Psalm 99, Deuteronomy 11:1–25, Malachi 4:1–6
Truth and story cannot truly be caught. They must be taught. And it doesn’t end there. Teaching may often have the appearance of catching, and if the teacher is truly skilled, the hearer/learner will not realize that they have been taught as they have already internalized both truth and story. Actions and words have to be repeated over and over until they become programmed. Yet, the church and the Israelites often stopped there. Empty words and empty actions are empty of all value and relationship.
It isn’t until the connection is made to the heart that words and actions (i.e., Truth, story, ritual, etc.) truly begin to reflect what the intent is, and begin the journey of relationship. A great (yet sad) example is The Lord’s Prayer. Most long-time Christians can repeat the prayer. Yet, how many are not affected in their hearts when they say the words. Far too many.
During his long farewell speech, Moses talks about binding the words to hands and heads. The Israelites turned that into both an art form and a boasting form. By the time of Jesus, the words bound on heads and hands (called phylacteries) became a source of bragging rights with their size. That missed the entire point. Moses talks about writing the words of God on the doorposts of houses or city gates. Christians today have scripture and “inspirational” quotes on their walls and even their phones. Many Christians vocally advocate for the 10 Commandments in courtrooms. How many of them, however, actually read—let alone follow—those words?
Moses words were followed in a way they weren’t intended. These guidelines or suggestions were treated as rules. Moses’ whole point was to do whatever it takes to make sure that God was put first and never forgotten. Moses wanted the people to live and breathe the scriptures and the stories not to earn God’s favor, but because God had already poured his favor out! Moses intended for a way of life to develop that people would be formed by God, and not by man.
His concern wasn’t so much for the generation who had grown up in the wilderness following the cloud of God. They had watched their parents—who had disobeyed and opposed God—die in the desert. Their very lives from the cloud to six-days-a-week of mana was based on God. It was their children and grandchildren (their and his legacy) that Moses was concerned about. The parents had had God so ingrained in their practices that they could easily take it for granted (or, honestly, forget). They had to teach and form their children to prevent drifting away from God.
There is the famous “Pot Roast Story” of a mother teaching her daughter how to prepare pot roast. When the mom cut the ends off the roast, the daughter asked why. The mother really didn’t know and responded with, “that’s the way my mom did it.” The story goes on, and it ends with the daughter finally asking Great-Grandma the reason. The response? “Because it didn’t fit into the oven.”
1) No matter who we are, we are always teaching. What are you teaching others about following Jesus?
2) You cannot force someone to connect heart with action. You can nurture it, however. How and who can you nurture to be more like Christ?
3) Is there some family or church ritual that you always wondered why? If so, how can you find an answer?
FD) What are some family rituals that your family has? What do they tell you about your family?