In the first article about teaching the biblical story to successive generations, we talked about the need to help kids see the “box lid” of the biblical story and not merely teach the “pieces” of story. This makes “educational” sense because it helps kids learn the Bible more easily as well as permanently and that in itself is a good reason to do it. But, there’s another reason we should do this…
God Has Commanded We Teach the Story!
In Deuteronomy 4:9, God spoke through Moses and gave this simple command…
Only be on your guard and diligently watch yourselves, so that you don’t forget the things your eyes have seen and so that they don’t slip from your mind as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your grandchildren. (Emphasis added.)
God was speaking to a generation of people who had been eye witnesses to the plagues in Egypt, to the dramatic Exodus event, to the covenant at Sinai, and to the sustaining power of God in the wilderness. Their collective memory of these events formed the “box lid” of the story of what God was doing in and through them. “The things your eyes have seen” was, in fact, the story they had lived through. It was God’s story and God was adamant… don’t forget the story!
How Quickly We Forget
One would think it would be impossible to forget God’s deliverance from Egypt or any of the other dramatic events these people had lived through. Apparently not. In fact, it appears that forgetting God’s activity is a very real danger and something we are to “guard” against because they can “slip” from our minds quickly.
All of us can appreciate how quickly we can forget what God has done in our own lives. Time passes. We get busy. The demands of living require our attention. If we’re not careful, the intensity of God’s activity will soon become a distant memory that we rarely recall. We would do well to heed God’s warning and take note that we are not to forget the story of God’s activity in our lives.
There’s More to the Story
By the time Moses was nearing his death, he had compiled, written, and edited story after story into a rather large set of books we call the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). These are the first five (penta) books of the Bible. So while Moses was challenging the people to remember “the things your eyes have seen,” he also understood (as did they) that the events through which this particular generation had lived were only part of a larger story.
Moses wanted the people to know that before God delivered the people of Israel from Egypt, He was working in creation to provide a “good” place for them to live. When the people wondered why bad things happen, the story of Adam and Eve’s sin helped explain that we now live in a broken and fallen world. When they wondered what God was up to in history, the story of Abraham and the patriarchs would give them a sense of purpose and tell them that God was taking history somewhere. The story of this or any generation is merely part of a much larger story of God’s activity in history.
Successive Generations Need to Know the Story
God had plans for His people and those plans extended into the future. It was important, therefore, that the story of God’s work be passed along to future generations. So, in addition to warning against forgetting the story, God tells the people, “teach them to your children and your grandchildren.” The story was not to be for just a single generation.
This is actually one of the best things anyone could ever know. God is still at work! He is not just a God of yesterday. He is working in THIS generation and He will continue to work in all FUTURE generations. The fact is, God’s story is an UNFOLDING story! He continues to move and work and act within history and calls us to take our place in His story.
We shouldn’t be surprised that God has commanded us to teach His story to successive generations. The story continues to unfold and in order for us to understand what God is doing TODAY, we must understand what He was doing in the past. Furthermore, God has revealed a good bit about the story to come. This amazing thing called “history” is under His control and He wants us to know it. That’s why He has commanded us to teach His story!
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher
See a list of other articles by Rick Edwards.