Sunday, October 25, 2020

Psalm 78.1-7: Things That Our Ancestors Have Told Us

Dotted Horses. Pech-Merle Cave. Cabrerets, France. c. 25,000 BCE. 
(Notice how the prehistoric artists used the natural formation of the rock to shape the image of the right horse's head. Notice also the hand stencils above the horses. Are these the hands of the artist(s)? There are also hand stencils below the horses and to the left of the left horse.)

Among the earliest art work left by our human ancestors are paintings in caves. About 400 caves with paintings have been found, mostly in France and Spain, but also in Romania, England, Argentina, Indonesia, and other countries. New discoveries are still being made. Even as we discover the existence of this kind of work, we still don't know for sure why they were painted. It's the opposite of Psalm 78. In the Psalm, one generation tells another about the deeds of God. The ancestors are commanded to teach their children (Psalm 78:1-7), so that the children will know in order to set their hope in God.

We understand teaching verbally, passing knowledge from one generation to another through stories, myths, legends, personal testimony. But what if things are passed generationally in ways beyond storytelling? Epigenetics literally means "in addition to" or "on top of" genetics. It refers to things that might be inherited outside of or in addition to genetics. If this includes things like trauma and sensitivities, as some scientists suspect, could it also be that people could "inherit" the knowledge of God? 

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a decree in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments. (Psalm 78:1-7)

Jeremiah relayed God's words: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). Perhaps in telling the stories of God over and over we can help our children inherit a heart on which God's law is written.

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