Only take heed, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children—how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children so. Dt 4: 9-10With apologies to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young for the title of this reflection, this passage from Deuteronomy may be one of the most important lessons that we as parents and bearers of the Good News might hear. Moses speaks these words to the Hebrew People as a warning to a generation who has witnessed the presence and the power of God in their midst. God has heard the cries of His people, He has delivered them out of the hand of Pharaoh, He has led them on dry ground through the Red Sea, He has guided them through the desert as a pillar of fire and a column of smoke, He has dwelt upon the holy mountain and given to His people the Commandments by which they are to live, and He has been present with them in His Holy Tabernacle. Moses admonishes his people not to forget the mighty acts and the presence of God which they have witnessed with their own eyes.
More importantly, and in God’s words, Moses tells the people that they are to pass on what they have seen to their children and grandchildren so that future generations might know what God has done for them. The remembrance of God’s deliverance of His people from bondage in Egypt remains to this day an important part of Judaism, and of our Christian Faith as we read and remember the Exodus in Psalm and Scripture.
How is a generation once or twice removed from the awesome presence of God to appreciate and embrace Him? This was a problem for the Hebrews as they entered and conquered the land given to Abraham and his posterity by God. The people who arrived at the Jordan River under Joshua’s leadership were already a people one generation removed from the slavery of their fathers. By the time the Twelve Tribes of Israel had entered, spread out and laid claim to the land, Joshua and all the elders were dead, and another generation had passed. Once in the land, God’s Chosen People were plagued by the presence of the people that had possessed the land and whom they had been instructed by God to displace and from whom they were to remain apart. Yet, the people chose not to heed God’s instruction, they made covenants with the peoples of the land and they intermarried with them. Worst of all, God’s People began to worship at the altars of the ba’als and turned away from the one, true God.
In the fullness of time, God provided the Savior for all mankind in the person of Jesus Christ. God once again made his presence felt among His people, only this time He was somewhat more subtle about it. Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, so that all of creation might once again be in right relationship to Him. Jesus rose from the grave as a clear sign of the eternal life that is ours because of His sacrifice. Many witnessed the miracles, heard the teachings and even experienced the Risen Lord, and they took Christ’s words to heart when He sent them forth into the world to teach the Good News to new generations of Jews and Gentiles.
The question for us is this: how well do we take to heart the words of Moses and Jesus Christ? Are we cherishing in our hearts the mighty works that God has done in our lives? Are we teaching our children and our children’s children about God? Are we resolved to protect the future generations from the ba’als of this world; from the attractive and dangerous things of this world that threaten to draw young and old alike away from God and toward certain ruin?
It is very easy to connect with the sensual realities of the world around us. It is very easy to find satisfaction in the good feelings and cheap rewards of a world designed to entertain and enthrall. It is very easy to sit back in our relative comfort and luxury and lose sight of the source for all that we have. It is not evil to live a pleasant life amongst the goodness of God’s Creation. It is evil, however, to worship the pleasantries and the comforts rather than the One who provides them for us.
What then must we teach our children? First, that God loves us, unconditionally; and it is because of that love that He has delivered us from the bondage of sin and death. We have done nothing to deserve His Grace and Mercy, yet He has intervened for us and saved us. Second, God does expect something from us. He gave us His law by which we are to live our lives. Christ established the Church so that His Word might go forth to all the world and so that all God’s people may worship Him. We participate in God’s Grace and Love more fully the closer we are to Him; and we grow closer to Him by worshiping at His feet, studying His Holy Word and communicating with Him through prayer and quiet devotion.
Third, we must have faith and trust in Him who made us. Life is not always easy, and the decisions that we must make are often not fun to make. If we have faith in God, and allow Him to be our guide, then life becomes easier, and our decisions are not just our own to make when we make them with His guidance and counsel. Finally, we must teach our children that the greatest fallacy of modern life is that we are in control. We have split the atom, we have traveled to the Moon, we have developed medical science to a point where we can map the human genome and possibly even alter our own genetic code. Yet is it right to do these things? Are we really that much in control? Are we making ourselves gods? There can be only one God, and that position is filled. He is in control not us, but the good news is that He does not keep secrets. Read His Word to them, tell them how He has acted in the world and in our lives, make Him real to them by showing them how He is real to us.
Remember His mighty works, heed His glorious Word, and teach our children well.