Why We Don’t Know Much About History

July 2, 2018

Exodus 15:1-2

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:

“I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.
2 “The Lord is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.


We come to our last week of the series on prayer and the Old Testament. Our next eight weeks will continue the series on prayer but this time in the New Testament. I know, we have hardly covered the Old Testament. As I noted earlier, rather than taking a more technical approach and jumping from prayer to prayer, I wanted us to take a deeper dive into the deeper fundamentals of prayer as we learn from creation (Genesis) and redemption (Exodus). Rather than thin principles about prayer, I wanted us to delve into thick paradigms for prayer. Still yet we have hardly scratched the surface.

It brings to mind a question I recently received from a Daily Text reader.

Why is the book of Exodus important for me today? What does it have to do with my life?

Let me bring it down to one word: Memory. We who live in the early twenty-first century have an anemic understanding of history. It’s not so much that we don’t know our history as we don’t grasp the concept of history. History, and particularly biblical history, is not a subject to be studied. It is a memory to be inhabited. Abraham & Sarah are not ancient biblical characters (ok, they are). They are our parents. To say that this is our story is not to say this is our history; which has a way of distancing it from us. To claim it as our story is to do just the opposite from distancing. It is to bring it close; to make it our memory.

Fast-forward with me some forty years later to the book of Deuteronomy. The people of Israel are finally preparing to enter the Promised Land. Moses addresses them with these words:

2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.

Actually, no. The people Moses was talking to were not present at Horeb (or they were only knee high to a grass-hopper). In Deuteronomy, Moses brings the history near in such a way as to brand it in the memory of a people who could not technically remember it. This is why the Passover is so critical for Israel. Passover, like the Lord’s Supper, brings the history near—not just by re-telling it but by eating and drinking and singing and embracing.

So what does memory have to do with prayer? Just everything. Our living memory determines the imaginative capacity with which we can pray. For better or worse, our imagination does not come out of thin air. It comes directly from our memory. If we do not remember the words and deeds of the one in whose image we are made, we simply can’t imagine how those words and deeds have any bearing or relevance in our lives today.

It’s another reason we sing this story. The Israelites haven’t even caught their breath from the Red Sea deliverance and they are already singing.

“I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.

Look through the rest of the Bible  and notice how many times this ancient history gets brought into present day memory. Every time it does, it explodes in the imagination of the singing and praying people.

Don’t believe me? Consider one of the most popular worship songs of the last several years. It’s a song people don’t just sing. They inhabit it. The song is called No Longer Slaves and both theologically and melodically must be one of the most compelling songs of deliverance written in the last hundred years. There comes a place late in the song, just when you thought it was over, when we find ourselves transported to the shoreline of the Red Sea.

“You split the sea so I could walk right through it. My fears were drowned in perfect love. You rescued me and I will stand and sing, “I am a child of God.”

That’s how it works. When deep in our soul biblical memory touches holy imagination, prayer takes on a new essence. Our broken history becomes a redeemed future. We begin to know in an ever-newing way who we really are and why we are here.

At this place our prayers become our songs and together they narrate the story of deliverance into new generations.

In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling. Exodus 15:13. 


Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. Yours is the story which has become our song. Bring your Word and Spirit into my life as my memory and my imagination. Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.


  1. What challenges you about this idea of making the biblical story your memory?
  2. So why is the story of Genesis & Exodus, Creation and Redemption, important for your life today?
  3. How is your praying imagination stirred and stoked by the story of Passover and Red Sea? How might it become moreso?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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