The Revival of Story
King Josiah is a unique king in Judah’s history. He was the last king to sit his entire life on the throne in Judah without being in captivity. He also brought great reformation to the nation of Israel. He tore down false idols that they worshipped and restored an honor of the scriptures for the whole nation. He specifically restored and preserved the testimonies, statutes and commandments of God.
I want to key in on one item here: the testimonies. Testimony is a fancy word for story. One of the most vital things for any ancient culture was the preservation of their stories. For Israel, it was no different. God wanted them to continue telling of the wonders He had done for them, such as their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. You see, these stories were orally told and handed down from generation to generation. Through customs and language, the miraculous grace offered to one generation remained an anchor of faith for generations to come.
We are no different. We read the stories of scripture and are rooted in and through them, not only to the God of the heavens and the earth but to a story much bigger and older than that of our own lives. One of the travesties of our modern culture is that we don’t preserve the stories of our own immediate heritage and legacy of faith.
A few years ago I interviewed my grandparents in our church about their life, growing up, their ministry and their family. There were many miracles and moments of God’s grace that had shaped and defined their lives, but one little story about my great-grandmother stood out profoundly to me.
My great-grandmother, who I never knew personally, was known by both family and friends as a person of prayer. She raised a family during the Great Depression and didn’t have much money. My Memaw (her daughter) would tell me that when they got sick, they would pray, and God would heal because they sure didn’t have enough money to go to a doctor. Likewise, when they had no food, they would pray, and God would provide.
The story that touched me was simple: the maintenance man at the church would hear my great-grandmother coming into the church every day reciting Psalm 103 in prayer.
I decided to go and read the 103rd Psalm again to see what it was all about. As I read the opening passages, I realized that much of the content defined a great bit of the core values that I had preached and lived by in my life of ministry: God as merciful, God as a healer, God as a giver of goodness and our call to worship Him.
But the moment that really took me back was when I got to verse 17 which reads, “from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children.”
I began to weep as I read these words realizing that somehow I was living in her prayers. Things that God was shaping in me had already been shaped in generations that had gone before me – things I didn’t even know of.
Sometimes we miss what a master storyteller God is.
Sometimes we miss that the stories that have shaped the lives of those who have gone before us are the stories that can and are shaping our lives if we let them.
Josiah brought a nation back to its true identity in a moment – largely through the recovery and preservation of story, God’s stories.
While God is doing new and beautiful things, we are invited into a generational continuity…an awareness that we are going places that people have not gone before, but that we do so by benefiting from exactly the places those before us have gone.
Can the revival and awakenings that God is bringing in the present be catalyzed by the stories of the past?
Maybe the best way to see the path ahead will be to examine the path behind and keep on telling the story.