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Preserving a memory

The ancient Hebrews had a custom of reciting their genealogies from the beginning of their nation and forward.  You can see this in Genesis, First Chronicles, and again in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  As a kid, I was taught that people were keeping track of their lineage out of a hope that the Messiah would come through their line.  It seemed to make sense at the time, but not so much any more.  By the time First Chronicles was being written, it was well known that the Messiah would come through the line of David in the house of Judah.  Something else was going on.

There’s a group of guys in Georgia, presumably also in other states, who travel around to old cemeteries looking for the grave sites of Confederate soldiers who didn’t get a proper headstone.  They have special ceremonies when one is found and a suitable marble stone is set in place.  We preserve a remembrance for the dead, ourselves hoping to be remembered.  But for most of us, being forgotten is just a fact of death.  Few do deeds notable enough to be remembered by.  Americans mostly can’t name all the presidents, or even most of them.  (I sure can’t.)

Psalm 90 is subtitled, “A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God.”  This prayer muses on the brevity of life and makes a couple of requests in that regard.  This prayer is the source of the famous observation that people are generally allotted threescore years and ten, and the really strong ones make it past fourscore.  Compared to the life of God, this is vanishingly small.  “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God,” he says.  And the power of God makes our lives as fragile as they are brief.  “All our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.” (v9)

All this recognition tends toward humility of spirit, and Moses reacts that way.  To borrow a cliché from the current parlance, “it’s not about us; it’s about him.”  So Moses corrects his focus, “Let your work appear to your servants.”  Or to say it another way, “Let us see what mighty works You are doing.”

Then a final request: Establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, the work of our hands, establish that.”  Only what God has done will last.  If there is to be any memory of us preserved, it must be the works that we have done which God is pleased to establish.  Except for that, there might not even be anybody 150 years from now trying to find your unmarked grave and remembering you for soldiering in a war that was lost.

And so the “begats” in the Old Testament?  In God’s kingdom, nobody is forgotten.  God remembers the servant as well as the hero.  All God’s children become living stones in the temple of God (1 Pe 2:5 NKJV), and the promise of God is that we become part of that structure for ever. (Rev 3:12)

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