Learning from History

In Genesis 14, right after the story of Lot and Abram parting ways, four Canaanite kings join together to conquer the cities that Lot is in the midst of. Abram takes his 300+ men to defeat these kings to free Lot. This is the first recorded battle of the Bible, and a reoccurring theme emerges here that, with God, numbers do not matter. This is revisited in the book of Numbers when 5/6 spies advise against taking the land of Canaan due to the forces opposing them – forgetting the lesson taught by their father Abraham.

George Santayana is credited with the principle that those who are unaware of lessons from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. In I Corinthians 10:1-11, Paul appeals to this principle by encouraging Christians to take the history of God’s people as an example to learn from, and we are going to look at five specific events from the Old Testament to take some applications from.

Applications from Bible History

The Garden of Eden in Genesis 2-3. God creates a paradise for His creation in Eden, but sin enters the picture in Genesis 3, resulting in separation from God. However, in Isaiah 51:3, this Eden is used to illustrate God’s mercy, and Revelation 2:7 references the Tree of Life in the Garden of God. Also, Revelation 22:1-2 recalls this same imagery in describing Heaven.

The Flood of Genesis 6. God is grieved by the extreme sinfulness filling His creation, and He brings judgment upon His creation. We see that God’s patience and mercy has limits, and His judgment comes as a thorough and final solution – serving as a warning to us when we reject God’s word. In Matthew 24, the Flood is recalled to describe the nature of God’s judgment, and II Peter 3:4-7 uses the flood to remind Christians of what God is capable of.

Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. These cities (and three others) are destroyed because of their willful rebellion against God, again serving as an example of God’s judgment against those who will not repent. In Isaiah 1:9-10, these cities are used as a warning against non-repentance, and Jesus, in Matthew 10:15, refers to Sodom and Gomorra to describe those who reject Him.

The Egyptian Bondage of Exodus 1. God’s people were forced under terrible conditions and treatment in this scenario, and Jesus, in John 8:32-34, Jesus parallels sin with slavery. Numerous Old Testament prophets use Egypt as a personification of the bondage of sin the people fall under, but the flip side is the Exodus and the sanctuary of the wilderness – regaining freedom and peace.

The Forty Years of Wandering in Numbers 13-36. The people’s collective will falters when they see the odds they are up against. Conquest is new to them, and they demonstrate a lack of faith. Hebrews 3:7-11 and 4:7 references this hardening of one’s heart, instructing us to be more faithful than the example we have.

Our Application

The common theme in all of these is sin and its consequences. Sin stands between us and our relationship with God, and He is patient with us. However, that patience has limits. We are in slavery while we live in sin, but God provides us a way out, requiring a leap of faith on our part to follow His solution. We are to to keep our hearts open to God, learning from Him and His works.

The events of the Bible are not recorded haphazardly or by accident. These serve as illustrations and lessons to us, so we do not fall into the errors we see there and so may emulate the faith demonstrated by our spiritual forefathers.

lesson by Tim Smelser