Question: "What does the Bible mean when it says that God remembered something?"
Answer: Several times in the Bible, the phrase God remembered is used. After the rains of the great flood had stopped, “God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark” (Genesis 8:1). When the Hebrew slaves cried out to the Lord in Egypt, “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant” (Exodus 2:24). And Psalm 98:3 says, “He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel.” (See also Numbers 10:9; Acts 10:31; and Revelation 16:19.) When we see the word remembered, we usually associate it with calling to mind something that was forgotten. So, is the Bible saying that God forgets and then has to remember?
We know that God does not “remember” things in the sense that He has forgotten. Unlike our own limited brains, the mind of God is infinite and all-knowing (Isaiah 40:13–14; Psalm 147:5; 1 John 3:20). His knowledge is perfect (Job 37:16). God even sees the hidden things that others cannot: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). In addition, God is perfect and is not subject to man’s sin and shortcomings (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 92:15; Matthew 5:48).
God sees us at all times (Psalm 33:13–15; see also Psalm 139:1–3). God cares deeply for all of His creation, with a special and fathomless love for all humans (Isaiah 41:13; Zephaniah 3:17; Matthew 29:10–30; Ephesians 3:19; 1 John 4:19). When God’s people felt like the Lord had forgotten them, they received this comfort through the prophet Isaiah:
“Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’
‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me’” (Isaiah 49:14–16). It is not possible for God to forget anything, much less the people He loves.
When the Bible says that God “remembered” something, it is not implying forgetfulness. God always remembers—it is part of His nature. The statement that “God remembered” places an emphasis on His faithfulness and everlasting care.
In each passage that says, “God remembered,” we see that the phrase is followed by some sort of action or work on behalf of God’s people. When God “remembered” Noah and his family floating in the ark, He caused wind to blow, which began to dry up the water that covered the earth (Genesis 8:1). In Exodus 2:24, God “remembers” His people who were enslaved to the Egyptians, and, in the very next chapter, He sets in motion His plan to free the Israelites. Psalm 98:3 speaks of God’s continual action toward His people. We conclude that God never forgets but instead works in perpetuity on behalf of those He loves.
Expressions such as “God remembered” and “God’s arm is strong” are examples of anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is a figure of speech in which certain traits of finite humanity are ascribed to the infinite God. Such figures are found often in the Bible, and they help us understand God’s work from a human perspective. When God “remembers” sin, He punishes it (Psalm 25:7); when God “remembers” His people, He blesses them (Nehemiah 13:22). Passages in which God “remembers” are always followed by proofs that God never forgets.