Summary: A sermon on how to view our past (Material adapted from Dan Blazer in his book, Life Is Worth Living, chapter 9)
Solomon reminds us that there are 4 dimensions of time that should be important to us: past, present, future and eternity. The time dimensions that should be most important to Christians are the present and eternity. Nevertheless, there is a message here for us about the past.
In Ecclesiastes we see that Solomon is talking about determinism. By the way, these ideas are goad passages and not nail passages. This is not the philosophy of the Bible. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV.
David through the Holy Spirit had a different view of the past. “If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” Psalms 37:23-25, NIV. For David God was a God who was there, working in his life. At times God’s will was not recognized, but in reflection he saw that God’s purpose was evident even if he did not recognized it at the time.
For most of us, the past has neither been bad nor good. Rather, it has been a mixture of experiences but most have served to teach us something. Now, we do not look at the past like a textbook. Our past transcends simple knowledge and experiences. Most of the time we yearn for, rather than learn from, the past.
Think about our teenage years. Those were times of hopes, dreams and new experiences (at least as we remember them). We were living a full life and the future looked so promising, everything was new and exciting. Though sometimes we complain of the antics, weird ideas and dreams, styles and tastes among modern day teenagers, I am sure our parents and elders thought the same of us when we were teens.
If we go back even further, to some of our childhood days, there might be some painful memories, but for the most part our childhood represents security, if not comfort and pleasure. Can we remember how enjoyable it was to play in our rooms on a rainy day with one of our best friends? Maybe we can remember a collection of stuffed animals and toys that were always there when we returned from school. Even if a playground was not within easy reach, we often would play ball until dark, at which times our moms would call us home for dinner.
Is the past is as secure and carefree as we remember it? Certainly not! When we look back, we obviously do not see things as they actually were. This poor memory not only paralyzes us in the present, but it prevents us from learning from the past.
Why does the past look so secure and carefree? “And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.” Ezra 3:11, 12, NIV.
This new temple was not as glamorous as the old this is true. But Israel was coming back from captivity and what many of them were longing for was coming true, they were back in the Promised Land and the temple was up and running. Why the weeping?
As children these Israelites had seen the temple in its former glory. This was at least 70 years earlier. Children remember what they want and have an incredible ability to block out the unpleasant. We don’t remember the fears and anxieties that we had back then. Our ability to forget what we don’t want to remember persists for many even into adulthood.
For some, the “good” in the good old days was a time of security, but not necessarily a time of growth. Paul was a secure Jew, “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” Philippians 3:5, 6, NIV. The crisis in Paul’s life on the road to Damascus was quite a change to his predictable life prior to this event. Yet crises provide points for growth, and Paul became the great apostle he was because he faced this crisis,. Problems, stress, and occasionally tragedy are necessary for us to grow beyond the secure yet immature boundaries of our childhood.
I remember growing up on a farm, surrounded by friends and family, and then we moved to the city when I was 13. Talk about giving up security. Came to faith in the Lord.