Deuteronomy 11:18–19 - “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
I was sitting at lunch the other day beginning to realize that my day was slipping away from me. I instinctually lifted up my wrist to check the time and found myself staring at my bare arm, trying to process what, exactly, I was trying to accomplish. My watch had broken a couple of months earlier, and now as I sat at the table staring at nothing, I found myself confused that I’d even bothered to check a watch that I knew would not be there.
There are probably a lot of habits that you have that you don’t even know that you have. Things like setting the coffee before bed, brushing your teeth, always preparing your lunch the same way, or the way you put your dishes in the dishwasher. Simple acts that you have done the same way for so long that you don’t even realize you are doing them–until they are no longer there to do. Suddenly your habits and routines become immediately obvious to you and you are reminded why they were important to you to begin with (or you discover that they weren’t that important).
God has something like this in mind with his word. God does not give us his word in vain as if some things were not necessary to say. What God says matters, and He expects that when he speaks to his people they will remember. The best way to remember is to make a habit out of it. For his people in the Old Testament, that meant keeping his word front and center at all times, teaching it daily to themselves and those around them. Of course, the danger is that when you’re doing it every day, or you’ve heard it from a very young age you begin to forget whythe thing you are doing is so important. You can begin to take even something as valuable as God’s word for granted.
One of the ways this forgetfulness was counteracted in church history was through the use of Catechisms, which are a set of questions and answers about God that are intended to be easy to remember summaries of the Christian faith. They were originally used as a means of helping pastors and congregations learn and properly teach God’s word. Unfortunately, like God’s word itself, it is easy for us to take the beautiful simplicity of these catechisms for granted. Sometimes keeping things front and center leads to looking right past them and forgetting they are there.
This summer, I’m going to start a summer sermon series on the Heidelberg Catechism. We’ll only get through a small portion of it this summer and will continue on through subsequent summers. My hope is that as we open up this ancient text together, we’ll remember why it was written in the first place and why saints before us made it part of their routine. I hope we’ll rediscover its truth and warmth, and most of all, I hope we’ll grow closer to Jesus–which was the point of the catechism all along.