One of the interesting things about being a Christian is that sometimes while two things may seem the same, the one tied to God’s Will has different purposes. For example, a Christian and a non-Christian can help someone in need. Both may even claim they do it because they love the person. But for the Christian, there is an even deeper purpose – to point the person to God in hopes that they may one day decide to follow Him.
There is a fun family devotional you can do that will engage your children over a period of time, while also giving you opportunities to discuss God’s purposes with them. You will need a very large container of salt and a similar size one of baking soda, a Tupperware type container with a lid, a gutted fish and some rubbing alcohol. You may also wish to have some herbs that smell good.
Call your children together and ask them what they know about Egypt. Ask them if they know what a mummy is. Explain that the Israelites lived in Egypt for several hundred years. Joseph knew, however, that eventually the Israelites would return to the land promised to them by God. He wanted his body to be buried in his family cave when they returned. In order to perhaps make that easier and because they were living in Egypt, the Bible tells us they mummified his body. (Read them Exodus 50:26. Note that the body of Jacob was also mummified and carried back to the family tomb while Joseph was still alive.)
Explain that for the Egyptians mummification had to do with their false worship of manmade gods. They believed the person needed to have in his or her tomb what they would need in the afterlife. That included a well preserved body and their organs in a separate jar! Yet God’s purpose for the instructions Joseph gave about his body were different. He knew God would provide everything he needed in Heaven. His mummy and the request to take it with them when they left Egypt forever would serve God’s purpose of reminding the Israelites that the hardships they endured as slaves in Egypt would not last forever. One day they would take the mummified body back with them when they returned to the Promised Land to live.
Show your children the gutted fish. Explain that you are going to mummify the fish to better understand mummification and how it preserves living things. Show them how the organs have been taken out of the fish. Explain that the Egyptians removed all of the organs from the body because they might rot during the mummification process and ruin the mummy. They were usually placed in a jar near the mummy.
Rub the fish inside and out with rubbing alcohol (make sure your kids wash their hands well if they touch the fish). Mix enough salt and baking soda to cover the fish at a 50/50 ratio. Place some of the mixture on the bottom of the Tupperware container, then put the fish on top of the mixture. Cover the fish with the remaining salt/baking soda mixture, making sure every part of the fish is inside of the mixture.
Place the top on the container. You may want to place herbs near it to reduce any odors, just like burials in Bible times. Check the fish once a week and place it in a fresh salt and baking soda mixture. Full mummification looks like dehydration. It may take several weeks depending upon the size of the fish.
While you are mummifying the fish, talk about some of God’s purposes for Christians. What are some things we do that might look the same as what other people are doing, but have a deeper purpose given to us by God? Point out that most parents correct their children and give consequences when they disobey. For Christian parents, it is deeper than just correcting behavior, however. God’s purpose for Christians is for them to have “soft hearts” that obey, worship and serve Him. Your correction has a deeper purpose – to keep their hearts soft for God – instead of becoming hard, selfish and stubborn.
Each week when you change the mixture, revisit the topic. Share another story from the Bible when God had a deeper purpose for something. Other examples of pointing the people to the coming Messiah, like Jonah and the big fish, make great examples, but the Bible is full of them. Remember to also discuss the deeper purposes God has for the things they do in their lives.
God’s purposes are abstract and difficult for children to understand. Regularly discussing them and relating them back to the mummy of Joseph and the mummy you are creating can help them begin to understand the concept.