Learning from the Past; September 25, 2017


Job 8:8-9 “Ask the former generations
and find out what their fathers learned,
for we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
and our days on earth are but a shadow.”

When it comes to the Book of Job I hesitate to write on what his three friends said, because they basically spouted platitudes, and even God said they didn’t say what was right about Him. (Job 42:7) However, there can be some truth even in platitudes, and this is a case in point. We have the English expression, “I wasn’t born yesterday,” but this says the opposite. This is very much along the lines of, “Those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it.” Similarly, we speak of “reinventing the wheel.” The point is, we need the knowledge and wisdom of past generations, because we can’t afford to make all the mistakes ourselves. That said, sometimes “accepted knowledge” can be wrong. A case in point is the very recent announcement by the very group of climate scientists on whose work the “global warming” hysteria has been based, that their figures for the “greenhouse gas” effect of CO2 were 150% of actual fact. A whole industry has grown up over their earlier figures and predictions, and now the foundation for that has been shattered. Even in this case, however, future generations should be able to look back and know to treat sweeping generalizations with a healthy dose of skepticism. The best example of learning properly from the past is the Bible, which says expressly that it was given to us to help us avoid the mistakes of our ancestors. (1 Corinthians 10:6-11) The Bible not only gives us eternal truth, it also tells us how that played out in people’s lives when they either followed it or ignored it. Every generation of young people has the tendency to feel that wisdom starts with them, but every generation of senior adults looks at them and shakes their heads. Humility is essential, most especially toward God. We need to seek His face and let Him show us what we need to learn from the past in order to move into the future He has planned for us.

Personally, I have learned a lot from my family history. My direct ancestors have for the most part been dedicated to God, and I can look back and see the results of that. (Hebrews 13:7-8) I have had relatives who have strayed from that, however, and I can see the outcome of their choices as well. The thing is, being judgmental can drive us in directions we really don’t want to go, and can even make us prone to do exactly what we were judgmental about. I need to remember that, as the saying goes, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” I am to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, just as Jesus said. (Matthew 6:33) That actually extends into every area of my life, and will lead me into eternity with my Lord. Thankfully, I have had ancestors who did the same, and I can learn from them.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the many excellent examples You have given me, and for the rich spiritual heritage I enjoy. Help me not ignore any of that, but make the use of it that You intend, so that Your blessing may in turn be passed on to others, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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