Our church has been working through the book of Exodus each Lord’s Day, and one of the things that continually strikes me is the emphasis God makes on story telling. Basically, God says “Here’s what I am going to do to bring glory to myself,” and following that explanation, He says, “Now you are to remember what I have done and tell it to your children and generations to come that they may know it as well.” The act belongs to God. The story telling belongs to us. God’s people are responsible to tell others what God has done for them. At the end of the day, faithfulness to God is a matter of stewardship to tell the story.
When God brought judgment upon Pharaoh, He declared to Moses,
“Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 10:1-2)
When God made provisions for his Passover, He gave the following instructions,
“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. . . . You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped (Exodus 12:14, 24-27)
And when God instructed His people regarding the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, He added,
You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year (Exodus 13:8-10).
Remembering the story of what the Lord had done in bringing deliverance through the Exodus was central to the existence of the Israelites. They remember in order to tell it to others, especially their children and generations to come. Take a look at how Psalm 78 explains this importance:
He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God (Psalm 78:5-8).
When the people of God failed to remember and be shaped by the story of their deliverance, we read the following words,
How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power or the day when he redeemed them from the foe, when he performed his signs in Egypt and his marvels in the fields of Zoan (Psalm 78:41-43).
I could go further in making the case for the importance of story telling and being story-formed, but these should suffice for now. It should be noted, however, that the acts performed were not only stories to be told but songs to be sung. Take the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 or how many of the Psalms (Bible’s hymnbook) were written to tell the story again and again (e.g., Psalm 78, Psalm 105-107).
This emphasis of story-telling in Scripture is intended to make the case that we are a story-formed people. In the same way God’s people in the Old Testament were formed (literally) by the Exodus from Egypt and shaped by the remembering and retelling of that event, so too are God’s people in the New Covenant to be formed by the Exodus through the Cross of Christ and be shaped by remembering and retelling of that event.
Of course, the story is broader than the Exodus at the Cross of Christ (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration), but everything seen in this story points forward or backward to the world-transforming event of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The question we must ask ourselves is: How important is telling the story of the triumphs of Christ and being shaped by it? How necessary is being story-formed in our disciple-making?
I’m convinced that being story-formed is far greater in importance than we have considered it to be. Discipleship tends to focus on practical how to’s and doctrinal categories, which I would argue are important. But I don’t see God telling His people to test folks on doctrinal precision. Rather, what I do see is God setting up for His people in both Old and New Testaments ways of being shaped and formed by the redemptive events that are retold by God’s people. Why the Lord’s Table? We are to remember regularly through eating bread and drinking wine our own Exodus from Egypt through the blood of the Lamb. The remembering is experiential, not just doctrinal. It should shape our identity and govern our lives.
I said earlier this year that I believe discipleship could simply be stated as the process where the story of the gospel rewrites the story of our lives. The more I read and understand how God raises up His children, the more convinced I am that such a brief definition could not easily be exhausted. In all our disciple-making, dear friends, let us be remembering the Story.
I first saw this video at SBC12 and loved it. Kudos to Ed Stetzer, Trevin Wax, and the Gospel Project team for a fantastic video for a most promising gospel-centered curriculum.
In his book, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, J.I. Packer has a chapter entitled “The Gospel as of First Importance.” In that chapter, Packer discusses the pastoral and formational applications of the Gospel. Many are familiar with the quote from Tim Keller that “the Gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life; it is the A through Z of the Christian life.” Packer writes,
“In that spirit we offer the following ‘Gospel Alphabet’–twenty-six pastoral and formative reasons why the Gospel must retain primacy as the content of Christian education” (108).
This week, we come to the letter “N”.
N is for Narrative
We must ever study the Gospel because it is the apex and summary of the great narrative of God’s redemptive activity in the world. It is into this Story that we have been called. In an age when many deny the existence of a single metanarrative that applies to all persons it is more crucial than ever that we know the biblical narrative and tell it faithfully to others, asking God to convince hearers as we do so that this is their Story as well.
God is light.
I’m not sure we have probed into the depths of that profound reality. I’m not trying to sound abstract or philosophical. The Bible is clear to explain that God is light (1 John 1:5). He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 5:16) and is considered as “the Father of lights” (James 1:17). All of this speaks of God’s character and domain of existence. He is brilliant in all His holiness, perfect in all His righteousness, and absolute in all His attributes. Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light, and in the same manner sin cannot stand in the presence of God.
In the beginning, God’s first work in creation was a reflection of His character. God who is light made light out of darkness. He took what was “without form and void” and stamped His nature upon it with four little words, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:2-3). Where there was chaos, there was clarity; where there was emptiness, there was the presence of His character.
God created Adam and Eve to walk in the light of His presence. In the Garden, Adam and Eve were to bear God’s likeness, exercise dominion over all He created, and enjoy the presence of God in the protection and provision of His creating and sustaining Word. But as you know, the serpent threw darkness upon the light of God’s Word, sowing doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve regarding God’s good purposes for them (“Did God really say . . .?”). The darkness of doubt bore fruit in the sinful rebellion of Adam and Eve, and darkness moved from doubt to guilt and shame as they hid themselves from the presence of God (Gen. 3:8). Since then, mankind is born in a state of sin and separation from God in what the Bible describes as the “domain of darkness.”
I’ve already plugged this awesome excerpt of Tim Keller in the past, but it’s worth posting again.
From the 2011 Gospel Coalition National Conference. Tim Keller’s message on Exodus 14. EXCELLENT.