Have you ever wondered why there is the expectation that we should go to church? Read our Bible? Even sing and listen to spiritual songs as Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Don’t we already know everything we really need to know? I see this even with my children who sometimes say, “But we already know this story!” when I start to read them a familiar Bible story.
I’m sure Old Testament believers had this same feeling when God instituted a very complicated system of feasts and festivals each symbolizing some aspect of God’s amazing rescue of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. In fact, Deuteronomy, Moses’s farewell speech before his death, sounds like a list of things to remember and admonishments to indeed REMEMBER! Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Wow. Does that sound a bit like overkill here? And the Israelites literally did these things. They wrote Scripture on their doorposts; they had special phylacteries on the side of their heads where they put scripture (and Hasidic Jews still do!).
It may seem a bit overboard, but let’s look at our track record of truly remembering what is important. We will use the Israelites as an example because of the many spectacular things that God did for them. Going back a few thousand years, we find the Israelites living as slaves in Egypt with no hope of freedom. They cried out to God and the Bible says He heard them. He sends Moses as his ambassador to tell the Pharaoh to release His people. As you can imagine, the Pharaoh doesn’t really think letting his entire slave workforce go is really an option. He says no. Moses warns him that bad things will happen if he does not release them. Pharaoh is unmoved. What unfolds are ten frightening manifestations of power that conclude with the people of Egypt begging the Israelites to leave (and amazingly some of the Egyptians actually joining them). As they leave, however, the Pharaoh changes his mind and decides to pursue them. So here are the Israelites (possibly over a million of them), unarmed, without any way of defending themselves. And then a difficult situation becomes an impossible one when they have reached a place where they could not pass–the Red Sea. And, lo and behold, they see behind them in the distance the Egyptian army. Panic sets in for real. And, God intervenes in a completely miraculous-there’s-no-way-it-could-be-anyone-but-God way and saves them by parting the Red Sea so they can pass on dry land. And not only that, but He definitively gets rid of the Egyptian army by letting these walls of water collapse on the army. So this group of people has seen God not only humble one of the most powerful nations in the world in order to get them free, but then completely decimates their army. So, if you were the Israelites, you’d never doubt God again, right? You wouldn’t be scared if you didn’t have food or if an enemy came at you or anything! I mean God parted the Red Sea!! He proved Himself in a thousand ways that He was powerful and that He was involved! You’d think so, but no. They doubt Him every step of the way to the Promised Land, and then refuse to enter it. The next few hundred years of history doesn’t show them getting all that much better.
You see, we humans easily forget the truth. We learn it; we see it; and, just as quickly, we forget it. We sit in church and we hear that God loves us, God is powerful, God is near, and we nod in agreement, and then we leave the church and we worry, we fight, we forget. This is why it’s imperative that we make a point to keep on hearing. This is why we read our Bibles and listen to those Christian songs. Because we, who are no better than the Israelites, need to remember the truth. This is why I write this blog, even. I don’t write because I already know it so well. I write it so I too will remember.
So next time you are tempted to say, “I already know this”–do it anyway. So you will always remember, and, hopefully, by remembering, you will believe. And after believing the truth, then you will begin living in truth.