And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. (Exodus 12:14)
Throughout Scripture God gave the children of Israel memorials as memory aids in keeping alive in their conscience His miraculous provision for them. His very name was to be a memorial. “I AM THAT I AM … this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Exodus 3:14-15, emphasis added). The celebration of the Passover reminded them of God’s deliverance from their bondage in Egypt. “And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD’S law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:9, emphasis added).
The written Word is a memorial. Not long after leaving Egypt, the Israelites faced their first adversary. Amalek, king of the Amalekites, came out in opposition to their progress in the land. The Israelites fought and won against the enemy, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (Exodus 17:14, emphasis added). Without the written Word, all “remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” would have been forgotten.
Monuments can also serve as memorials. When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River – on dry ground – to take possession of the Promised Land, God instructed that the head of each of the twelve tribes should pick up a stone as they crossed the Jordan to be assembled on the other side. The purpose was so “That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever” (Joshua 4:6-7, emphasis added).
The problem with memorials is that we become so familiar with them that they can be taken for granted. If not accompanied with the instruction and the history behind it, the memorial becomes just another day of festivities, just another book on a bookshelf, or just another pile of rocks. We celebrate Memorial Day this weekend. For many, it is just another three-day weekend suitable for a short getaway, or time spent with family and friends cooking steaks on a grill and just taking it easy without even a thought to the significance of the day.
This weekend is a memorial to all the men and women who have spilt their life’s blood on the battlefield defending this nation’s right to exist and to enjoy the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that come to us from God alone. This is the time when we honor those who have fought and who have died to preserve the American way of life. This way of life is in danger of slipping through our fingers. One of the main reasons for this is that we have forgotten the meaning of our memorials. God help each one of us when that is finally gone.