The Future of History
Thus says the LORD: Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, "We will not walk in it."
Some years ago I spent a weekend in London visiting a friend from N. Ireland. While there, friends of my friend from Welwyn Garden City Baptist Church, just outside the city, kindly offered to show us around London for the day. When they asked me what I wanted to see, and where I wanted to go, I mentioned the Parliament buildings, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey, but most of all I told them we had to find time to visit The Metropolitan Tabernacle. My final request was met with a blank stare. They inquired, "What is The Metropolitan Tabernacle?" Their reply shocked me, since I was talking to two English Baptists, so I shot back, "Really, it is the church where Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached!" Then things went from bad to worse. They looked at each other, and then at me, and responded, "Who is Spurgeon?" I could not believe my ears, here were two young English Baptists living just outside London blithely unaware of their own history.
That encounter that day reminded me, and speaks to us all about the sad fact that the church today is suffering from a severe memory loss. We see no future in our past. History is bunk! We seem to have fallen prey to a postmodern mindset that honors neither history nor heroes. A look at the modern Christian movement shows that it is wholly contemporary in its ethos, and pragmatic in its practice. Ours is a generation of Christians suffering from historical amnesia, and bent on a future without a past. But that is a huge mistake. The Bible never encourages us to discount God's work in the past (Psa. 77:10-11; 90:1; 105:1-6; 143:5). Remember is one of God's favorite words. The Bible not only encourages us to remember God's wonderful works, but it also encourages us to memorialize the deeds of the just (Prov. 10:7). We must not forsake the faith of our fathers (2 Chron. 7:19-22; 1 Kings 9:4-9; Jude 3). This emphasis underscores why Jeremiah the prophet urges the people of God in his day to ask for the ancient paths for they constitute the good way (Jer. 6:16). This verse reminds us to allow the streaming light of history to light the path to the future. Jeremiah is saying that the way forward is back, for the past helps us to predict, and secure the future.
History is not bunk, it is critical to our future. First, history instructs us (Rom. 15:4). Times may have changed, and trends may have changed, but there is nothing new under the sun. Men haven't changed, Satan hasn't changed, truth hasn't changed, and God doesn't change, therefore history is a great tutor and teacher. History teaches us that ideas have consequences. History teaches us God's ways and Satan's schemes. Second, history inspires us (Mark 14:9; Heb. 12:1). The record of shining faith in the past acts as a shot in the arm to our own belief in God. Those who in yesteryear shipwrecked themselves on God, provide an anchor for our own faith during life's swelling tides. Third, history integrates us (Jude 3). Our common salvation reminds us that we are part of something bigger than the moment we are in. The contemporary Christian must have an ancient focus. God has been working across history, and we need to be faithful to that heritage. Listen and learn! There is no future in ignoring the past!