God’s people had been in exile, with no king or temple, for seventy years (Jer 25:12; Dan 9:2). And when the time had finally come, the Lord raised up the Persian king Cyrus to allow the remnant to return to their land and rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:1–4). “The people of Israel—the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the exiles—observed the dedication of this temple of God with joy” (6:16). They offered hundreds of sacrifices and organized the Levites for service (6:17–18), as outlined by Moses (Lev 1–7, Num 18) and ordered by David (1 Chr 23–26).

But why? “For the Lord had given them joy and had changed the opinion of the king of Assyria toward them so that he assisted them in the work on the temple of God, the God of Israel” (6:22). In this passage and throughout Israel’s history, remembering the Lord’s past deeds led to celebration in the present and commitment for the future.

In the book of Deuteronomy, as Moses detailed God’s instructions for his people, one of the most frequent commands we read is “remember” (זכר), used more than a dozen times (5:15; 7:18; 8:2, 18; 9:7; 15:15; 16:3, 12; 24:9, 18, 22; 25:17; 32:7). Rather than a passive recall, this command conveys “an active calling to mind of what happened in the past so appropriate action will be taken in the present.” This practice was woven into the fabric of the nation through their calendar. Each week, Israel was told to “remember the Sabbath,” recalling God’s wonders in creation and replicating his work–rest pattern (Exod 20:8–11). Each year, the nation celebrated feasts to commemorate the Lord’s great deeds on behalf of his people. In the first month, they celebrated Passover as a memorial (זכרון, Exod 12:14): “so you will remember for the rest of your lives the day you came out of the land of Egypt” (Deut 16:3), “for the Lord brought you out of there with a mighty hand” (Exod 13:3). Regularly recalling this event was intended to motivate Israel’s commitment to obey (5:15; 8:18; 15:15; 24, 18, 22). In the seventh month, the people observed the Feast of Booths, joyfully erecting and living in booths for seven days, “so that your future generations may know that I made the Israelites live in shelters [booths] when I brought them out from the land of Egypt” (Lev 23:43). In the twelfth month, they celebrated Purim (Esth 9:28), remembering God’s providential deliverance from Haman’s decree, “when the Jews gave themselves rest from their enemies—the month when their trouble was turned to happiness and their mourning to a holiday” (9:22). In addition to their calendar, other important events in the nation’s history were also marked as a memorial. After God’s judgment on Korah and his friends for offering incense, their bronze censers were hammered into a covering for the altar as a remembrance and reminder of God’s holiness (Num 17:5), Later, when Israel crossed the Jordan, Joshua instructed them to collect twelve stones as “a lasting memorial” for them and their children (Josh 4:6–7; cf. Exod 12:26; 13:14).

In addition to special holidays, remembering God’s mighty acts becomes a repeated theme in the psalms, linking commemoration, celebration, and commitment in the call to worship Him. In Psalm 105:1–5, the poet commends reflection on and proclamation of God’s great deeds: “Give thanks to the Lord. Call on his name. Make known his accomplishments among the nations. Sing to him. Make music to him. Tell about all his miraculous deeds. Boast about his holy name. Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and the strength he gives. Seek his presence continually. Recall the miraculous deeds he performed, his mighty acts and the judgments he decreed” (cf. 1 Chr 16:8–12). After tracing God’s wondrous works through Israel’s history, from Abraham to Jacob, from Joseph to Moses, the psalmist shifts from praise to pledge in the final verses: “When he led his people out, they rejoiced; his chosen ones shouted with joy. He handed the territory of nations over to them, and they took possession of what other peoples had produced, so they might keep his commands and obey his laws” (105:43–45). In Psalm 63, David similarly links his reflection on God’s past faithfulness with his present joy and future hope: “My mouth joyfully praises you, whenever I remember you on my bed, and think about you during the nighttime hours. For you are my deliverer; under your wings I rejoice. My soul pursues you” (63:5–8). 

During this centennial year, let us follow the pattern of Scripture. May our reflection on God’s great deeds in the history of Dallas Theological Seminary lead us to celebrate his goodness and commit ourselves anew to faithfully carry out his mission. “May your name and your remembrance continue to be the desire of our being” (Isa 26:8). To paraphrase the words of Moses, let us remember the whole way that the Lord our God has led us these one hundred years. But take care lest we forget the Lord our God when we experience his abundant blessings, for it is he who gives us the ability to prosper (Deut 8:1–20).

1 Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013), 286.
2 Italics in Bible quotations in this article have been added for emphasis.

About the Contributors

Brian P. Gault

Dr. Gault loves sharing with students about God’s glorious deeds in the Old Testament, most importantly His mission to redeem His people, restore their access to His presence, and renew their broken relationship with Him. He takes special delight in teaching Hebrew language and exegesis, particularly in Wisdom Literature. Dr. Gault has written articles on Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, and he is currently working on commentaries on Esther and Song of Songs. Before joining the DTS faculty, Dr. Gault taught for 10 years at Columbia Biblical Seminary (SC). He and his wife, Cara, have two beautiful daughters (Charissa, Maria) and one very active little boy (Isaiah).