The Israelites didn’t do a lot of things well. Anyone who has read the Old Testament can see that. I’m not being hard on them, it’s just the way of things—and it’s not like we do much better! They were a wayward and fickle people with a faith that doubted often and pretended more than acted genuinely. As I said, they aren’t much different from us today.
But they did do some things well, really well. One of them is the ways in which they remembered the past. Not just in a “those were the good old days” kind of way, but in a “these are the ways in which God engaged us, helped us, rescued us in the past.”
When God did something great in the days of the Old Testament Israelites they would mark that event with something. Sometimes it was something as grand as a festival for the whole nation, and sometimes just with a stone or pillar of some kind to mark the land. It may have been nothing more than a name for the place where the event occurred. The idea was always to pass along to the next generation what God had done in this generation.
The Passover in Egypt and the exodus that occurred because of it was no exception. God instructs them to observe this day so that they may explain it to their children.
On the seventh day you must explain to your children, “I am celebrating what the Lord did for me when I left Egypt.” This annual festival will be a visible sign to you, like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. Let it remind you always to recite this teaching of the Lord : “With a strong hand, the Lord rescued you from Egypt.” So observe the decree of this festival at the appointed time each year. Exodus 13:8-10
It’s not just a holiday, it’s a teaching tool. It’s not just a day off of work or a time to eat great food, it’s a time to intentionally celebrate the ways in which God has stepped into the story of human history and has affected it with his help and love.
Reading this today is inspiring me to consider how well I do this in my own family and in my own church community. In some ways we do this really well, but certainly we can continue to be intentional about marking our lives with event and landmarks and names that convey what God is doing. This is a way we make our faith real and tangible. Integrating our lives around how God has moved among us. Christmas, Easter and other holidays like this are a good start, a critical piece of this, but there should be more. Or so it seems to me.
And this isn’t just a call for parents. This is something for all Christians. This is evangelism that is brought about by living our lives in the reality of our God. This is passing on our faith in a natural way instead of a door to door uninvited guest sort of way.
This past week our pastor received an email from someone accusing our church of being a party church. In some senses that’s true. We do like to party. We do like to celebrate. We definitely are looking for ways to take the truth of our faith and the ways God interacts with us and make them into moments we celebrate and observe. That way, when people are curious about why we do that we can explain, “This is what God did for us and we don’t want to forget, so we throw a party!”
I’m not offering any real answers or solutions today. I’m not going to give ten new things to try in your home or church to start marking God’s moving. I’m just considering how I pass along God’s activity in my life to the next generation and the unbelieving generation of today. How do I explain him by living?