The River of History
There was a raccoon who loved sunsets. As a nocturnal animal, she began her day at dusk. Sunsets always made her feel hopeful and cheerful. Sunrises, on the otherpaw, made her sad. One day, her friend, an elk, gave her a painting for her birthday. She accepted it, of course, but because it was a picture of a sunrise, she felt depressed every time she looked at it. The elk, noticing how down his friend seemd, asked her what was wrong. She finally had to admit that the painting of the sunrise was getting her down. "But I didn't paint a sunrise." said the elk. "I know you like sunsets, so I painted a sunset." The raccoon laughed at herself. It was such a basic mistake. She couldn't tell where the sun was going because she didn't know where it had been.
I have often heard it said that the study of history is important because we can't know where we are going if we don't know where we've been. I never understood this until recently, as I was reading through Leviticus. I was pondering the question of why we should bother reading Leviticus. There seems to be absolutely nothing in it for the modern day. It is entirely law, concerned primarily with the tabernacle, which we don't have.
Well... why was all of this recorded in the first place? One very big reason is to demonstrate that God is to be taken seriously.
Who here has been in the military? (raises paw) Those of you who've served therein know that the worst time for most servicemen is the very beginning. In basic training, recruits are treated very harshly indeed. Their wills are broken. They are taught discipline, obedience and respect. Once they have that, they're allowed a great deal more breathing room.
God is holy. He is perfect. He has the right to expect perfection. He prefers to be merciful to us, but before He can give us the leeway that He wants to, it is necessary for us to understand who he is. That He is holy, just, flawless, all-powerful, the ultimate authority, and not to be taken lightly. Fortunately for us, He has already done that with past generations, and we need only read their stories to learn from their experiences.
Another reason to study history is because you can't make sense of the end of a story without reading the beginning. If all that was needed to tell a story were the happily ever after, movies would be a lot cheaper and more convenient. For example: "Tony therefore remained a porcupine, gave the crystal of Zarthon to the princess, and they all lived happily ever after."
Why is it significant that Tony is a porcupine? What the heck is a Crystal of Zarthon? Who is this princess? why did she need the crystal? And why should we care about any of this?
Now suppose I told you that Tony was an unhappy manure-scraper who found a magic crystal that turned him into a porcupine. As he was looking for a cure, the crystal was stolen by an evil wizard who planned to use it to take over the kingdom. One by one, the wizard transformed the citizens of the kingdom into animals. Only the princess could use the power of the crystal to reverse the wizard's evil work. Tony used his porcupine form to defeat the wizard, and retrieve the crystal, but in doing so, found that he liked being a porcupine better than being a manure-scraper.
Suddenly, it all makes sense. Every element takes on a new meaning and you find that you could actually care about Tony.
Now we know that Jesus saves. That's good. We know that He'll rule the world and that we, His saints, will live forever with Him. But what does that mean by itself? Who is this Jesus? Why does He want to rule the world? Is that good?
To understand the end of the story, you need to go back to the beginning. That's why we have the creation story, the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Exodus, the history of Israel in the wilderness, the law, the prophets, Judges, Kings, the Captivity...
Lastly, if you want to know an artist, the best way I've found is to study his work. It was God who created the world. And despite the efforts of Satan to manipulate history, God has been in control the whole time. We have already seen that God is to be taken seriously.
Oren: But by reading about His dealings with others in the past, We can discern just what kind of individual He is. Yes, He is just, but as we learn again and again, He is also merciful and compassionate, taking no delight in meting out punishment. We learn that He has a sense of beauty, a mind-boggling intellect, and a capacity for empathy that we cannot truly fathom. Immediately after God kills Aaron's sons for offering strange fire, He forgives Aaron and his other sons when they break a command, because when they did it, it was because they felt unworthy to eat the meat of the sacrifice. So these are the things we're going to be looking for as we begin walking through Genesis next week: God's authority, God's character, and a sense of the big picture.
Next week: Creation!