Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Not Repetition, It's Instruction

This month, my chronological Bible reading plan has me in the book of Deuteronomy and I’ve been a bit frustrated. 

Deuteronomy is a series of three sermons Moses gives to the Israelites – and a nearly word-for-word repeat of what I read in Leviticus and Numbers.  I'm reading, again, about the wandering years in the desert, the commandments, and the detailed rules for worshiping, marrying, and living daily life.  

So I've been skimming, and I’m 10 chapters in before I understand who Moses is speaking to and why:  he’s preparing the Israelites for a transition. 

The Israelites who escaped Pharoah and crossed the Red Sea--those I read of in Leviticus and Numbers who were given the commandments and instructions on maintaining the covenant, but then rebelled--will not enter the Promised Land. Their children will. And Moses will not lead them into the Promised Land; Joshua will.

Moses’ words in Deuteronomy are for this new generation of Israelites who will teach their descendents to honor the covenant God made with them. 
“Remember that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; the signs he performed and the things he did in Egypt … It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the desert until you arrived at this place … But it was your eyes that saw all these great things.” (Deuteronomy 11:1-7)

Several years ago, my daughter was interested in our family’s history.  One particular weekend, she sat at the kitchen table with a grandmother on each side. They were sifting through a pile of scrapbooks, photocopied newspaper clippings and photographs because she wanted to draw a family tree. Each grandmother shared tales about her own grandparents and great grandparents and the immigration stories that had been passed down to them.

I'd heard most of the stories, yet I sat and listened. And the more I listened, the stronger my connection to the immigrants who endured weeks at sea to settle in the New World and to the pioneers who homesteaded in the Midwest. I could sense the same feelings emerging in my daughter.

By the end of the afternoon, she’d penciled a five-generation family tree. She'd matched some of the names to photographs, but for other names, the stories her grandmothers shared will be her only picture of the link.

But she needed to hear the stories to understand the relationships.

A new generation of Israelites needed to hear the stories too.  They needed to be told about  the covenant God made with Abraham, their responsibilities to keep the covenant, and of God’s faithfulness.

So I’m rereading parts of Deuteronomy again, and I'm thinking about the stories I share with my children.  I’m no longer frustrated and tired of the repetition, but refreshed and strengthened by it. 
Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-10)

Linking to Michelle and the Hear It, Use It community

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