The Lord told Moses of the final plague – the one that would ultimately mean the deliverance of His people from their slavery in Egypt. And in this plague, the cry of anguish would exceed all the cries that had come from the frogs. And the gnats. And the hail. And even the festering boils. This plague, once it happened, would cause a such despair that it would never be matched again. For “every firstborn male in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the servant girl who is at the grindstones, as well as every firstborn of the livestock” (Ex. 11:5). And then Pharaoh would let the people go.
But God not only described the plague to Moses. He also gave instructions for how the Israelites should remember that occurrence. It would, according to the Lord, become a day of memorial for them and their children, one in which through what they ate, how they behaved, and what they said that they remembered His great deliverance.
But in that description, there is one little phrase that is sticking in my mind today. Read here from Exodus 12:24-27:
“Keep this command permanently as a statute for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, you are to observe this ceremony. When your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ you are to reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when he struck the Egyptians and spared our homes.’” So the people knelt low and worshiped.
Someday, the Israelites will enter into the land God promised to their father, Abraham. And in those days, they were to still keep the Passover as a memorial. That’s where we find the statement: “When your children ask you…”
In other words, you are going to be doing these things on the same day every year. And these things will mark this day as one out of the ordinary. You will eat differently, talk differently, and behave differently. It will be different enough that your children are going to look at you and ask, “Why do we do this?”
Traditions are good like that. They are good because they make us retell the story of what God has done. They make us reflect on the past so that we can have hope for the present and the future. And, as parents, they build into the rhythm of our homes an opportunity to teach our children.
I wonder if many of us are too busy, too pragmatic, too focused on simply getting through the day to instill anything like this. Are we doing anything that would cause our children to ask, “Why do we do this?” Traditions like that open the door for great stories, great memories, and great faith. Those are the moments to be passed down. And the Bible is full of them.
Now our own kids are soon going to get to the age when traditions aren’t that cool. Their question will move from the inquisitive, “Why do we do this?” to the sarcastic, “Do we have to do this?” But even that question isn’t all bad. Because in the end, they’re still asking the question. And in the end, it’s still an opportunity to teach. To learn. To celebrate. To remember. And to hope.
It seems like the Lord is about creating these “when your children ask” moments. They come through meals, traditions, and celebrations, if we take the time and energy to practice—or even know—the traditions.