After four-and-a-half weeks of intensive classroom training, our new hire class at work graduated this past Wednesday and moved into the two week on-the-job training phase. On Tuesday morning, the trainer and I were working through some review topics with them and had the group doing a worksheet to practice something they hadn’t done since early in Week Two, and most of them had forgotten how to do.
I moved from desk to desk, quietly responding to questions from one or the other of our sixteen students, until one of them politely raised her hand and asked me, “What’s the point of this again? Why are we doing this?”
This particular student had been struggling off and on throughout the class, and it finally occurred to me at that moment what the problem was for her. She’d been focusing on learning our computer systems and our processes, and was trying diligently to learn how to perform each task, but hadn’t yet put the pieces together to understand why.
In Deuteronomy chapter 5, Moses reminds the Israelites of God’s commands. He also reminds the people of their fear at the revealed glory and greatness of God, and the need to follow exactly the rules and regulations that God has set up for them. In Deuteronomy chapter 6, the rules and regulations are summarized:
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one![a] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (NJKV)
Moses goes on to exhort the people to write the commandments on their hearts — to make them an intrinsic part of their own lives, as well as their children’s. Talk about them anywhere and everywhere, all the time. In more modern terms, to put them on a sticky note on your forehead and affix a plaque to your front door.
All this single-minded focus on God and His commands would be baffling to any outsiders they would encounter, wouldn’t it? One might even refer to the Israelites as a “peculiar people.” But true to human nature, within a generation, folks would have forgotten the purpose behind all those rules and regulations, all the ritual and the reminders. And so Moses admonished them:
20-24 The next time your child asks you, “What do these requirements and regulations and rules that God, our God, has commanded mean?” tell your child, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and God powerfully intervened and got us out of that country. We stood there and watched as God delivered miracle-signs, great wonders, and evil-visitations on Egypt, on Pharaoh and his household. He pulled us out of there so he could bring us here and give us the land he so solemnly promised to our ancestors. That’s why God commanded us to follow all these rules, so that we would live reverently before God, our God, as he gives us this good life, keeping us alive for a long time to come. (Deuteronomy 6:20-24, MSG)
Just like my new hire class, if they don’t understand the “why”, the “what” and the “how” cease to have meaning and are easily forgotten.
Perhaps this lack of clarity on the meaning and purpose of our religious behavior is why so many of the children raised in church go their own way and leave the church behind as they get older. “What does all of this mean to me,” they ask. “What’s the point again?”