We ended part 1 by talking about what it actually means when God ushers in His Kingdom into Earth: It means amongst so many other beautiful things, that there will be no more tears. I can’t think of a more applicable time in History for that truth to sound so, so necessary and important. The world is weeping for all that is hurt, lost, and devastated right now. We need more believable hope than we can muster up within ourselves. Without real hope, this really is as good as it gets.
Thank God that this is not the end of the story.
There is Hope, and He has a name.
In Isaiah, this is what God says to His people (the Israelites) while in exile in Babylon. At this point they have simply forgotten Him even after all that He performed for them since their days in Exodus from Egypt. Fast forward to today, we are not so different from them, so this should speak to us as well. Check out what He says:
“Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born.
Even to your old age and gray hairs.
I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you…
With whom will you compare me or count me equal?
To whom will you liken me that we may be compared? Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do. Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are now far from my righteousness.
I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. Isaiah 46:9-13
God is saying that He is the one who is fulfilling his purpose and his plan.
This leaves us face to face with a God who is in charge.
Here is a Principle to ponder:
What you believe in the present is determined by the past.
It would serve us all well to recognize that History can so incredibly easily be fiddled with in order to make you believe something in the present.
The media does this everyday, just with current events to fit whoever’s agenda pays their bills. Ask any psychologist, sociologist, or historian about the weight and the difficulty that comes with the incredibly easy manipulation of ‘the story’ and of the mind. It can literally effect every thing for humankind.
Think of it this way:
If I can change your historic context, I can change the way that you view the present.
This is the power of historical revisionism, which happens all of the time.
This is precisely why God mandates to us to “remember!”
We have to remember what is behind us in order to move forward in the future.
The Jewish heritage is incredible for many reasons, but one especially helpful cultural tradition on their part is that they have feasts to remember various moments in their history. As an entire ethnicity and as an entire religion, they set aside certain dates in order to remember. We do the same in America but the difference is that our heritage is so brief in contrast with theirs and with many others cultures. And on top of that, the holidays that have previously been part of the Christian heritage traditions are now repainted as a secular holiday and given all the same bells and whistles except that they’ve been made into something outside of the original intent or purpose of recognition.
For this reason, they render no compelling united claim for us as a people. In fact, arguably, there is nothing tangible anymore that actually unites us as a people so our heritage is really vulnerable. This is evident in the extreme polarization that is so common amongst Americans now.
Our modern day problem relative to History is that we keep forgetting what we should remember; and we keep remembering what we should forget.
The biggest mistakes that societies make can be directly traced back to a previous society acting in the same or similar ways, and the results are nearly as predictable as the sun rising. History is a teacher, if we pay attention.
What we should remember is that ignorance of history means that people don’t even think of their own lives in context of history, and don’t see how what happened earlier in life effects what happens later in life.
In the context and story of the Bible and how it directly relates to our present day lives, it is so huge to recognize the enormous heritage that we have as pilgrims on a sacred voyage after the time of Jesus. Even if our country as a whole is not united in beliefs, Christians across the world share a commonality that is richer than the anything pledged to a flag. This is why there is such a huge stress in the Bible on remembering…
By doing so, holding the entire context of the Bible in view, it allows us to foster a deep sense of gratitude, and a recognized owed obedience when we realize all that has been done for us, through others who have suffered as a result of our same deep convictions; And to hold dearly the gifts that we take for granted or receive so easily as result of what and who has come before us.
In the same way, if you don’t have a certain amount of understanding about history, you cannot have a sense of identity or a sense of wisdom about how we go forward.
“There is nothing new under the sun.” Solomon
It would do any generation in any culture in history well to view itself in light of history and in light of How God has worked throughout it. For example, without looking back into history, how could we ever hope to understand what the meaning of life is? I guess it depends on who you ask as to whether we have answered that or not. But for Christians the answer is plain, and if we have a disconnect with God’s view of history, then we can so easily lose sight of the grander picture.
This is why He gave us a mandate to remember.
Deuteronomy 8 (below) would be wise counsel for our culture to consider as the constant opposition against all things pertaining to the nature of God rages in Western Civilization. Opposition to God is nearly mainstream in our post-Christian society today, and that tension is felt by followers of Jesus to be sure. Not as victims of a societal offense, but more in the sense of a body of people attempting to navigate what it means for us now to maintain our spiritual integrity in the midst of a hostile cultural climate with respect to the life and teachings of Jesus.
Living in that tension is not unprecedented in that we have a historical story in the Christian/Jewish faith that has been oppressed all throughout History. Don’t get me wrong, I am well-acquainted with the abuse of power that “Christians” have also manipulated for ill means. However the Jewish history long proceeds the crusades. The Jewish people are by far the most previously disenfranchised sub-group of humans in all of history, dating all the way back from Egypt, Babylon, the ethnic/religious warfare in the middle East (past and present), and the treatment of the Jews during the holocaust during World War II. Do your homework, compare stats, data, and when you discover the same, you’ll be able to better assess their oppressive history relative to their cultural stamina and their ability to rebound from mistreatment in the most prolific ways, particularly in their socio-economic stature and fortitude across the board.
For those reasons, the Jewish story is worthy of study because in it, we recognize that in their History, we have a minor glimpse of a group of people who also became foreigners and exiles in various lands, after enjoying a spiritual homeostasis for a long time in their own country. As Christians in a post-christian society, we could all do well to learn a lot from their experiences.
There is a lot to be gleaned from the Jewish cultural/religious traditions and heritage.
“Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12
Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16
He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you.
17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”
18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today…
If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 8
The idea is that God is our sustainer, just as He had been throughout history for His people, for the ones who sought Him and believed Him. The moment we lose sight of this, and we attribute all our blessings, privilege, and wealth to ourselves, history reminds us of how those cultures and civilizations fall. The Bible is full of warnings to cultures and people who refuse to pay attention to what the past has shown them about whether God matters or not in the story of the world.
What is the jewel we come to know about time and history?
The plans of the Lord stand firm forever.
“The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.
From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth-he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death, and keep them alive in famine.” Psalm 33
Just for some perspective, let’s remember that several thousand years after the time of the exodus from Egypt, in God’s good and perfect plan, He used His own pain and suffering to bring about the best news the world has ever heard.
“Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” Acts 4:27-28
There’s a million questions that each and every one of us have about events that have transpired in history, everything from the fairness or unfairness of it, to questions of how could this or that actually be the will of God or fit into His plan…
The honest answer to many of those questions however, is that we simply do not know those answers, and we may never know until we meet Jesus face to face. It’s not just Christians who don’t know the answers to those questions; nobody on earth has a better philosophical explanation/rationale for all of the events in History, their timing, and their ramifications.
It is then our job to do our best to get caught up in the larger story of God, not getting caught up in our own stories to the point where we lose sight of the broader context of History and life from God’s vantage point.
There are so many flaws to our history as a human race, AND so many things done so well. Understanding whose wills are at play, and how they will all one day correspond to Gods sovereign plan is worth the study and meditation, as players in the ongoing story of history.
The Wisest Takeaway (for the followers of Jesus):
“…they rested on His providence, and they knew whom they had believed.”
William Bradford, Plymouth Settlement