What immediately comes to mind when you hear Memorial Day? Mattress and car sales? Sizzling hamburgers and hotdogs on a grill? Parades honoring our armed forces? For most of us, Memorial Day brings back a flood of memories from our childhood onward. It’s a time of family, fellowship, and sometimes camping or kicking off the start of summer. But, above all, Memorial Day is a time of remembrance.
Days of Remembrance
Throughout the year we have important days of remembrance. Some of these are government-instituted holidays, set up not just so we can have some time off work or with family, but often to encourage us to remember something important. Memorial Day reminds Americans that many people have given their lives for freedom; it’s not something that was or is simply free. Veteran’s Day likewise reminds us of the cost of freedom. Independence Day, July 4, reminds us of America’s heritage and brings us together in a celebration of how we got here. Thanksgiving is a time to slow down and be thankful for everything we have. It points us toward our Creator God who has given us everything we have and who deserves our never-ending thanksgiving and praise. Perhaps more often than other times of the year, at Easter we acknowledge what Christ did for us.
EACH OF THESE HOLIDAYS, AND OTHERS, REMINDS US OF SOMETHING AND PROVIDES A CHANCE TO JUST STOP AND REMEMBER.
Each of these holidays, and others, reminds us of something and provides a chance to stop and remember. These days are important because they keep us from forgetting where our nation has come from, what freedom costs, or, more importantly, what Jesus Christ has done for us.
Biblical Days of Remembrance
Of course, Memorial Day was not instituted in the Bible, but Romans 14:5 reminds us that it is perfectly acceptable to esteem some days above others (or not to). And we see examples of reminders—and the importance of them—in the Bible. In Joshua 4, after the Israelites crossed the Jordan River by God’s supernatural provision, God commanded the Israelites to set up 12 stones as “a memorial forever” (verse 7). When their children asked them what these stones meant, the parents were to tell their children the account of God’s provision and how he divided the waters so they could cross safely (verses 6–7). In 1 Samuel 7:12, the prophet Samuel set up a stone and named it Ebenezer. It was to serve as a reminder that “Till now the Lord has helped us.” (At the that serves as a reminder of the truth of Noah’s Flood and God’s Word.) In Exodus 12 God instituted the celebration of Passover as a memorial of the Israelites’ dramatic deliverance from the hand of Egypt by the Lord their God. The Israelites were to celebrate Passover each year and remember what God had done for them. These are just a few of many Old Testament reminders and memorials to great things the Lord had done for his people.
We see memorials continue into the New Testament. Before his death, Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of what he has done for us on the Cross. The Apostle Paul recounts Christ’s words: “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me . . . This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25). By the bread and the cup, we are to remember Christ and his sacrifice. So reminders of things that God has done for his people are certainly biblical.
THESE MEMORIALS CAN HELP US GET OUR THOUGHTS BACK ON TRACK.
Why did God establish so many memorials and reminders of his provision and grace? Because, sadly, humans are prone to forget and neglect God. This happened frequently to the Israelites, and the result was always tragedy. Memorials and reminders serve as something tangible to stop us in our busy lives and cause us to focus on what we should be focusing on all year—God and his goodness and grace. These memorials can help us get our thoughts back on track.
Reminders for the Next Generation
Reminders are also an important part of raising God-fearing children. In Deuteronomy 4:25 we read, “When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke Him to anger . . .” Here Moses is referencing people and their descendants forgetting God and what He had done. It might have seemed ridiculous to the Israelites that they should forget God’s rescue from Egypt, but sadly they often did, and their children and grandchildren certainly did (e.g. Judges 2:10–12). They needed a reminder to keep God’s deliverance fresh in their minds—that’s why God instituted memorials.
God commands his people to raise children to love the Lord and his Word: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7); “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6); “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This means we need to teach our children to love God’s Word and to hide it in their hearts (Psalm 119:11). We need to model godly living for them by constantly showing them what it means to follow, obey, and love the Word of God (Deuteronomy 6:7). But we should also provide reminders for our children of God and his goodness. These special days or times direct our thoughts back to who is most important—God.
Memorial Day: A Reminder of Our Freedom
This brings us back to Memorial Day. This day reminds us of the brave men and women who fought and died for our freedom. But it should also remind us of someone else who died for our freedom, the Lord Jesus. The God-man who never knew sin became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), taking our penalty of death upon himself so that we could receive the free gift of salvation, be freed from the power of sin, be forgiven, and welcomed into eternity with Jesus (John 3:16). What an incredible event to be reminded of.
This year, take time to remind yourself and your children of God and his goodness. Use this day as an opportunity to slow down and marvel at the amazing grace and love of our gracious Heavenly Father and his Son.