How the Exodus Narrative Can Help Us Disciple Kids Through COVID-19

Jared Kennedy

Now that schools, churches, and businesses have closed due to COVID-19, most parents and caregivers have their children at home. In the first few days of closures, I saw the online jokes: ”the whole nation is learning what it means to homeschool.” Then, I received some frantic texts from parents. But as the number of cases climbs, the sadness and trouble beneath the surface is beginning to set in. Some of the griefs seem relatively minor: kids missing the end of the school year, perhaps the last year of their middle or high school experience. Some of the griefs will be felt for years: a girl who is immunocompromised living in constant fear or a grandson grieving the loss of his grandmother.

I’m thankful for all of the articles that have come out in recent days encouraging an emphasis on family discipleship in the midst of the pandemic. The articles I’ve read have cited the classic family discipleship passages: God’s command to impress his commands on the hearts of our children (Deut. 6:4–9); Asaph’s beautiful song about celebrating God’s praiseworthy deeds before the next generation (Ps. 78:1–10); Solomon’s psalm about building your house on a foundation of faith (Ps. 127); and the new covenant command to bring up your children in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). 

But, today, I want to invite you to look a little further back in biblical history—to the priorities God revealed and instructions he gave to his oppressed people just before the Exodus. Let’s journey back to a time when believing families huddled together, isolated in their homes while trouble and death reigned around them.

Now there are big differences between what is happening in our time and what occurred in Egypt. As Christians, we believe COVID-19—and every great evil—is a result of the fall, but we must avoid thinking this pandemic has come as a judgment against some particular evil in our world; Jesus was absolutely clear about this when he warned those who felt self-righteous when the tower of Siloam fell (Luke 13:1–5). The plagues—which were given as specific judgments against Pharaoh’s hard-hearted oppression—were unique events in redemptive history. It is inappropriate to say COVID-19 is a judgement from God. But having clearly stated that, there are some lessons we can learn from the time of locusts and lambs—encouragements that will serve our households today. 

What can Christian parents learn from God’s instructions to the Israelites under Pharaoh? Consider these four truths:

1. In the midst of the pandemic, we have a story to tell (Ex. 10:1–2). 

Exodus chapter 10 introduces the eighth plague: the plague of locusts. The chapter begins with these words: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren . . . and that you may know that I am the LORD.” Throughout the Exodus narrative, in the midst of oppression—through every plague and disaster—God had a plan. God was giving a story to tell for generations.

Even though we don’t know what God’s doing right now, we can tell our children the great story of what he has done for us in the past. Each time you pick up a Bible storybook or download and work through one of those free Sunday School lessons the Christian publishers are giving away, you’re reminding your kids that we have a God who made us, who loved us by sending the Savior, and who will one day return to heal this broken world.  When preaching on Exodus 10, pastor Marty Machowski once remarked, “Isn’t it kind of God that he would allow us to tell his story?” It certainly is! The great story reminds us that our troubles and sufferings are taking us somewhere. Just as God had a purpose for the children of Israel when they were under oppression, we get to remind our kids that he has a purpose for us too.

2. In the midst of the pandemic, we wage spiritual war (Ex. 10:8–9). 

After the plague of locusts, Pharaoh nearly gave into Moses and Aaron’s pleas to let God’s people go. He called them into his throne room and said, “Go, worship the LORD your God . . . but tell me, who will be going with you?” The first eight plagues made enough of an impression with the hard-hearted king that he was willing to let the men of the nation take a sabbatical from forced labor. But when Israel’s leaders informed the king that all of the people—young and old, sons and daughters, flocks and herds—would go and worship the LORD, he balked: “The LORD be with you—if I let you go, along with your women and children! Clearly you are bent on evil!” Pharaoh received God’s call for his people’s wholehearted devotion as a declaration of war.

Even though we don’t know what God’s doing right now, we can tell our children the great story of what he has done for us in the past.

It was. In the midst of COVID-19, we have an enemy too. He wants to divide our children’s hearts so that they turn away from our good God. I loved Megan Hill’s article recently at The Gospel Coalition about family prayer. She wrote, “The invisibility of a virus (at least to those of us without scientific instruments at our disposal) is a reminder to Christians that we have concerns beyond the visible world.” There is a whole world  beyond what our eyes can see—a real battle raging in the spiritual realm for the souls of our children. When we bow our heads to pray and lift our children’s griefs and fears to God, we’re appealing to him to do invisible work in their hearts. When we pray that he would protect their bodies and also protect them from Satan and his schemes, we’re waging war.

3. In the midst of pandemic, we need the household of faith (Ex. 12:1–2, 24–28). 

When the last plague came, God gave Israel the Passover ceremony. Each family and perhaps a few neighbors—enough to eat one roasted lamb—gathered together for a family meal. Those family meals should remind us of the importance of the household in God’s economy, and they should also point us forward to the reality that the primary household in the New Covenant era is the household of God (Matt. 19:29; Eph. 2:19). I love what Andy Crouch has written about this recently: “In the history of the church, over and over it has been local ‘households’ extended-family-size outposts of the Kingdom of God, that have been able to most effectively mobilize care of the vulnerable in their midst, and to reach out and care for the vulnerable around them.”

In other words, your family needs your church community. So, gather your kids around the television on Sunday morning for that livestream worship service. But don’t stop there. Connect with your church community personally. Dial into that small group video chat, or FaceTime with your accountability partners. Set up video chats for your kids as well. Help them to see that even when we’re secluded, we need the household of faith.

4. Finally, in the midst of pandemic, we must hope in Jesus (Ex. 12:21–28). 

When God gave the Passover ceremony, he anticipated the fact that kids would ask questions. In Exodus 12:26–28, we find these words: “When your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.” God made kids with a sense of wonder. He knew they would ask questions.

Often they ask simply because they’re curious. In a time of crisis, they’ll also ask questions because they’re afraid. When the kids asked, God wanted Israelite parents to be prepared to give a reason for their hope. So, he gave them that little script in verses 26–28 to put to memory; it was one that connected the kids’ active faith to his redemptive plan. In season and out of season, we must be ready to give our kids an answer about our hope as well. Parents, I’d encourage you to write out a simple one-sentence reason for why you have hope in Jesus so that you can tell that personal testimony to your kids. If that’s difficult for you, you might consider adopting question one of the Heidelberg catechism as your answer: “What is your only comfort in life and death? That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” 

When God sent his angel throughout Egypt, what kept their firstborn sons safe from death was the blood of the lamb over their doors. God hasn’t promised that he will keep us safe from sickness and death in the same way, but the Passover lamb does point us to the One who will keep us safe through death—to our Savior, Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As your kids’ griefs and questions about COVID-19 come, remember the Israelites before the Exodus: Tell the story; wage war on your knees; connect with the household of faith; and, most importantly, model hope in our faithful Savior who holds us through the storm.

Jared is the husband of Megan and father to Rachael, Lucy, and Elisabeth. After serving fifteen years on staff at local churches, Jared now works as an editor for The Gospel Coalition, coaches children's ministers through Gospel-Centered Family, serves on the Theological Advisory Council for Harbor Network, and teaches as an adjunct instructor at Boyce College. He is author of numerous books including Keeping Your Children's Ministry on Mission and The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24