What does it mean that God “remembers”? “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided” (Genesis 8:1). God would then set a rainbow in the clouds to remember His covenant between Him and all creation. He says this several times to emphasise His remembrance (Genesis 9:15-17). His remembrance is redundant.
As God is holy, it goes without saying that God’s remembrance is nothing like our remembrance. When we remember something, it’s because we’ve forgotten something. Aside from its marvellous beauty, perhaps this is why the rainbow is so great—because it reminds us of God’s promise we so often forget.
When God “remembers,” He acts, and it is always His salvific action. God does not set signs to remind Himself lest He forget; He sets these signs as a seal—or promise—that He is going to act with salvation. His remembering is not for His benefit; His remembering is for our benefit. As Jeske remarks:
The Scripture uses the expression “to remember” in the sense of “to show kindness to.” Centuries later, for example, when Jacob’s wife Rachel was unhappy about her inability to bear children, we’re told “God remembered Rachel… and [she] gave birth to a son” (30:22, 23). Several centuries after that, when God stepped in to rescue his people from Egyptian slavery, “God remembered his covenant” (Exodus 2:24). When he “remembered” Noah and the other occupants of the ark, therefore, the Creator made his loving care evident.Jeske, 87
God’s “remembering” is always accompanied by His kindness to save. When God remembered Noah, He caused the waters to subside. When God remembers not to destroy the Earth by flood again, He sets a rainbow in the skies. When God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He delivered the sons of Israel from Egyptian slavery.
We know God never forgets because of Jesus. In Genesis 3:15, God promised a seed from the woman would come to crush the head of the serpent. This took place in Jesus on the cross. Jesus’ heel may have been struck, but in His death and resurrection Jesus struck a mighty blow to the head of the serpent.
God did not forget. He never forgets. So, He sent Jesus. Because He always remembers and never forgets, Jesus saves. Jesus never forgets you. That’s why none can snatch you from His hand (John 10:27-30), because He always chooses to remember you for whom He died and rose again.
You have this assurance in your Baptism. Just as God remembered Noah and saved him through water, so in your Baptism God remembers you and saves you through baptismal waters. Thus, St. Peter writes, “Baptism, which corresponds to this [the Flood], now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21).
Theology Terms Used
- Covenant: “an agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified.” OR, “to promise; a pledge.”
- Salvific: having to do with salvation.
Jeske, John C. Genesis. People’s Bible Commentary. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005.