Lessons from Israel: No.17 : Teaching the Generations
Ex 12:25-27 When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’
While explaining the Passover, the Lord declared, “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD–a lasting ordinance.” (v.14) He explained the Feast of Unleavened Bread which would commemorate the week following the Passover when they all ate unleavened bread, because they had no time to properly prepare bread with yeast. Indeed He reiterated it: “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD–a lasting ordinance.” (v.17) Having created such a graphic thing to remember, the Lord’s instructions were now that they were to remember it every year. He foresees their children questioning them as to what it means (v.26) and thus He instructs them in our verses today what to say.
Passing on the truth to children, i.e. from one generation to the next, became an important part of their lives and Moses instructed them before they entered the Promised Land, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deut 4:9) When he spoke about all the commands the Lord had given them he told them, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut 6:6,7)
Indeed, later in his instructions to them, he reiterated this: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut 11:18,19) and speaking later of future generations, “Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” (Deut 31:13).Truth had to be imparted from one generation to the next. It was a vital part of their culture. Again and again these same instructions were given in the books of the Law.
Asaph even wrote in the psalms: “He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.“ (Psa 78:5-7). In the New Testament, Paul notes how this had worked in the life of Timothy: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Tim 1:5). How beautiful! The Gospel had been received by Timothy’s grandmother who conveyed it to her daughter, his mother, and then she to him, from one generation to another.
Very often this came in the form of some graphic memorial, as we saw in the previous meditation. After Israel passed through the Jordan to enter the Promised Land, we find, “Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Josh 4:5-7). Thus the future generations would be reminded of how God had brought them into the Land. The Passover reminded them how they were brought out of Egypt and these stones would act as reminders of how they went in to their inheritance.
In the New Testament we find Jesus at the Last Supper: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Lk 22:19). Thus Communion or ‘the Breaking of Bread’ is a reminder for the modern church. Paul expanded on this when he wrote about it: “when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:24-26) This is to be something done regularly until Jesus comes back. It is a constant reminder from one generation to the next. We need such reminders. Do it!