It seems on almost every page the Psalms are reminding us to remember, to not forget:
“My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you…” (42:6)
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord…” (77:11)
“…they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God…” (78:7)
“Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles…” (105:5)
To remember God’s gracious and powerful acts is to honor Him; to forget is to dishonor Him. While we seem to know this intrinsically in our relationships with others – how do you feel when someone seems to forget or ignore all that you’ve done for them? – we struggle to remember all that God has done. And so we read our Bibles, we worship weekly, never tiring of reminders, so that we might honor God rightly.
But it isn’t just the past that must be remembered. Psalm 37 makes it clear that the future needs to be remembered just as much as the past. Or, more specifically, God’s promises about the future need to be remembered. To address the heartache of seeing so many righteous people suffer and so many wicked people prosper, the king reminds his people to remember the future of both:
The wicked will “fade like the grass” (37:2), “be cut off” (8), “be no more” (10) and “perish” (20) to the point of being forgotten (36) because their “day is coming” (13) when “their sword shall enter their own heart” (15).
In contrast, the righteous will receive their heart’s desires (4), be justified by God (6), inherit the land in abundant peace (11), be remembered eternally (18), be kept secure even through stumbling (23-24), be preserved eternally (28) and have a truly hopeful future (38).
In other words: heaven and hell are real.
So when you look at the world around you and your heart cries for justice that seems so long in coming and when you can’t understand why God allows His children to suffer so horribly, remember the future, that heaven and hell are real. This is the only perspective that makes sense of this current world.
Because, without this eternal perspective, we will (and often do) fall into several errors:
When we forget that heaven and hell are real, we will fall into fear. “Fret not yourself because of evildoers!” (1) Do you find yourself often afraid when you look at the world around us? Do you fear who might be elected president or what ISIS might be able to accomplish? While we can be rightly concerned about those things, giving into fear denies the future promised by God. There’s only one we should fear: the one who can cast body and soul into hell (Mt. 10:28). Let’s repent of our fear. Let’s also be careful with the news we watch and read – not that ignorance is commendable, but because so much of the modern news machine is designed to simply make us afraid.
When we forget that heaven and hell are real, we will fall into anger. “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!” (8) God doesn’t forbid righteous anger – Jesus Himself often shows us what that anger looks like. But Psalm 37 is forbidding the type of deep-seated bitterness that comes when we believe an injustice will never be made right. Do you have that type of bitterness? Have you experienced real injustices that will never be made right in this life? If this life is all there is, then bitter anger makes some sense. But if heaven and hell are real, we need onl to wait on the Lord to make all the wrong things right.
When we forget that heaven and hell are real, we will fall into jealousy. “…be not envious of wrongdoers!” (1) “Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked.” (16) Perhaps the worst possible response to seeing how the wicked are temporarily blessed and successful is jealousy: a longing to be like the wicked, even to the point of giving up on Jesus and the cross-carrying life of a Christian. To the extent we forget about our “imperishable inheritance” (1 Pet. 1:4) waiting for us, will begin to grab everything we can now. If we forget the heaven waiting for us, we’ll make life a scramble for money and power and fame. And we may just leave the church to do it. But to the extent we remember the heaven that waits for us, we will consider the sufferings of this life to be absolutely incomparable to the glories waiting for us; we’ll be willing to suffer while the wicked seem blessed because we are sure of what’s next.
Don’t forget the future God has promised for you and for those who refuse to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation!