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1 Samuel 1:11 ... if You surely see the suffering of Your maidservant and will remember me and not forget Your maidservant and will give to Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the L-rd all the days of his life
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Shabbat this week is hosting the annual festival of Yom Teruah, the Day of Blowing ('shofar' implied) when all Israel is commanded to hear the shofar being blown. As the festival falls on Shabbat this year, the shofar will not be heard in much of the Jewish world in spite of the explicit command, because the ancient Sages determined that the Shabbat regulations had priority, although all the rest of the festival liturgy and readings will be used. The shofar will be heard on Sunday, the second day of the festival in the Diaspora, but not in Israel.
How did this reading - which, on the surface, appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with the main themes of the day - come to be associated with this feast, when the Jewish world blows the shofar to celebrate the creation of the world and start the ten Days of Awe leading to Yom Kippur? The answer to that is the verb root , to remember. The root appears twice in the Haftarah reading (1 Samuel 1:1-2:10), here in our text above, and in verse 19: "Elkanah knew his wife Hannah and the L-RD remembered her" (NJPS). Why is that significant? Because in the original command specifying the festival,HaShem said, "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts" (Vayikra 23:24, NJPS). The Hebrew words are literally "a remembrance (or remembering) of blasts." In Pesikta Rabbati, a set of discussions about the readings for special days, the ancient rabbis asked, "What is implied by the root in the expression ' and remember me'? Remember me with male children (). And what is implied by 'and not forget Your handmaid'? And also do not forget the female children. Hence it is written, 'And the L-rd remembered Hannah, and she conceived, and bore three sons and two daughters' (1 Samuel 2:21)" (Piska 43.3).
So what can we learn from our text and its fulfillment eight verses later? Firstly, something of the quality of remembering when it is done by G-d: "G-d's remembrance is not a matter of recalling to mind but of paying special attention to or lavishing special case on one."1 The Psalmist illustrates this - "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Psalm 8:5). Here the root is rendered "are mindful of" compared in parallelism with "care for" in the second half of the verse. Bruce Burch observes that, "when Hannah returns home and has sexual relations with Elkanah, 'the L-rd remembered her.' It is the precise fulfillment of the request Hannah had made."2 G-d responds with exactly what was sought: "Hannah conceived, and at the turn of the year bore a son" (1 Samuel 1:20, NJPS). Walter Brueggemann starts with Hannah's vow: "She addresses Yahweh, the same G-d who in verses 5-6 had caused her barrenness. Her vow seeks to evoke a new gift from G-d. The vow is a standard part of a complaint prayer ... [In verse 19] Yahweh does remember. This is precisely what Hannah had asked, that Yahweh should remember and not forget. Yahweh is a powerful rememberer; and when Yahweh remembers the partner and the promise, newness becomes possible."3 To support his point, Brueggemann cites a number of instances of new beginnings flowing from G-d's acts of remembering: "G-d remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark, and G-d caused a wind to blow across the earth, and the waters subsided" (B'resheet 8:1, NJPS), "Thus it was that, when G-d destroyed the cities of the Plain and annihilated the cities where Lot dwelt, G-d was mindful of Abraham and removed Lot from the midst of the upheaval" (19:29, NJPS) and "Now G-d remembered Rachel; G-d heeded her and opened her womb" (30:22, NJPS).
One of the critical times of G-d remembering for the Jewish people is the Exodus from Egypt. Our people were bowed down under the oppression of slavery and cried to Him; the Torah records that, "G-d heard their groaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Avraham, with Yitz'khak, and with Ya'akov. G-d saw the people of Israel -- and G-d knew" (Shemot 2:24-25, ESV). Israel was (and, of course, remains) HaShem's partner and He had promised the fathers that He would bring our people to the land He had promised. He had not forgotten the covenant, but was waiting for the right time to activate that promise; we could say that the 'remembering' happened when the trajectory of the promise crossed God's time line. That is why the Torah tells us that "G-d saw ... and G-d knew"; He knew that it was time to act on His promise and do something new.
We can hear the same intersection being established in the words of the prophet: "On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the L-RD in remembrance, take no rest, and give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth" (Isaiah 62:6-7, ESV). Here the 'remembering' word is , the Hif'il participle: the ones who cause HaShem to remember. He has put them there on the walls, to act as watchmen and to cry out to Him on the city's behalf. Remember that the prophet may have a much longer time-horizon in view that his immediate audience; this may take many years to happen, but HaShem is urging the watchers not to give up, not to become weary, not to stop because nothing seems to be happening, but to continually cry out and remind Him of His promises until the time is right and He moves to do what He has said. History records a brief fulfillment of this promise during the days of Herod's Temple, when Jerusalem was famous throughout the Roman empire and offerings and money flowed in to the city from all over the known world. Now, in our days, we cry out again, knowing that the time is becoming ripe for the final fulfillment when Yeshua will return to Jerusalem to rule all the nations of the earth.
The theme of remembrance appears again when Mary is told by the angel that she is to bear Yeshua - "[HaShem] has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy" (Luke 1:54, ESV) and Zechariah's prophecy on the birth of his son John the Baptist blesses G-d with a similar reference: "to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant" (v. 72, ESV). These events heralding the time of the incarnation are significant rememberings as G-d creates a new - yet completely consistent and prophetically foretold - chapter in His purpose for Israel and the nations together.
During the crucifixion - the very moment when you might have thought that Yeshua and the Father had their minds exclusively on the main plot, there is a cry for remembrance. One of the thieves on the cross next to Yeshua rebukes the other who had been taunting Him for his words and then turns to Yeshua and says to Him, "Yeshua, remember me when you come as King" (Luke 23:42, CJB). Wow - what a statement of faith! Without missing a beat, Yeshua replies, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (v. 43, ESV) - yes, I will remember; I will remember you this very day, in real time!
After the two mass feedings - of first five thousand and then four thousand - which were surely memorable events, Yeshua had to chide the disciples for missing His point about the Pharisees: "Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread?" (Matthew 16:9-11, ESV). They hadn't thought through the memory properly; they hadn't paid attention to what was really going on. They hadn't reached the point of understanding, so Yeshua urges them to re-remember, to play the DVD again and look more carefully. Mark's version has Yeshua referring to Isaiah's mission prophecy: "Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?" (Mark 8:18, ESV). We have to learn to remember with our mind as well as our eyes and ears. The women who come to Yeshua's tomb to anoint His body on the third day after the crucifixion get the same line from two angels: "He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee ..." (Luke 24:6, ESV).
Rav Sha'ul tells Timothy to "Remember Yeshua the Messiah, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel" (2 Timothy 2:8, ESV) and the writer to the Hebrews urges us to "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of G-d. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith" (Hebrews 13:7, ESV). His second sentence makes it plain that this is more that a cozy feeling; just as remembering Yeshua has to be worked out in practice, so does the process of discipleship. In both cases, we have to do it as well as think it.
Yom Teruah is a day of reminding, when we blow the shofar to remind us that G-d remembers, and to remind Him that He remembers. We must remember Him, thinking over and putting into practice our memory so He becomes our remembrance and we become His! Blow your shofar loud and clear so that its cry comes up to heaven and ask G-d to powerfully remember us and create new possibilities in our lives.
1. - Ronald F. Youngblood, "1 and 2 Samuel", in The Expositor's Bible Commentary Vol 3, edited by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), page 48.
2. - Bruce C. Burch, "1 & 2 Samuel", in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary Vol 2, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015), page 329.
3. - Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel, Interpretation, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1990), pages 13-14.
Further Study: Psalm 71:13-16; Isaiah 61:10-11; John 16:4; Acts 20:32-35
Application: Are you fed up with the way things are and long for something new, a new way to be and live before G-d? Then develop the habit of remembering and reminding. Remember G-d's promises, remind Him of them and "give Him no rest" (Isaiah 62:7) until He moves in your life according to His word.
Comment - 14:17 13Sep20 Edward Bishop Sr: It is time to remember all the blessings of Hashem and RETURN in repentance to the God of our Fathers. We must return before our Messiah Yeshua arrives for His Bride. The days are growing shorter by the moment.
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© Jonathan Allen, 2020
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