By the time you read this, Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread will be almost upon us in 2011. To God’s true people, this season and all of God’s Holy Days are deeply meaningful.
But how much meaning do they have for our children, those young ones whose teaching God says is our responsibility?
Do we ourselves deeply understand God’s Holy Days? And, most important, do we set the proper example in observing these days? Do we take them seriously? Unless we do, how can we effectively express to our children the significance of God’s master plan?
Ancient Israel’s example
The ancient Israelites, in slavery in Egypt, certainly were forced to take God’s plan seriously when God began to work with them.
Times of national crisis — war, economic depression, enslavement of one nation to another — are probably harder on children than on any other single group within a nation. Without a doubt this was true during ancient Israel’s hard bondage in Egypt.
Imagine the plight of Israel’s children during the months and weeks leading up to the Exodus:
Slavery no doubt broke up families. The people lived in extreme poverty. The Israelite children were not afforded good opportunities for education.
The hard labor, from which even the children were not excepted, must have claimed a heavy toll in terms of the children’s physical and mental health. Nothing — not even human life — could stand in the way of the massive building projects Pharaoh pushed so obsessively.
Then God intervened. Keeping His promise to the patriarch Abraham (Gen. 15:13-14), God began to deliver Israel. Moses arrived on the scene and God, through miraculous and devastating plagues, drove Pharaoh to release God’s nation. We know the story.
But think of the Israelites’ children. While the grown-ups were no doubt bewildered by the course of events, the children must have been most confused — even fearful.
Israel followed God’s instructions and prepared for the very first Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread (Ex. 12:1-25). God struck down the firstborn in every Egyptian home and Moses began to lead Israel out of Egypt. These events would only have added to the children’s wonderment.
But God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). He wanted His people — every person, down to the youngest child who could understand — to know about His plan. So He provided a means for the children to learn about the events and ceremonies of these first Holy Days: Parents were to teach their children, then and for every generation thereafter.
Notice Exodus 12:26-27: “And it shall come to pass,” God told Israel, “when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.”
God placed a heavy responsibility on parents. They were to teach their children about the things of God, including God’s Holy Days, which show the plan of salvation.
One of the most effective ways for them to have done so was to have set the proper example of obedience in their own lives. Personal example goes much farther than words in setting a pattern of right living.
The Bible shows, however, the adult Israelites themselves failed to heed God’s commands, let alone teach the younger generations. Therefore, God allowed every Israelite past the age of 20, except Joshua and Caleb, to die in the wilderness rather than enter the promised land.
And Moses, before Israel crossed the Jordan River into Canaan, had to repeat for the younger people, in Deuteronomy, things their parents had failed to teach them. Sad to say, this younger generation also failed to teach their offspring about the ways of God, and the record of Israel’s unhappy history shows the result. (more…)