One of the great flaws of the human heart is to fall into habitual forgetfulness of God. We have a tendency to not remember God on a daily basis as the heart wallows in this sea of forgetfulness. A parent’s heart would be crushed if their beloved child forgot them. A bride’s heart would be wounded if her groom forgot about her love and devotion to him. There may not be a worse feeling for someone than to feel that you have been forgotten. No one wants to be a distant memory. Yet God is consistently forgotten day after day in the busyness of our hectic lives. We forget the amazing love, mercy and grace of God that has been poured into our lives in countless ways. We forget God’s words of instruction to guide us through the uncertainty and confusion of our times. We forget God’s constant plea for a deeper intimacy and relationship with Him. God easily disappears from our thoughts with a troubling constancy. The heart forgets. The heart does not remember. God fades from our memory with a relentless persistency, and the heart of God is grieved that His very own children have so easily forgotten Him.
Can a virgin forget her ornaments or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number. (Jeremiah 2:32, ESV)
You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. (Deuteronomy 32:18, ESV)
This is the great tragedy of forgetfulness that we live our lives unmindful of God, barely giving him a thought. We have forgotten the God who intricately knitted us together in our mother’s womb and beautifully formed every physical detail of our bodies. We have forgotten the God who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light and birthed within us His incorruptible seed, giving us the gift of His glorious salvation and eternal life. We have forgotten the God who has called us to a mighty purpose for His kingdom and has written a magnificent plan for our lives. This is the crime of the century—to allow our hearts to fall into forgetfulness of our awesome God.
The Hebrew word for “forget” means to ignore, to wither, to cease to care, and to be oblivious of from want of memory and attention. We must not allow God to wither from our hearts by ignoring Him and giving Him little attention. We cannot cease to care about God being at the center of everything we do and everything we are. We must never let God be labeled “the forgotten one” in the depth of our hearts.
It is sad to say, but most of us give more attention to our grocery list than God. We have become consumed with everything else, but God. We are consumed with our television shows, our music, our careers, our schedules, our success, our sports, our families, our education, our politics, our fitness, our comforts and our finances. We remember more about our IPhone apps than we remember about God. We remember the latest sport scores and statistics more than we remember God. God has to be more than just on our mailing list when we send Him a nice card from our hearts twice a year on Christmas and Easter. For a Christian, God should be more alive, important, and thought of, than any earthly thing. God has to be the living and burning passion of our hearts. We cannot follow the ways of this world where God is dead in the hearts of people. God must be more than a fleeting thought or a desperate prayer when we are in trouble. God must become the lifeblood of our heart, and the reason for every breath we take. We must cultivate in the soil of our hearts an expectation and excitement of knowing, experiencing and fellowshipping with God in a deep and meaningful manner.
A Personal Encounter with God Daily
A.W. Tozer in Experiencing the Presence of God: Teachings from the Book of Hebrews says:
How many Christians really harbor within their own spirit the daily expectation of God’s presence? How many truly expect a personal encounter with God? It is quite important to cultivate a daily expectation of God’s presence in your day … Each day presents a new opportunity to experience God and fellowship with Him. Nothing should so occupy the mind of the Christian than discovering God in his day … My encounter with God today may be of such a nature as to alter the course of my entire life. With a sacred expectation for me to dwell upon each morning, as I get up, I look for God in all the circumstances of my day. Let me give personal testimony that I never anticipate a day without experiencing the presence of God … Start the day seeking God’s presence and search for Him all through the day and revel in the gracious encounter of God throughout the day.[i]
Our heart is the place where we are to experience God with beautiful intimacy. Our heart is the sacred temple, the holy of holies, and the refuge where we cleave to God’s healing presence and love. God is not found in a relic, statue or image; God is found when He makes His permanent home in our hearts. Your heart is uniquely designed to be His dwelling place, His abode, and His meeting place of intimacy. Your heart was created to overflow with His presence and to be full of His love, joy and peace.
However, most of us have not given our hearts to God completely, without reservation, and with nothing held back. Too often we have honored God with our lips, but our heart is far from Him. We have a whole religious culture today with churches on every corner, but so few of us have ever really given God all of our heart, with no strings attached. If God does not have your heart, then you will forget Him. God is knocking at the door of your heart right now. He is pleading with you to let Him in. Dine with Him! Abide with Him! Give Him the keys to your heart! Don’t shut Him out! Don’t forget Him! God cries out daily like He did in Proverbs 23:26: “My son give me your heart!”
Listen to His passionate plea to His children in Jeremiah.
“I thought to myself, ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’ I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land—the finest possession in the world. I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me. But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel! You have been like a faithless wife who leaves her husband. I, the Lord, have spoken.” Voices are heard high on the wind swept mountains, the weeping and pleading of Israel’s people. For they have chosen crooked paths and have forgotten the Lord their God. “My wayward children,” says the Lord, “comeback to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.” (Jeremiah 3:19-22, NLT)
God is waiting for us to run into His arms and call Him Father. He wants the constant cry of our hearts to be “Abba, Father!” He wants us to move and live in His wonderful presence, and experience Him in the deepest levels of our hearts. We cannot forget Him when our heart is synchronized with His heart, and when His life is our life, His strength is our strength, and His will is our will. If we walk in the path that He has designed for our lives, we will be full of the joyous presence of God, and we will not forget Him. The purpose of our life will be to praise, love, and serve Him, and He will be at the forefront of every thought and movement of our lives.
Yet God knows the tendency of our hearts to stray from Him, and turn down a path that causes us to forget Him. Israel chose the crooked path, and they forgot Yahweh. This is the twisted and distorted path that the Devil continually lays before us, lined with the tempting delicacies of the world. When we forget God, we are like the unfaithful wife who leaves her husband to have an affair with her new lover. Unfaithfulness to God is a direct result of forgetting God days without number. The forgetful heart gives birth to the unfaithful heart.
But look at God’s tender appeal to our hearts even when we forget Him. He cries out to us every moment of the day and night, “Come back to me! Turn from your crooked path! Remember me! I am here for you! You are my beloved child! I love you more than you will ever know! Turn back to the right path I have ordained for your life, and I will heal your wayward heart! I will heal your shattered heart! I will give you rest and mend your broken hearts! I just ask this one thing: Do not forget me!”
At the Root of all Forgetfulness is Idolatry
At the root of all forgetfulness is idolatry. We have allowed something to capture our attention other than God. Forgetfulness arises in the heart when a new idol, a new lover, a new obsession, a new fascination or a new passion has consumed our hearts. This causes us to lose our way, stumbling around in darkness, as we turn from God’s path of blessing to the ruts of rebellion. When we forget God, we will ultimately betray Him and His Word. Forgetfulness causes breaches in the spiritual walls of our hearts, allowing the enemy to have access. Forgetfulness opens the door to the enemy to make our heart a wasteland where God is not wanted or worshipped.
Jeremiah gives us a somber warning about the betrayal of forgetfulness.
Who has heard of such betrayal as this? Ask the nations around you. Even they won’t believe this dreadful thing the virgin Israel has done to Me. Does the snow ever melt on the peaks of Lebanon’s mountains? Does the cool water of those mountain streams ever run dry? They have forgotten Me. Instead, My people offer incense to worthless gods, worshiping them as though they are real. They have lost their way, stumbling from the ancient path of blessing. Now they walk in the ruts of rebellion instead of taking the high road of obedience. Because of their forgetfulness, their homeland will become a wasteland; those who pass by will hiss and whistle; Disturbed at the sight of this eerie desolation, they will shake their heads in horror. (Jeremiah 18:13-16, VOICE)
You cannot grow into full spiritual maturity when your heart languishes in forgetfulness. You cannot flourish in God and produce much spiritual fruit when you continually disconnect from Him and forget Him minute after minute, hour after hour and day after day. Your fruit will wither and die if you forget to cultivate your relationship with your Heavenly Father. You are building your life on sinking sand if you forget God and His words of life. Your heart cannot stand against the schemes of the devil and his kingdom if you allow your heart to wallow in forgetfulness. Your confidence in God will fade and dwindle, and you will not run the race of life with patience and endurance if you forget your God.
The book of Job enlightens us to these truths.
Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish where there is no water? While yet in flower and not cut down, they wither before any other plant. Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish. His confidence is severed, and his trust is a spider’s web. He leans against his house, but it does not stand; he lays hold of it, but it does not endure. (Job 8:11-15, ESV)
To Forget: Tears Down the Fence That Separates Life from Chaos
The Hebrew word for “forget” has even a deeper meaning when we look at its word picture. Remember that Hebrew is a pictographic language, and each letter of the Hebrew alphabet represents a picture. Every word in Hebrew is formed by adding these pictures together to visually illustrate the meaning of a word.
The Hebrew pictograph for the word “forget” is Shin-Kaf-Chet and means what destroys the fence around the open palm or hand. The open hand of God has given us life, blessings, and purpose. The open hand of God has given us instructions for life in His Word. He has also put a fence or protective boundary around our heart that allows us to live separate from the chaos of this broken world. To forget is to tear down and destroy this fence.
Skip Moen in his “Hebrew Word Studies” explains in more detail this pictograph for the Hebrew word “forget”:
To forget is to tear down the fence that provides life … God fences us in on purpose. The broken world is a dangerous and unhealthy place. God protects with His instructions, often in ways that we cannot comprehend. When we forget, we tear down the fence that keeps life and chaos apart. When we forget, we let sin in. When we forget, we open the door (as Paul says) and life tumbles.[ii]
God’s instructions in the Bible are a fence to protect our hearts from the onslaughts of the enemy. God’s commandments are a fence that allows us to live in the refuge of His grace, mercy and blessing, free from the contaminating influences of sin, lusts and the world. God builds a mighty fence with His words that is designed to withstand all the fierce storms of our spiritual adversary.
Forgetting God is Not Acting on His Word or Standing on His Promises
Yet when we forget the instruction of our God, as Hosea 4:6 warns, we begin to tear down this fence. When we forget our God, the fence becomes broken and full of holes, and our hearts become extremely vulnerable to the devil. Satan can capture and enslave the heart when we tear down the fence that God has built for our lives by forgetting our God and His Word. To forget is to not act on God’s Word, and stand on His promises.
Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today. (Deuteronomy 8:11, NASB)
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:15-16, ESV)
So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors—stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God. The warriors of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned their backs and fled on the day of battle. They did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his instructions. They forgot what he had done—the great wonders he had shown them. (Psalm 78:7-11, NLT)
When we forget God and refuse to live by His instructions, we will flee in the day of battle. We will wilt under the pressure of this world. When the giants of fear, worry, and anxiety stand ready to war against our hearts, we will have no strength, confidence or faith to resist them because we have forgotten God Almighty. Forgetfulness causes the heart to be seized with fear and to run away. We will not be able to hold our ground as Christians and stand fast in the Lord, if we allow His mighty works, powerful words and glorious presence to fade from our conscious thinking.
Look at David when he faced the giant Goliath. Scripture says: “he hasted and ran into battle to meet the Philistine!” Pastor Eric Ludy has enlightened me about the meaning of the word “hasted” in the Hebrew which is to move forth like liquid, to act with instant energy, and to go swiftly like a charging lion. David did not forget His God, the mighty deliverer Yahweh, and he charged into battle with liquid ferocity for he knew God never loses. He knew in His heart without any shadow of doubt that “Yahweh only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I will not be greatly shaken” (Psalm 62:2).
David knew God! David trusted God without reservation. David had the courage of a thousand men for he had absolute confidence that God was His salvation and the impenetrable fortress of his heart. He did not forget the awesome nature, marvelous works, and life-changing words of Yahweh as he boldly confesses: “I will set the Lord always before me” (Psalm 16:8).
Each generation has the responsibility to set its hope and trust in God alone. Unfortunately, our culture is geared toward causing the heart to forget God and to minimize His importance in our daily living. We will wander aimlessly in the wilderness of the world unless we make a diligent daily effort to remember God and His exceedingly great and precious promises. When we forget Him, the heart becomes stubborn and unfaithful. In the forgetfulness of God and His Word lies all spiritual weakness. We cannot grow up in Christ as strong mature disciples, bearing much spiritual fruit if we allow our hearts to play the game of forgetfulness with God. We must make the constant pledge in our hearts, “I will not forget you!” May the cry of our hearts always be, “I will not forget your Word!”
Erasing God’s Instructions
Skip Moen in “Hebrew Word Study” expounds further on this Hebrew word shakar (forget):
Forgetting is not about a mental condition. It is about a moral failure. To forget is to tear down the fence between chaos and life. Forgetting is failing to bring something into action. Forgetting is the failure to respond to the demands of the Lord. It’s not mental. It’s moral. “Forgetting has the sense of not bringing into conscious thought and thus not allowing something to shape a response.” Notice that forgetting in Hebrew is a deliberate act. It’s not a lapse of memory. It is an intentional exclusion of what should be considered. In other words, God indicts Israel not because Israel didn’t remember Him but because the people refused to allow His presence to influence their actions. The people erased God’s instructions from their minds. They knew what they should have done but they ignored it. Have we forgotten YHWH in the Hebraic sense of shakah? In a nation that calls itself Christian, have we erased His instructions? It certainly seems so. Of course, there are many who sincerely bring His ways to mind and act upon them. But when more than eighty percent of the population claims to believe in God and nevertheless behaves as if God is deaf and mute, you have to wonder if shakah doesn’t apply. This is not merely a matter of bad ethical choices. This is deliberate worship of the Ba’als, the false gods of power, money and sex that promise satisfaction but deliver death. Shakah is a sign of idolatry. It is planned disobedience.[iii]
At the Center of Disobedience is Forgetfulness
You make the choice, whether your heart is going to remember God or forget Him. Forgetfulness is always a deliberate act. Forgetfulness is always at the center of disobedience. Forgetfulness is always a sign that the heart has strayed into idolatry. It is interesting that one of the root words for “sin” in the Hebrew means forgetfulness. At the core of sin is a heart that has forgotten the majesty, grandeur and holiness of God. At the core of sin is a heart that has erased God from its thinking, forgetting His instructions, and deliberately choosing to follow another god.
As Christians, we have two natures battling within us for control over our hearts. We are born with a sin nature that causes the heart to forget God and rebel against His Holy Word. The sin nature is in complete hostility against God and causes the heart to be lost in self-worship. God has no importance, value or significance to the sin nature. The sin nature does not remember God as He is revealed in the pages of Scripture. There can be a religious bent to the sin nature as we see in the Pharisees or in the devotion to idols. Yet God is a thousand miles away from the religious heart and has long been forgotten. The powerful words of Scripture that give health, peace and life have been tossed aside and rarely come to mind. The sin nature loves religion, but hates God. The sin nature loves man-made rules and regulations, but hates the truth of Scripture that shows the utter depravity and worthlessness of the flesh. The sin nature is always trying to exercise its dominion over the heart with the express purpose of molding it into a chamber of forgetfulness where God is not wanted. If we walk according to the flesh, we will always forget God, and He will become a distant memory and a fleeting thought that is kicked out of the heart quickly.
It is impossible to please God and walk with Him in deep and abiding intimacy, if our sin nature is ruling our thought life. God wants to be remembered. God wants to be thought of. God wants to be treasured. God wants to be adored. God’s glorious heart is greatly grieved when we forget Him. We must not allow sin to have dominion as the king of our hearts. Jesus Christ crushed the power of the sin nature on the cross so we no longer have to live our lives in constant forgetfulness of God.
Christians are born again with a new divine nature. We are sealed with the gift of Holy Spirit, which is all the power, compassion, righteousness, and grace of Christ born within us as incorruptible seed. This new nature causes us to remember God and constantly brings the things of God to our minds. This divine gift of Holy Spirit is our guide, teacher and helper so we become stronger and more rooted in God.
The Gift of Holy Spirit Helps Us Remember
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26, ESV)
If we walk by the Spirit, God is a living reality in our thoughts and actions, and He will not be forgotten. The Spirit of God brings to remembrance the words, wonders and works of God. When we live according to the Spirit, we set our minds and hearts on the things of the Spirit and not the things of the flesh (Romans 8:6). The Spirit of God dwells within every cell of our body by the new birth, and it reminds us that we are the beloved children of God. Think of the incredible intimacy available with the Heavenly Father as we call Him “Abba Father” (Romans 8: 15-16). The Spirit of God always leads us into the bosom of our loving Heavenly Father where we can enjoy His close presence, becoming one with Him in everything we are. The Spirit of God is always teaching, leading, comforting, encouraging, warning, helping, enlightening, reminding and instructing our hearts so we live our lives in Christ, and do not forget God or His precious words of life.
You must choose which nature is going to rule your heart. You must decide which nature is going to be the guiding power of your life. Are you going to put on the rotting grave clothes of your old sin nature, which will cause you to forget God days without number and live in rebellion against Him? Or are you going to put on the holy and righteous clothes of the new nature, where you live each day in close communion with God, marveling at His wonders, passionately praising and worshiping Him, as you align your steps according to His Word?
Both natures are constantly bringing thoughts, images, words, and desires to the forefront of our hearts, causing us to either remember or forget God. The old nature brings to the mind, the lusts of the flesh, and the seductive trappings of this world. The new nature exercises its influence to bring us to a place where God is supreme in all our thoughts, motives, and emotions.
One of the main responsibilities of the Holy Spirit is to lead our hearts into a constant state of remembrance. As our spiritual guide, the Holy Spirit lays before our hearts the wonderful tapestry of truth in all its brilliant glory so we know and understand the attributes, character, and marvelous heart of Almighty God. Our eyes are opened to see just how magnificent, merciful, loving, powerful and limitless God is. Who could forget such an awesome God? Who would let such a magnificent God fade from their memory?
Who Will Be the Forgotten One of Your Heart?
The critical question for all spiritual warfare is, “Who will be the forgotten one of the heart?” Whom is the heart going to remember and whom is the heart going to forget? We turn our backs on the forgotten one. We lose all our passion for the forgotten one. We cannot love and worship the forgotten one. Forgetfulness of God always leads us into the valley of sin and disobedience against Him, and opens the door for the enemy to establish a stronghold in our hearts. Forgetfulness of God weakens the heart and paves the way for sin to be its dominant master. Forgetfulness of God and sin are the two wicked partners in the destruction of the heart for God.
Twice in Deuteronomy (6:12 and 8:11), God has this urgent message, “Beware that you do not forget Yahweh!” The Hebrew word “beware” is shamar, which means to exercise great care, to watch over, to preserve, to guard, and to protect. It conveys an attitude of attentive care and protectiveness realizing the sacred duty of remembering God. God is warning us the danger is too great to allow the heart to fall into the consistent pattern of forgetting Him. You must be a diligent watchman of your heart, exercising care to ensure that God is not the forgotten one.
The heart has a natural inclination, borne from our fleshly nature, to forget God, and we cannot allow this to be the characteristic of our hearts. The Devil is masterful in his schemes, in causing us to not remember Yahweh’s loving heart and His living words. Everything in Satan’s kingdom is designed with the specific purpose of causing us to forget our blessed Lord. If we care about the condition of our hearts, we cannot let this happen. We must tune our spiritual ears to hear our Heavenly Father’s constant passionate plea to our hearts “Do not forget me!” “Remember me!” “Let me be your God in everything!”
[i] A.W. Tozer, Experiencing the Presence of God: Teachings from the Book of Hebrews (Bloomington: Bethany House Publishers. 2010), 1842, Kindle Edition.
[ii] Skip Moen, “”For Whom the Bell Tolls (2), Hebrew Word Study, February 25, 2011, http://skipmoen.com/2011/02/25/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-2/