In Joshua 4, when everyone had crossed over the Jordan River, God commanded Joshua to take twelve men representing the twelve tribes of Israel and find twelve stones to set up as a monument that would remind the people of their crossing over into the Promised Land. Towards the end of the chapter, Joshua pointed out a specific function this memorial would have for later generations:
When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do those stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”
Teaching children in this way was common back in that time period. Earlier, in Deuteronomy 6, Moses wrote what is referred to as the “Shema”:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Taking special and everyday-life events and using them as illustrations to teach and remind about what God has done was the way Hebrew families taught their children.
Thanksgiving is upon us and what better way to teach our children about why we are thankful than to practice what the ancient Israelites practiced with their families? As you are gathered around the dinner table with your family and friends, I encourage you to start a tradition that symbolizes your thankfulness to God. Maybe you already go around the table and say something you are thankful for; maybe you can start that this Thanksgiving. Take some time to let your kids ask questions about why you do what you do and tell them, “We are giving thanks to God for all of His blessings, especially for sending Jesus to be our Savior.” If your kids are not the type who ask questions, go ahead and ask them questions. Ask them if they know why we gather each year like this to give thanks. Help direct their attention to what God has done. Find ways to get their attention so they can be reminded of God’s love and faithfulness. All of our days and events we celebrate contain teachable moments. All we have to be is intentional.