As a Gen-Xer, I grew up hearing stories about the Great Depression and WWII. I learned of the hardships and sufferings my great-grandparents and grandparents endured. I listened to accounts of life in poverty—of empty bellies and too tight shoes, of leaving school in the eighth grade to support the family, of relational brokenness, neglect, and abandonment. I heard the stories of war and saw its decades long impact, especially the emotional scars that lingered far after all the the physical ones healed.
In all these stories, I heard whispers of grace. I saw how the Lord was faithful. I could trace his grace throughout the generations of my family, bringing hope and redemption in the midst of brokenness.
In Deuteronomy 11, Moses prepares God’s people for entering the Promised Land. He calls them to obey God and his commands. And he calls them to remember all God has done. But he doesn’t call on just anyone. He calls on specific people: those who remember what God had done for them in delivering them out of Egypt and bringing them through the desert. He calls on those who experienced the Lord’s discipline firsthand. He calls on those who witnessed God’s faithfulness to tell the younger generations of God’s great work among them.
“And consider today (since I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen it), consider the discipline of the LORD your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, his signs and his deeds that he did in Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land, and what he did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and to their chariots, how he made the water of the Red Sea flow over them as they pursued after you, and how the LORD has destroyed them to this day, and what he did to you in the wilderness, until you came to this place…For your eyes have seen all the great work of the LORD that he did.”
Deut. 11:2–5, 7
We also have a responsibility to remember who God is and what he has done. Further, we have a responsibility to pass on that testimony to those behind us, to share the stories of God’s grace at work in our lives.
Moses continues, telling God’s people that they are to teach their children about God, about his character, his works, and his ways. They are to teach them all God has taught them, at all times and in all places. They are to instruct their children in the ways of the Lord.
For Israel, that meant passing on the redemption story of the Exodus. It meant teaching their children about God’s law and his commands. It meant cautioning them with the consequences of what happened during their desert wanderings, of the discipline they received, and of the punishment several families faced in Numbers 16. They were to learn of the covenant God made with his people, and of its accompanying blessings and curses. They were to hear and understand their story and legacy, the special call that made them a people, a family of God.
On this side of the cross, we as parents—we as spiritual guardians of the testimony, we as those who have witnessed the mighty acts of God—have a responsibility to remember. I grew up wondering why my grandparents always talked about the past. They were always remembering. Now that I am older, I understand a bit more about remembrance. If we fail to remember God’s past deliverance, we won’t trust him in the present. This happened all too often in Israel’s history. They quickly forgot God’s faithfulness and turned instead to false gods and counterfeit saviors. Remembrance keeps our gaze fixed on who God is and what he has done. It gives us a holy perspective.
But we don’t remember these stories to keep them to ourselves. We have an important call to share what we have seen and experienced with those behind us. To urge on our children, grandchildren, younger men and women, and those we teach and mentor, in the faith. To encourage them with the ways God has answered prayer. To equip them with gospel-filled stories of how God met people in their suffering with his strength and deliverance. To exhort them with truth in the face of falsehood. To help shape their identity, meaning, and purpose around the grand story of redemption: of a people beloved before time began and bought at a very great price.
No matter what age and stage we are in, we need to be around those who take their responsibility to remember seriously. The older I get, the more I need to hear from those ahead of me how the Lord has carried them all these years. We all have a responsibility to remember. Who are you sharing your stories with?