Read: Deuteronomy 6:20-25
“Then you shall say to your children, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand’” (Deuteronomy 6:21).
I was rifling through my mother’s silverware drawer in search of a paring knife. I settled on a likely looking candidate and began to peel the potatoes.
“Oh, don’t use that one,” Mom chided. “That knife’s so dull you could ride it all the way to London.”
By that time I had discovered the truth for myself. But as I proceeded to peel with the sharper knife she provided, I continued to reflect on her peculiar proverb. When I asked Mom about it, she told me that it was what the women in our family had always said about dull knives.
“But Mom,” I marveled. “That saying must go all the way back to some ancestor in England! Why else would you talk about riding anything to London?”
In that moment, I felt a funny sort of solidarity with that unnamed Englishwoman who, in a fit of wry humor—which I like to think still runs in the family—creatively condemned her dull knife.
For me, it was a linguistic link that surprised me into a deeper sense of my connection to the past. Perhaps something similar is going on in Deuteronomy 6:21. The previous verse anticipates that future generations may need to be reminded about the mighty act of God that forged them into a community of faith and gave them the Law as a guide to grateful obedience. So, it says–“when your children ask you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your children, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand….”
I have added the italics in the last quote to underscore the use of the first person plural. Did you notice how the children’s question is framed in the second person, “you”? The suggested response, however, shifts the pronouns resolutely to “we” and “us.” The point is unmistakable: the miraculous rescue at the Red Sea was not something that happened to somebody else. It happened to all of us—to every generation that belongs to the community of faith.
In times of isolation, it’s easy to lose track of ourselves. Without friends, colleagues, and family around us, we miss some of the daily reminders of who we are and what we stand for. In the absence of those touch-stones of identity, there are other groups that may try to provide alternatives based on shared grievances, prejudice, or hate.
Perhaps this is part of what Paul is warning against when he writes, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit” (Col. 2:8). Instead, he urges those who “have received Christ Jesus the Lord,” to “continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col 2:6-7).
All of this is to say: As Christians, we are not alone. We are all caught up in a story that is much bigger than ourselves. Our roots run deep.
Remember that the next time you feel like you are losing track of yourself.
Ponder: In talking about how crucial it is to read the Bible as a “living whole,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “We become a part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land…. We are torn out of our existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth.” (Life Together, p. 53). How is losing yourself in this way also finding yourself?
Pray: Help me to live my life as one who is rooted in Christ, established in faith, and abounding in thanksgiving.