Moses ended his ministry leading the Israelites out of Egypt and to the Promised Land with a brilliant sermon and song. When he finished the song he said, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” Deuteronomy 32:46-47.
Moses had already spent the entire book reminding the people of their story. He reminded them how God had brought them “out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 8:14) and he reminded them of how the law is supposed to shape the people they become in the midst of people who don’t know God. It’s his time to die but the story of the people will go on. As they go, it’s important that they remember what happened before.
If they don’t remind themselves on purpose, they might forget. They might forget that God called them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). They might forget that God didn’t choose them to bless the world and represent Him because they were great, but because of His love (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). They might forget that it is the Lord who sanctifies them and brought them out (Leviticus 22:33).
In the past when I’ve read the Old Testament, I’ve been quick to throw the Israelites under the bus. Man, did those people not have it together. They were always doing the wrong thing, forgetting who God was, joining in the ways of the nations around them, and hiding the light that they were supposed to be. But I’ve grown more aware of my own life since then.
How often do I do those same things? I do the wrong thing. And worse, it’s the same wrong thing as yesterday and I know it’s wrong. I forget who God is. I lump Him in with the gods that humans make up: temperamental, unpredictable, unable to love outside himself. I forget who He is and I am quick to worship other things, quick to take my life back. I’ve joined the way of the nations around me, seeking acclaim and power, trampling the ones different from me. I’ve hidden the light within me from fear of what others will say, from fear of messing it up. I’ve hidden the light because hiding in darkness was more comfortable and I was apathetic.
I could use some reminding. It’s not just the Israelites that needed to sing the song of who God is and what He has done. I must whisper it in the hallways at 3 am and shout it in my kitchen during breakfast. I must repeat it in hospital rooms and on phone calls. I must bathe in it on bad days and dance to it on good ones. I’m guessing that you could also stand some reminding.
Learn the story of the Bible
Start at the beginning of the story. We know who God is because He left us a book about Himself. He left us a record of some of His movings in the world. He told us that He doesn’t change. Learning the Bible isn’t about God being angry if you don’t. It’s not about finding a list of rules or figuring out which job you’re supposed to take. We are learning His story and in knowing His story, we find our place in it.
Soak in the stories of Abigail and Jochebed, Elijah and Elisha. Hear the words of Huldah and Josiah. Watch Moses stand before Pharaoh after telling God all the reasons that he wasn’t the man for the job. Eavesdrop on the angel’s words to Mary, when she surrenders to what she could never have imagined. See how God moves in the lives of His people.
Saturate all of life with the knowledge of Jesus’ life. Where did He spend His time? What did He do? What was His purpose?
Record your own story.
Notice how God moves in the lives of His people and notice His fingerprints all over your own. Write down those answered prayers and the questions that keep you awake. Make a list of what you’re discovering about God. Write truth down on notecards and hang them over the kitchen sink, your office desk, the bathroom that no one else visits. Play the songs that remind you of Him on the way to hard meetings, in difficult situations, during days of wonder.
The story will shape our story. When God says He is loving and His works are kind, we can stand there even when life looks unloving and unkind. That’s a sign the story isn’t over yet. When we encounter resistance to the gospel or resistance from within ourselves, we can remember that Paul did too. He was stoned; he fought the battle within himself to do right. Sing the story of what God is doing in your own life. He’s active there just as He was with Paul.
Listen to the stories of others.
There will be days when we are low, when we can’t pick up our Bible to read the story again. When our own story seems shattered beyond hope of repair, we need to hear the story of another. Our faith is formed in community, not isolation. We aren’t made to be soloists of the Gospel; we are a chorus. And when our voice cuts out, when our song is muffled, we need the swell of the choir to rise high and sustain us.
Our faith is strengthened when we hear the stories of God working in the lives of our friends. We are built up when we see how God is transforming the believers around us. We are being built together into a dwelling place for God. We need these others that surround us.
The story we believe we are in matters. We will forget the real story in all the noise of life if we aren’t intentional in telling it to ourselves. Rehearse the story. Live your place in the story.