Sunday, June 03, 2007

Forgetting Joseph

"And there arose a new king in Egypt, who did know Joseph." – Exodus 1:8

This verse in Exodus gives the context, but I believe it also introduces a theme that runs throughout the rest of the Bible. That theme is the sin and danger of forgetting history. I do not mean history as facts, but rather history as the meaning of things done in the past. Here in Exodus we see that forgetting the past leads Egypt to persecute the people who saved all of Egypt through seven years of famine, not to mention made them into a wealthy people. The consequences of that forgetfulness is the Red Sea and the death of every first born male.

Yet, the theme does not stop with Egyptians. We see the same theme running in the people of God. The book of Judges has a similar start. "When all that generation [those who lived with Joshua] had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel" (Judges 2:10). That starts a cycle that basically repeats itself throughout the rest of Judges. This of course leads to the people of the Lord doing evil in his sight, neglecting true worship and exchanging it for false worship. This theme continues even after the kings of Israel. Josiah finds the book of Deuteronomy that had been lost and forgotten (2 Kings 22). We see in Ezra 10 that the Israelites had forgotten the word of God and taken pagan wives. It is the constant cry of the prophets (see Isaiah 17:10, 51:13, Jer. 2:32, 3:21, etc.). It is found in the Psalms (see 106 for example).

Not only do we see the sin of forgetting the works of God in the past we see God providing ways for us to remember. We see it over and over and over again. God commands Joshua to set up Memorial Stones after crossing the Jordan so that "when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stone?’ then you shall let your children know" (Joshua 4:21-22). The tribes of Reuben and Gad build an altar because they feared “in time to come your descendants may speak to our descendants” without remembering they are all part of Israel (Joshua 22). The exhortations about throughout Scripture to remember, "Remember your creator in the days of your youth" (Ecc 12:1). One can even look at the sacraments and see that one of the purposes is “to proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” because every generation needs a sign so that they do not forget.

It seems to me then that one of the main jobs of parents is to teach our kids history. Or to put it another way remind them of what God has done in the past, and how God’s work in history affects them now. I think it is easy to see how forgetting the Josephs of the past have put our society in a bad position. We must make sure that our children remember the work of God, or else when they face their own Red Sea they may find themselves among the Egyptians.