One name after another flashes across the televsion screen. Every twenty seconds the name of a solider and the year he or she died in defense of the nation appears. Within twenty-four hours, 18,200 names flicker on and off the screen just as their lives briefly flickered on and off this earth. It is the national Day of Remembrance for those who gave their lives in defense of the nation of Israel.
Regular television programming is suspended. Instead, stations broadcast special programs of a very personal nature. Many include interviews of families who lost sons and daughters. Newspapers publish touching articles about personal loss and heroism. National empathy is enormous for the widows and the fatherless, and for the parents who hoped their children would outlive them. Hardly anyone in this small nation has been untouched by the icy hand of war.
From a national view point remembrance is essential for a young country that is still very much unsettled and at war, or at least beset on many sides with the threat of war. The reminder is if we want a homeland, if we want a place where Jewish people can live without fear, then we must defend that homeland with our most precious resource, and that is our lives and the lives of our children.
It is interesting that the Day of Remembrance comes nineteen days after the Passover. God gave Passover as the occasion for remembering the Exodus from Egypt. Every year for the last 3,500 years, Jewish families around the world have gathered to remember the goodness of God who created the rebirth of a nation, bringing our people from slavery to freedom.
The Lord often urged the Israelites to remember that they were slaves in Egypt and it is the Lord who brought them out (for example, Deuteronomy 5:15). God frequently offered this humbling reminder that Israel exists because of God’s love and watch care, and not because of our own efforts.
The basis for God’s commitment to Israel is the divine promise that He, too, will remember. But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 26:45).
The contemporary Day of Remembrance emphasizes the sacrifices that people have made for the sake of Israel. I think it is right to honor those who have died in their country’s service. How much more important is it to remember what God has done for us.
Remembrance isn’t just for Jews or the nation of Israel. All believers in Yeshua (Jesus) are called to remember the greatest event in history. It is the sacrifice of God’s only Son, a sacrifice He made in His war with sin and death. Yeshua foreshadowed that event as He celebrated Passover. When He took the bread, He blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, “…’This is My body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you'” (Luke 22:19,20).
Yeshua’s disciples did not know at that point exactly what they would be remembering, but it all became clear with Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection those next few days.
God wants us to remember what He has done for us so that we can appreciate Him, and because what He’s done in the past helps us trust Him for the future. Whether it is Israel’s Remembrance Day, American Memorial Day or just a time when you are reflecting on life and freedom, God wants us to remember that His great salvation in Yeshua is what makes us truly free.
As you think of Israel’s Remembrance Day this month, please pray that the Prince of Peace will come soon to reconcile the peoples of the Middle East. Even more, pray that He will make their hearts receptive to Jesus, who alone can reconcile both Jews and Arabs to Himself.