Scripture: “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.” 13:8-9 ESV
Observation: Directed by God on how to observe the Passover and Feast of Unleavened bread (12:1-20), Moses then instructs his elders regarding these solemn assemblies (12:21-27). So here, in chapter 13, Moses expands the teaching to all the people. Specifically, he orders the adults to explain to their next-generation the meaning and means of keeping this annual celebration (above verses):
- The Lord brought you out of Egypt (slavery and oppression) through his omnipotent power (“strong hand”)
- So remind your children with visible signs on your forehead and hand
- And teach the law to your children
The visible signs represented a heart of faith (forehead) and action (hand) aligned with God’s law. And communicating God’s covenantal ordinances to their children would help these little ones connect the dots and understand who God is (a mighty Redeemer) and why they should obey his commands.
Takeaway: The Lord would later instruct Israel (Deuteronomy 6:4-8) to teach the law to their children by wearing what came to be known as phylacteries (small boxes that contained portions of the Torah) on their foreheads and hands or arms. But as we humans have the propensity to do, phylacteries became a pretentious show of piety among the Jewish leaders—for which Jesus called them out (Matthew 23:5-7).
So how does this ordinance relate to us? Like Israel, we respond by trusting and obeying our Lord and passing on our faith in him to the next generation. And this requires that we absorb his redemptive story into our minds and hearts—not merely assenting to it but allowing Scripture, worship, and the celebration of the sacraments to inform and shape how we do life as his chosen people. In short, we celebrate God throughout our daily lives.
Prayer: Father God, highlighted by the gift of your Son, we thank you for all the ways you pour out your favor on us as your children. Would you please help us ongoingly celebrate and obey you and pass on our heritage to the next generation so that we might never forget that you are our all-powerful Redeemer? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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