר (zayin, kaf, resh)
Sounds like: zah-car, ze-kehr
The end of the year is a time of remembrance. We look back on what happened and we look forward to what will come. The notion of future and past is very different between Jewish and Gentile thinking. We see the future ahead of us, waiting to be explored, and the past behind us, already done. To Jewish philosophers the past is in front of us, visibly there to learn and grow from. The future is behind us, unseen.
We need to learn from the history that is in front of us. Remembering, and not forgetting, is of utmost importance. The Jewish people remember their slavery in Egypt, they remember their fight against Greek oppression (Chanukkah), they remember the Holocaust. The phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, is a solid Jewish concept. Remember what you have seen and pass it on.
Only be careful for yourself and watch over your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and YHWH your grandsons.
We are called to remember and pass those memories on to the next generation.
Remember [z’kor] the days of old, consider the years of all generations.
YHWH also called on humans to remember to take a day of rest:
Remember the Sabbath day [Zakor et yom ha-Shabbat], to keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of YHWH your God; on it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male slave or your female slave, or your cattle, or your resident who stays with you. For in six days YHWH made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; for that reason YHWH blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
But most importantly YHWH called on the people to remember Him… to hold tightly to their Creator God. He was a God who valued relationship; He made a point to share His name of Remembrance with His people:
Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “This is what you shall say to the sons of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God furthermore said to Moses, “This is what you shall say to the sons of Israel: ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever], and this is
the name [My memorial/remembrance: zik’ri] for all generations.
God, remember your Covenant
We were meant to remember YHWH’s name and the events of history where His hand guided and provided. But over and over (Genesis 9:15, Exodus 2:24, Exodus 6:5, Leviticus 26:42, Ezekiel 16:60) YHWH promised to remember us and His Covenant with us.
When YHWH sent a flood to cover the earth, He followed it by making this promise to Noah:
[YHWH:] “I have set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall serve as a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I make a cloud appear over the earth, that the rainbow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant [w-zakar’ti et b’riti], which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the rainbow is in the cloud, then I will look at it, to remember [li-z’kor] the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
The rainbow was a reminder to remember… there was a Covenant between humans and God, and it was everlasting!
Although YHWH upheld His side of the covenant, humans did not always live up to their end of the bargain. Regardless of our betrayal, YHWH always was willing to forgive:
“But if they confess their wrongdoing and the wrongdoing of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me—I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart is humbled so that they then make amends for their wrongdoing, then I will remember [w-zakar’ti] My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember [eh-z’kor] also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember [eh-z’kor] the land. For the land will be abandoned by them, and will restore its Sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their wrongdoing, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul loathed My statutes. Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so loathe them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am YHWH their God. But I will remember [w-zakar’ti] for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, so that I might be their God. I am YHWH.”
God, remember me.
It is important that we remember God and the Covenant agreement that we have with Him, but we also have the right to ask God to remember us. Repeatedly, in Biblical Scripture, we come across a familiar prayer: “Remember me”.
Job was, arguably, the most tested person in the Old Testament. In his agony he cried out to God:
“Oh that You would hide me in Sheol, that You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You, that You would set a limit for me and remember me [w-ti-z’k’reni]!
YHWH’s action: Job was rewarded, with twice as much as he had before, after all his suffering.
Samson, blinded by the Philistines asked God to remember him as he faced the enemy:
Now the house was full of men and women, and all the governors of the Philistines were there. And about three thousand men and women were on the roof looking on while Samson was [forcibly] entertaining them.
Then Samson called to YHWH and said, “Lord YHWH, please remember me [zak’reni] and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
YHWH’s action: He heard Samson’s plea, the walls came down and Samson (although dying in the process) was avenged.
Hannah asked God to remember her so she could have a child:
1 Samuel 1:11
And she made a vow and said, “YHWH of armies, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your bond-servant and remember me [u-z’kar’tani], and not forget Your bond-servant, but will give Your bond-servant a son, then I will give him to YHWH all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”
YHWH’s action: Hannah was blessed with a son, Samuel, who would become one of the most prolific prophets of pre-Solomon era.
AUTHOR OF PSALM 106:
The unidentified writer of this Psalm asked God to remember him and to bring Salvation to him:
Praise YHWH! Oh give thanks to YHWH, for He is good; for His mercy is everlasting.
Who can speak of the mighty deeds of YHWH, or can proclaim all His praise?
How blessed are those who maintain justice, who practice righteousness at all times!
Remember me [zak’reni], YHWH, in Your favour toward Your people. Visit me with Your salvation…
YHWH’s action: YHWH remembered those who were just and righteous, and He provided a sacrificial lamb, His Anointed (Messiah) to save His people. Yeshua, the Messiah, became the symbolic sacrificial lamb to redeem the followers of God.
Jeremiah, surrounded by the enemy, asked God to remember him in his turmoil:
You know, YHWH; Remember me [zak’reni], take notice of me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
Do not, in view of Your patience, take me away; know that for Your sake I endure reproach.
Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became a joy to me and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, YHWH God of armies.
“Then I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; and though they fight against you, they will not prevail over you; for I am with you to save you and rescue you,” declares YHWH. “So I will rescue you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.”
In your own conversations with God perhaps you could follow the examples of these people of prayer and say to God, “Remember me” (zā·ḵə·rê·nî). Because with these words God takes action! Just like He did for Jeremiah, YHWH will keep you, defend you, and rescue you, save you and redeem you.
Remembered No More
Of course the other school of thought is to ignore God, never call on Him and never ask to be remembered. God gave humans the freedom of choice, and the choice to ignore the Creator is a valid, although not beneficial, option.
In the Tanakh, Sheol was the place where people who held onto this belief (or non-belief) would go upon their death:
YHWH, our God, other masters besides You have ruled us; but through You alone we confess [remember: na-z’kir] Your name.
The dead will not live, the departed spirits will not rise; therefore You have punished and destroyed them, and You have eliminated all remembrance [zeker] of them.
That was the greatest loss: for YHWH to no longer remember those who went to the grave. And that decision is left to us… If we do not remember YHWH He will honour our decision and not remember us. This was the greatest suffering… to have the soul snuffed out and forgotten forever.
As drought and heat consume the melting snow, so Sheol steals those who have sinned.
The womb forgets them; the worm feeds on them; they are remembered no more [owd lo yi-zaker].
This was never God’s intention; to be dead and forgotten was not what God ultimately wanted. He was, and is, the God of Life and He wanted to connect and have a relationship with His creation. But the relationship had to be based on choice… and He would do everything in His power to encourage us to hold on to life. He didn’t want to forget His people, but He was willing to forget their sins:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares YHWH, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt— a covenant they broke, though I was a husband to them,” declares YHWH.
“But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”, declares YHWH. “I will put My law in their minds and inscribe it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will each man teach his neighbour or his brother, saying, ‘Know YHWH,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest”, declares YHWH. “For I will forgive their iniquities and will remember their sins no more [lo eh-z’kar owd].”
The writer of Psalm 88 (the sons of Korah) was overwhelmed by life’s circumstances. He felt lifeless and forgotten, like those who laid soulless in the grave. But he did cry out to YHWH and he did ask some serious questions:
Psalm 88:1-5, 10-12
O YHWH, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before You. Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry! For my soul has had enough troubles, and my life has drawn near to Sheol.
I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength, forsaken among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more [a’sherlo z’kar’tam owd], and they are cut off from Your hand…
…Will You perform wonders for the dead? Or will the departed spirits rise and praise You? Selah
Will Your graciousness be declared in the grave, Your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Will Your wonders be made known in the darkness? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
YHWH was the God of Life and He would find a way conquer the grave… He would remember those who remembered Him.
YHWH’s name of Remembrance
Would the departed rise up? Would God’s light shine in the darkness? By His name would we be set free?
YHWH would send the Angel of His Presence to be their Saviour. He would save them from the dark abyss. They would not be forgotten in the grave… they would be redeemed, lifted, and carried back to His presence:
I will make mention of [I will remember: ah-z’kir] the mercies of YHWH, and the praises of YHWH, according to all that YHWH has granted us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the abundance of His mercies.
For He said, “Certainly they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely.” So He became their Saviour.
In all their distress He was distressed, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.
But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.
Then His people remembered [wai-yi-z’kor] the days of old, of Moses. Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them, who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths?
Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble; like the cattle which go down into the valley, the Spirit of YHWH gave them rest.
So You led Your people, to make for Yourself a glorious name.
It was through His glorious name that He would accomplish His mission.
In Your Kingdom, Remember Me
There was a repetitive call to remember the Covenant, from the days of old… a Covenant of hope and redemption… a Covenant fulfilled by the Messiah.
Yeshua was the fulfillment of the Covenants of God. He came, as a descendant of David’s throne, to rescue and redeem all the nations… to bring them out of the Exile to death and into the Garden of Life. He became their Saviour and paid the entrance fee so we could return to the presence of YHWH. His death was a promise to be remembered.
When the hour came, He [Jesus] reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant in My blood.”
Yeshua, as the Son of God, followed in His Father’s footsteps. YHWH promised, over and over, to remember His people. When Hannah and Job and Samson called out to God, He remembered them and took action. While Yeshua was hanging on the cross the words “remember me” were directed towards him. Here is how Yeshua replied:
One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”
But the other responded, and rebuking him, said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our crimes; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
The criminal acknowledged Yeshua as the Messiah (Your Kingdom) and asked to be remembered. Yeshua didn’t just remember him, he took action; Yeshua took the criminal with Him to Paradise… back to the Garden to see YHWH, face to face.
When you ask to be remembered, you will be! It inspires God to move on your behalf! God does not forget. He knows you, and He loves you, and He remembers you.
“Remember this [zik’ru], and be assured; recall it to mind, you wrongdoers:
Remember [zik’ru] the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My plan will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’”
God has a good plan in place for each and every one of us, and He will accomplish it!
Do not forget. Remember and pass on… Pass on what you have learned, what you have seen, and what God has done for you. You are the witness to God’s Covenant and the proof of His love. Do not hide it in your heart, remember… and pass it on.
Next week: Hope