Please Remember Me
When it comes to scripture, the last words that are spoken in a book are at times some of the most powerful. This is not to say that some phrases in scripture are less valuable than others, but in those last words we often find the things we remember the most. “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Eccl. 12.14) “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21.25) “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5.21)
The very last sentence of the book of Nehemiah (Neh. 13.31) is “Remember me, O my God, for good.”
The context of this phrase is Nehemiah describing the reforms he leads as leader of the Israelites, having been allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, as well as reestablishing the commands of the Law of Moses. In chapter 13 we read of the deplorable situation the inhabitants of Jerusalem are in after Nehemiah returns from Babylon. He encounters various serious issues with the people’s corruption of the Law, even beating and pulling the hair of those who were married to foreigners (Neh. 13.24-25) In fact, three times in this chapter (v.14, 22, and 31) Nehemiah asks God to remember his deeds as he strove to reform the Israelites into a people that would be pleasing to God. Keep in mind, this book is written by Nehemiah, and (being an autobiography of sorts) would have had to be written after the fact. This plea, “Remember me, O my God, for good” is the simple request of a man who gave all that he had in service to God. His last words are a plea for God to remember him for having done so.
The last words of the book of Nehemiah identify something that all of us desire at our very core. Once we humble ourselves under the “mighty hand of God” (1 Pet. 5.6) and begin living lives in submission and service to Him, we do so under the assumption that God sees our deeds, and He remembers them! Is that not what we want, brothers and sisters? Do we not desire at our spiritual core to be remembered for good by our Lord? In this manner, we feel exactly how Nehemiah felt.
This sort of question can arise when we wonder if what we do for God is being recognized, and remembered by Him. We understand clearly that we cannot be saved by the quality or quantity of our good deeds before God, but we desire deeply to know that God does see us, He does remember what we do, and we will be rewarded for being faithful servants of His. We find this expressed well also in Nehemiah 13, where in the latter half of v.22 he says “Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.” We, as he did, want our deeds to be remembered in our favor, but the sparing of ourselves is according to HIS steadfast love, not the accumulation of good deeds. This concept extends to us also today: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3.4-7)
Through the scriptures, we can be assured that God does indeed remember our good deeds. The scriptures again and again describe God’s remembrance of great men and women for the deeds they accomplished in His name. Through the divinely inspired writer to the Hebrews we find in chapter 13 a list of many great men and women of faith. One of the most telling aspects of God’s remembrance of our deeds is His descriptions of those men and women after their deaths. In the Bible the name of Moses is followed with one of the greatest titles given to men. Mostly found in Joshua, Moses is described as “the servant of the LORD” 16 times! That same title is only appropriated to two other people in scripture: Joshua and David! In the Judgment scene of Revelation 20 there is an opening of the “books”, after which the “book of life” (v.12) is opened. Men and women are then judged according to what they had done. (v.12-13) Those books are representative of the infinite, perfect memory of God, wherein is listed every good (and every bad) deed. The image of the book is an accurate one, for unless the Author changes or blots out certain words or passages, those words will not change for any reason.
Perhaps the most telling demonstration of God’s remembrance of our deeds (both good and bad) can be found in Matthew 25, where at another scene of the Judgment the sheep (righteous) and goats (unrighteous) are divided and the heavenly King speaks to both groups. To the sheep he says in v.34 “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” The King goes on to explain how this was possible, but it demonstrates God’s infinite, perfect capacity for memory in that He saw, and remembered these good deeds done by the righteous Sheep. On the other hand, it is also important to note that God’s unabridged memory stands in judgment over the goats for their lack of care for other people.
Nehemiah’s plea of remembrance is one that is natural for us to make from time to time. May be assured that God does see and remember our righteous deeds, as well as provoked and convicted by the fact that God sees our unrighteousness. It is this fact about God, His perfect memory, that makes verses such as Jeremiah 31.34 (which is quoted in Hebrews 8) so incredible and demonstrative of just how far God’s grace and mercy extend to us: “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."