Can you imagine forgetting your family’s traditions during the holidays, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, or July Fourth? How about if you remembered them, except that you couldn’t remember what you did to celebrate them? What if you forgot them altogether?
Let’s take this “forgetfulness” a step further. What if you forgot?
· How to do pretty much everything that deals with daily life?
· Moral standards.
· Guidelines for relationships.
· What to eat and how to prepare it.
· How you should dress.
· How to practice basic hygiene, including bathing regularly.
No, I’m not talking about Alzheimer’s disease, at least not in the traditional context….
Okay, before I continue I have a couple of things to share with you.
Three years ago my wife Jackie and I began reading the One Year Bible, which isn’t really a Bible so much as it is an on-line guideline for reading the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in one year. There are actually two different versions available. The first is The One Year Chronological Bible, which lists biblical events in the order in which they occurred. The other version, the one that Jackie and I follow, is The One Year Bible, which offers a daily reading from passages in the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. Again, the ultimate goal of both is to offer a reading plan to cover the entire Bible in one year. Another feature that appeals to me is the ability to easily switch from one version of the Bible to the other. For instance, my preferred version is the NIV Bible, because I don’t have to spend my entire morning trying to discern its meaning. If I am having a hard time with a particular passage, I’ll switch to The Message, which quite frankly is more akin to a friend offering advice to another friend during a conversation, and much easier to understand.
All that being said, if you’ve had it in your heart to read the entire Bible from cover to cover but found it to be a little overwhelming because of the seeming enormity of the task, you might want to check the site out at www.oneyearbibleonline.com.
The other thing that I wanted to share with you is to admit that I don’t really enjoy reading enjoy reading the Old Testament. I’ve always found a lot of it to be boring. There are lists upon lists of names that are hard for me to pronounce, events that I’m sure were important in the development of God’s Kingdom, and so many instructions on the most minute of details that just didn’t make sense to me. Still, I figured that if it was in the Bible, it was there for a reason. And you know, each time I read through it I see something new. Oh the words are still the same, to be sure, but I’ve changed. I see them with a new set of eyes, because my walk with God has changed, and so has my perspective.
Have you ever wondered why God gave so many instructions to the Israelites when they fled from Egypt? For the longest time I did. The Old Testament is filled with God’s instructions for atonement, sacrifice, and even building a temple. Oh yeah. He also gave them Ten Commandments.
But God wasn’t done there; He included instructions for all of the “forgots” that I listed above, and more. So why do you think that He went so far as to instruct the Israelites on even the smallest of things?
They forgot how to be Israelites.
Okay, you can stop chuckling now. They really forgot how to be Israelites!
Let’s take a closer look at this. By varying accounts, the Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians for somewhere between four hundred and four hundred and thirty years! Many historians and students of scripture have estimated the average lifespan of an Israeli slave to be around fifty years. If you’re doing the math, you realize that the Israelites were held in captivity for a minimum of seven generations, and quite possibly more than that!
For arguments sake, let’s say that the memories of living a life of freedom survived the first three or four generations of Israelites. Beyond that, any life other than that of being an Egyptian slave was long forgotten. There were no books, no photos, and no recordings to draw on as a remembrance. There was just a life of slavery; day after day, year after year, and generation after generation.
I’m asking you to take a few minutes to reflect on what the Israelites endured. Of course, the greatest injustice was their loss of freedom. Factor in the loss of knowing how to do the simplest things in life and the tragedy becomes even greater. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, and reflecting on my family’s traditions at Christmas and Easter and the Fourth of July when I was a child. Through the years ours traditions may have changed a bit because technological advances have changed our world, but many of those traditions are still in place. Those traditions, past and present, are a part of me, and I can’t imagine losing either the memories of those that have passed or my expectations for those yet to come.
God had to teach the Israelites how to be, well, how to be Israelites, starting from scratch. Everything, including the smallest of things, had to be “remembered.” Everything, including His love for His chosen people and their love for Him.
Can you even imagine?