Sunday, May 30, 2021

Memorial Day and Memorials, Their Scriptural Importance

By dictionary definition, a memorial is something established to remind people of a person or event.  The last Monday of May is Memorial Day in the United States, a federal holiday for honoring and mourning those who have died in the performance of their military duties while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  The dedication of a certain day as a memorial began with spontaneous memorials in the middle of the 19th century at the tombstones of American soldiers, who fell in battle.  Women decorated these stones as a way to honor these who had died.  Then it turned into an annual day to decorate these tombstones.

A unique day to remind people of the sacrifice of American soldiers started out as “Decoration Day.”  By 1890, every northern state celebrated this as a holiday.  Not until 1971, however, did Congress designate the day in May as a national holiday, and called it “Memorial Day.”

I like visiting memorials.  The best ones in the United States are in Washington DC, including the fairly recent and gigantic World War 2 Memorial.  Everyone knows about the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials.  The Alamo is a memorial.  A memorial stands in Hawaii for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Memorials dot Civil War and Revolutionary War battlefields, and now a big one sits in New York City for those who died on 9/11/2001.

The most moving memorial for me was the American Cemetery near Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.  I wept again and again.  The cemetery staff there did a great job telling the story.  I felt thankful to be an American and for the men buried there.

The idea of memorial comes from God though.  We should use symbols, days, statues, and now what are actually called “memorials” to remember what is very important, not to be forgotten, and use them to motivate us.  The Lord’s Table is a memorial.  The bread and the cup remind a church of the body and blood of Christ, His substitutionary and sacrificial death on the cross.

The word “memorial” is found 32 times in the King James Version.  It’s mainly translating a Hebrew word in the Old Testament, tsekaron, found 24 times and means “remembrance."  A Greek word, mnemosunon, meaning, "memory" and translated "memorial," occurs three times in the New Testament.  God exalts the practice of making a special day, display, or monument in honor of something for the purpose of remembering.  God wants remembrance.

In Exodus 12:14, the memorial is a day.  In Exodus 17:14, it’s a book.  In Exodus 28:12, they are the stones on the garment of the priest.  In several Old Testament references, it is the actual offering in the sacrificial system, for instance, the flour cast on the altar by the priest in the sin offering is a "memorial."  Stones were set out in Joshua 4:7 as a memorial of God's dividing the River Jordan for the dry land crossing into Canaan.  The feast of Purim starts as a memorial to remember the salvation of Israel in Esther 9:28.

Remembering is helpful.  It's required.  I'm not saying we should try to remember wrong things or discouraging things.  We can remember what God has done, our parents have done, and what other godly people have done to give us strength and motivation.  Remembering the right things renews the mind in a transformational way.  It can lead to a life of praise and thanks.  This Memorial Day, let's all remember.

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