There are a great number of quotes from various sources that expound the virtues of knowing and paying heed to history. Cicero, the distinguished Roman orator and statesman who lived the century prior to Christ wrote, “Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to be always a child. If no use is made of the labors of past ages, the world must remain always in the infancy of knowledge”. Yet, we can relate to a quote of an anonymous source which said, “We learn from history that we don’t learn from history”.
Often we sit at the feet of history and fail to learn great life lessons that would be advantageous to us. In the realm of our spiritual lives, we note the words of the apostle Paul, who wrote, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The things written aforetime of which he spoke were the Old Testament Scriptures. Most of us have read the Old Testament and can tell many of the stories and events recorded there. But, the question is, did we learn any lessons from that history? Let us consider a few historical events of the Old Testament and note some quite valuable lessons that we should have learned and if not maybe we can learn them here.
The account of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden teaches us that it is absolutely mandatory that we do not disobey God. God told them not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil and warned that if they did, they would die (Gen. 2:17). After being tempted by the serpent in the garden we read, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6).
Thus, sin entered into this world. Adam and Eve did not die physically that day, though being cast out of the garden in which the tree of life was, their physical death began that day. Yet they did die that day. They died spiritually! Sin separates one from God, which is the equivalence of the separation of the body and the spirit which is physical death (Isa. 59:1-2; I Pet. 3:12; James 2:26). One can learn this same important lesson from the account of the transporting of the ark of the covenant (II Sam. 6:3-7) and the account of Moses smiting the rock (Num. 20:8-12). The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
Another very important lesson that we can learn rides on the coat-tail of that first lesson. It is that one cannot hide from God. In the account of Adam and Eve, they tried to hide themselves in the garden, but they failed. God asked them where they were, but He already knew. He wanted them to realize where they were. When Cain slew Abel in the field, God said, “…the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (Gen. 4:10).
God knew what Cain had done. The prophet Jonah tried to hide from God by fleeing to a ship bound for Tarsus and hiding himself below deck, but God knew where he was and sent out a great wind into the sea so that the ship was like to be broken (Jonah 1:3-4). The writer of the book of Hebrews stated, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). David, the sweet psalmist of Israel wrote, “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God” (Psalm 14:2). God sees our every sin. Solomon, he who is said to have been the wisest of all men wrote, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc. 12:14). Two lessons have been learned so far. The wages of sin is death and there is not a sin that is hidden from God.
With our remaining space, let us note one more lesson that may well need to be learned by many. A good and noble motive does not make that which is wrong, right! Saul, the first king of Israel was given command from God to destroy the nation of Amalek, “and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass”. Saul disobeyed God by sparing king Agag and bringing back the best of the flocks. When Samuel called him out on his disobedience, Saul had what could easily be seen as a good and noble motive for his disobedience.
He said that these things were brought back that they might be used with which to offer a sacrifice to God. God’s answer through Samuel was: Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (I Sam. 15:3, 9, 21-22). When Uzzah reached forth his hand and touched the ark of the covenant to keep it from falling, surely if was of a pure motive, but in was contrary to the commands of God and Uzzah was stricken dead by the hand of God (II Sam. 6:6-7). No motive can change that which is wrong to that which is right. Learning these three lessons from the Old Testament could save a lot of souls.
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