Summary: History is the study of the human past. The past has left many traditions, folk tales, and works of art, archaeological objects, and books and written records of our accomplishments. Historians have been recording the events of history since the Phoenicia
Biblical Text: Isaiah 43: 18-19
“Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”
History is the study of the human past. The past has left many traditions, folk tales, and works of art, archaeological objects, and books and written records of our accomplishments. Historians have been recording the events of history since the Phoenicians in Africa invented the first alphabet.
Sometimes we study the past to gain a better understanding of other people and places. But the purpose of most recorded history is to draw valuable lessons from which we can improve our own lifestyles. What we learn is largely determined by the accuracy and the availability of the raw data to which we are exposed.
For instance, until the advent of Black History Month, our school children learned all of their black history when they studied the plight of slavery in the south prior to the Civil War. Very little truth was, and still is contained in our children’s textbooks about the depth of slavery’s pain in America. So it was not a bad idea to set aside one month out of the year to concentrate on setting the record straight. Until the advent of Black History Month, the only information received about men and women of color by most white children living in the sheltered communities of the Midwest, were the snippets of truth about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Now, no matter where you live in America, in the month of February, the airwaves and satellite dishes are flooded with commercials about Black History that goes far beyond slavery and Civil Rights.
It is about time we taught our own Black children that there is more to our history than our ancestral enslavement.
1 Black children today are shocked to hear that Henry Ford bought the concept plans for the first automobile from a Black man.
2 They’re just as shocked to hear that Blacks are credited with inventing the mousetrap, the umbrella, and the ironing board.
3 They swell with pride when they hear that a Black man performed the first open heart surgery.
4 And, I love to watch their amazement when they find out that highly developed Black empires existed in many parts of Africa, hundreds and even thousands of years ago, way before the onslaught of slavery exploitation in the late 1500’s.
True, it’s important to know something about our history. Your history helps to define who you are as a people. Did you know that our black ancestor, Imhotep, was the first physician in recorded history? He opened the first hospital in 2700 B.C. and carved the familiar caduceus that is still recognized as the symbol of medicine. The Greeks even referred to Imhotep as their god of healing. And this same physician was also a great architect and engineer!
History has its purpose, but it also has its place. Our forward momentum as a people can become slowed and even stagnant if we dwell too much on past accomplishments. It’s good to reflect on the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King and Rev. Jesse Jackson, but only if they motivate and inspire us to press on. Dwelling too much in the past can create deference to the present. It would seem today that we are so busy rejoicing over our past gains in Civil Rights that we have forgotten how far we still have to go. Something needs to stir the waters of complacency that overshadow our obviously still existing inequality.
1 Our average income is still significantly lower than our white counterpart.
2 We are still the last to be hired and the first to be fired in most cases.
3 Our communities are still the major target of illegal drug distribution.
4 We are still rejected for bank loans at an alarmingly high rate.
5 Our children still make up the largest percentage of the incarcerated.
6 We still register too small a number in the upwardly mobile community.
7 Too many of us still live, week to week.
History has it’s place, but rest too long “on your laurels”, as the saying goes, and you may end up with nothing but your laurels to rest on!
In our scripture today, Isaiah warned the children of Israel about dwelling too much in the past. It’s true that God had brought them through the great Exodus…He had released them from the bonds of slavery and set them on a new path. Indeed, He had called them out as His Chosen People. All of this was part of the Israelites cherished history. But you can’t live in the past. History has its place, but it must be kept in its place. The Israelites were challenged not to think that their greatest victories with the Lord were behind them. Isaiah’s prophecy charged them to forget the past…its comfortable familiarities, and even its shortcomings and disappointments. It was true that the Lord had brought them through the Red Sea, but He was also prepared to take them through the wilderness. Isaiah commanded the Israelites to look ahead, and he prophesied that God was going to do a new thing!