Learn from the Past or Repeat the Cycle

Learn from the Past or Repeat the Cycle

How much of the Old Testament do you know and understand? If you are like me, you know some of the stories of biblical heroes and heroines. In the New Testament, Hebrews 11 discusses many of those individuals – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab. Chapter 12 begins by referring to them as” a great cloud of witnesses” and an inspiration to run “the race that is set before us.” The historical record of God and His relationship to His people is a “schoolmaster” so that we can learn from the past and not make the same mistakes.

Someone said that the value of knowing history is to avoid repeating it, and humans have been slow learners. One lesson from Old Testament history that needs our attention is the on-and-off cycle of the human relationship with God that can only be broken by the message of Christ.

That cycle begins with Adam and Eve and is repeated over and over up to the present time. God creates, and His creation is perfect. Humans receive the blessings of God’s creation, and for a time, all is well. But, when humans become too comfortable with God’s simple covenant, they turn away from Him.

That began the cycle. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 predicts that it will be repeated. First, God told Israel, “All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.” God then lists all the good things Israel will receive if they follow His commands and take advantage of His promises. Then in the following 54 verses, God tells Israel what will happen if they do not obey God’s provisions expressed in His covenant. The next chapter of Deuteronomy begins with, “These are the terms of the covenant the Lord commanded Moses to make with the Israelites ….”

As we follow the history of Israel from the golden calf to corrupt king after corrupt king, we see them turning away from God to embrace sinful and destructive practices, worshiping pagan gods, and even going so far as to sacrifice their children to those gods. Over and over, God responds by removing His protection and allowing foreign nations to overtake and destroy them. Then, finally, they repent and return to God, but they fail to learn from the past and repeat the cycle.

The whole message of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles tells the story of this destructive cycle. Jeremiah and Hosea devoted their lives and message to warning Israel of the dangers of their actions. When Israel returns to God, He restores the covenant until they forsake Him again. Finally, Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed, and still, they repeat the cycle.

But then, a new creation begins. Christ comes on the scene to restore the human relationship with God and establish His Church. Humans can now become new (Romans 6). Jesus shed His blood to make us one body free of all division and human fallacies. As in the past, God promises blessings when we obey His commands. (See John 14:15-17.) But here we are in America today, failing to learn from the past as we repeat the cycle.

We have seen the blessings of God as America has prospered. But humans are rebelling against God and His covenant by embracing destructive practices. How long will God tolerate our nation’s immorality as we restrict worship of God and endorse the killing of babies and the destruction of marriage? The Church is all that stands against the complete rejection of God’s commands and His covenant. We can break the cycle of history by relying on God’s word and following His instructions individually and as a nation. Will we learn from the past or repeat the cycle by following the path of nations that rose and fell in the past?

— John N. Clayton © 2022