Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11)
“Only be watchful and watch over your soul closely, so you do not forget the things your eyes have seen and they slip from your heart all the days of your life. You are to make them known to your children and your children’s children. The day that you stood before your God in Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me and I will make them hear My words, so that they learn to fear Me all the days that they live on the earth, and so that they teach their children”
The more advanced in age you become the more, it seems, you cherish meaningful time with family. Inevitably, family gatherings become times of sharing family stories and memories, and creating new ones. The laughter, smiles and recollections of now departed family members at our gatherings keep the family connections meaningful and strong – it keeps the memories alive. I have personally discovered over the years that I have told some stories so many times that my siblings and sons can tell them in the same vivid detail – as if they themselves had lived them!
In our text above, it is this living memory that Moses is warning the children of Israel that they must be cautious to watch over. The language that Moses uses is striking, “Only be watchful and watch over your soul closely…do not forget…lest they slip from your heart all the days of your life.” Moses is warning the community of Israel to continually kindle, not only their collective memory, but also the memory of what their eyes have seen – their testimony.
Their testimony – and the communal testimony collected in the Torah – would be handed to future generations. Testimony without living memory becomes history – something preserved only in books. The Lord desires Israel to remember her experience before Mt. Sinai as a living memory, not solely preserved memory.
This requires us – each of us – to share personally our memory, our experience and the wisdom received from our textual history. This sharing is what is called “discipleship” in the New Testament, as Messiah said, “Go out and make disciples…teaching them to observe all I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:19, 20). Messiah Yeshua/Jesus is commanding us to not only teach, but build relationships and pass to them the collective memory/testimony to which they have been born-again. Moses is telling us to disciple our children and grand-children (Deut. 4:9).
Moses, in the Book of Deuteronomy, is passing to the next generation, not only a book of “laws” as some might imagine, but covenant legacy… “Israel, this is your history, even you who did not see the Sinai revelation, you were there in promise, and this legacy is yours” … Excuse the poetic license, but this personalization of a history that we did not directly experience, but in which we were included, personalizes the totality of the testimony that we now share.
This testimony is the living chain of redemptive history from the dawn of human history, to creation history, on into eternity. It is the working of our Father in Heaven. It is a work that neither depends on us nor is it completed in us, but it is a work, that by his grace, we are included in (Eph. 2:8-10). Moses and Yeshua/Jesus are admonishing us to “watch over our soul closely” to ensure that what really matters in this life is not lost in the busyness of this life. They are instructing us to take time, sit, sharing and pass on to the next generation just what the Lord has done for us, for our forefathers, and what he will do in their lives as well – let them know the legacy they are now included in – the legacy of covenant secured by the Blood of the Lamb, Yeshua.
Be well, shalom;
Dr. Justin D. Elwell