The Power of Story: Telling the coming generation

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done
. (Psalm 78:4)

In this series on the power of story we have come to the point in which we must consider the biblical story and stories. The best way to do that is to give a biblical example of the principle. Let’s consider the visit of Mary to Elizabeth and her song of praise in Luke 1:39-56.

After the angel visited Mary and told her of the favor she had found with God, coming through the birth of Jesus, Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth. Mary knew of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, but Elizabeth did not know of Mary’s pregnancy. As Mary entered the home of Elizabeth there was an immediate reaction. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb (John the Baptist) leaped for joy. Elizabeth immediately knew, by direction of the Holy Spirit, that Mary was pregnant and that she was to be the mother of the Lord. Elizabeth’s prophetic cry led right into Mary’s song.

But from where did this song that magnified God come? Obviously this song was God-given, directed by the Holy Spirit and uttered at this particular time. But how did this 12 year old girl (that was her approximate age) come up with this theologically rich poetic verse? It came from what she had been taught in the Old Testament.

If you look back to 1 Samuel 1 & 2 you will see reference to another woman, Hannah. If you compare Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 with Mary’s song, you will see similarity. Mary had been taught, as a young Jewish girl, the story of Hannah’s barrenness and mistreatment, and of God’s providential care for her and for her people through the birth of her son Samuel.

After the angel visited Mary, and most likely on her 3-4 day journey to visit her relative, Mary mediated on God’s Word and stories of God’s past dealings with his people. Mary thought about this song that she had memorized, considering God’s glorious deed, his might, and the wonders he had done for Hannah. Mary was led to hope in God because she did not forget the works of God.

Read what Philip Ryken wrote: “Mary was able to do this because the psalms and poems of the Bible were written on her heart. She had been raised on the Scriptures…. So when the plan of salvation intersected with her life, she was able to offer to God the right kind of praise…. According to one literary scholar, ‘The style and language are those…drawn from the storehouse of faith and piety…. So here the words as well as the thoughts are those of a high-souled Hebrew maiden of devout and meditative habit, whose mind has taken the tone of the Scriptures in which she has been nurtured.’

“From this we learn that the best way to train our children to glorify God is by studying and singing God’s Word.”

Psalm 78 continues in this way in verse 7, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God. We tell the coming generations of God’s work so that, especially when similar situations arise, they will set their hope in God. Stories from Scripture show God’s power and attributes in real and tangible ways. Kids remember those stories and understand God as a result. Spiritual foundations are set and trust is formed because of what they learn about God from his work in the lives of people in his Word.

My encouragement to you is to be like Mary’s parents. Build into your children God’s stories, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

Part 1 and part 2 of this series.

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