On Our Ancestors: We Cannot ‘Get Over’ the Past
In my bible study group we are reading through Acts. We just got to Acts 7, the chapter where Stephen is stoned to death. The ending is tough but, it is so beautiful and meaningful to me to know that the first thing Stephen does when he is accused of blasphemy, is recount the history of Israel in order to explain his position.
In scripture we see this consistent theme of “going back to the beginning”, recounting history, and remembering our forefathers; their victories and their sins. In the Bible, it is understood that the history of the Nation of Israel is critical to its present and future. This is detailed in Deuteronomy 28 with the Blessings and Cursings.
If you fully obey the YHWH your Elohim and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, YHWH your Elohim will set you high above all the nations on earth.”Deuteronomy 28:1
“However, if you do not obey the YHWH your Elohim and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.”Deuteronomy 28:15
What one generation does or does not do, directly affects the generations long after them. Which is a little scary and a little bit empowering at the same time.
Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.Deuteronomy 32:7
Remember the former things of old; for I am Elohim, and there is no other; I am Elohim, and there is none like me.Isaiah 46:9
I will remember the deeds of YHWH; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.Psalm 77:11
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.Ecclesiastes 1:9
Things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the YHWH, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.Psalm 78:3-4
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.Psalm 143:5
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.Romans 15:4
I think this concept is so powerful to me because in America, we are taught the exact opposite. We are taught to see ourselves as somewhat isolated in time and mostly separate from the people who came before us.
“History is over now. Move on. Get over it.”
“The people in the past have nothing to do with the people today.”
“We are here now. Today is all that matters.”
“The past is the past.”
Those are some phrases that describe American’s general view about history. But that mindset is not what I have found in scripture. In scripture, the history of Israel directly affects its present and future.
Israel being exiled from the land caused our people to forget our true Hebrew culture; so we assimilated into other pagan cultures. We who are the descendants of Israel are very much affected by what happened so long ago. Israel being exiled is the very reason we are now starting to be called back. We lost our heritage and culture because our ancestors sinned. And even though we today didn’t directly commit the sin of worshipping false gods in the land, we are connected to those sins. Because our ancestors are Israel, and we are Israel. Israel sinned.
We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and what they did or didn’t do; each and every one of us. I think we Hebrews who are residing in America would do well to think on that.
After all, we live our entire lifestyle as a testament to our people’s history. History matters. History is everything. We are constantly going back, remembering the Torah, teaching our children the ways of YHWH; because all of those historical events directly affects the future. And us taking the time to raise our children righteously directs their future.
The past is not some old ancient thing for us to forget about, get over, or move on without. It is not separate from us. It is us. Forgetting history often leads to sin.
It’s no suprise that Yah’s people today still act in ways similar to those of the Children of Israel, our ancestors. We still struggle to trust YHWH sometimes. We still sin. We still struggle with pride and spiritual idols and fear and doubt. Just as our ancestors did. Because we are them and they are us. We are all Israel and no matter what era we live in, we are in this together.
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”1 Corinthians 10:11