“Have you forgotten the wickedness committed by your fathers and the Kings and Queens of Judah and the wickedness committed by you and your wives in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? To this day they have not humbled themselves or shown reverence, nor have they followed my law and the decrees I set before you and your fathers.” – Jeremiah 44:9-10
Have you ever noticed how often in the scriptures God brings up the past in His dealings with mankind? Often when God has spoken, either through Psalmist or Prophet, He would begin by reflecting upon their history. Many times, He would draw attention to it, and then use it as an illustration. In addition, when men dealt with God, their prayers and their communications were often steeped in a remembrance of their history. Think of Daniel’s prayer or the revival in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Now I confess, I have a great love for history. As a child in school, I was blessed to have had a history teacher who loved his subject and enthusiastically sought to spread that passion in others. Today, over three decades later, I can still remember his lessons and can recall many of the quotes he used. That teacher would repeatedly remind us, that “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes,” and, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” For him, the study of history was not just a subject about the past, but rather, it was a subject that helped us to deal with and navigate our future. He made it his life’s mission, to ensure that the past with all of its life lessons, would not go forgotten.
In the Bible verse above, God is speaking to the Jewish refugees living in Egypt. In His reasoning with them, He poses this question, “Have you forgotten?” This small remnant of refugees had fled to Egypt seeking to escape the disaster and judgment that had fallen upon the land of Judah because of the nation’s constant idolatry. They now believed that their new association and position in Egypt would somehow protect them from God’s wrath. Please understand, they had been among those that had witnessed first-hand the great and terrible destruction of Judah and of Jerusalem. They knew that the destruction was because they had not listened, nor paid attention to God’s warnings and calls for repentance. They had not humbled themselves and turned from their wickedness, and thus, God’s fierce anger had been poured out upon them and the land.
Yet, having escaped the destruction of the land, they had found some measure of safety, even though they had neither humbled themselves nor showed any reverence to the Lord their God. They simply changed their position outwardly and not inwardly. So, God asks them “Have you forgotten?” “Forgotten the wickedness committed by your fathers (the generation before them) and by the kings and queens of Judah (the leaders over them), and the wickedness committed by you and your wives (their own personal participation)?” He is asking have they forgotten the reason judgment befell the people and the land.
The answer is, of course, “No!” They had not forgotten, rather they had chosen not to remember. For the sake of a quiet life, these Jewish refugees chose not to listen to God’s words and to continue to sacrifice to idols. They did not learn their lessons from the past and as a result, God proclaimed judgment over the remnant of Judah that had now sought refuge in Egypt. God ultimately judged them. They all perished in Egypt, falling either by sword or famine.
In the north of Europe (the Nordic lands), over the last 10-15 years, we had been seeing a steady awakening to the doctrines of grace and to a more Bible-centred church movement. The obvious errors and blatant falsehoods of worldly churches had caused a slow and steady trickle of spiritual refugees to flee the corruption of those idolatrous centers of false worship. Christians were once again standing up for Biblical truth and answering the call to repentance and to a true and clear faith in Jesus Christ. Throughout the north, we began to see small pinpricks of light shining in the northern darkness, as little fellowships began springing up. For a time, we thought that revival and reformation were at hand. New “Back to the Bible” movements were created, Reformation and Bible conferences were aroused, all highlighting the importance of biblical truth, justification by faith alone, and the true Gospel. For a time, the Church “militant”, fought hard in their efforts against sin and for reformation.
Sadly, that no longer seems to be so. Today, those lights have been extinguished, and too many little churches have ceased to be. Pastoral burnout, the continual pressure from the world, the flesh, and the devil have taken their toll. Little church after little church has closed its doors never again to open them. The “Back to the Bible” movements have seemingly evaporated right before our very eyes, have now descended into wranglings and disagreements over words filled with prideful postures.
Where is the concern, the care, the concentrated effort to highlight and lift up the cause of Christ? It is seemingly all but gone. Somewhere along the line, there was a slowing down, then stopping, and now a sliding backward. Unfortunately, too many of us have forgotten where we have come from and forgotten the reasons why we could no longer continue where we were. Forgotten the falsehoods, errors, moral corruptions, and greed. Forgotten all the distractions and distortions from the true and real Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that dominated before. It seems as if we may have outwardly left the place of our beginnings’ never to return again, too many made the mistake of continuing in the same patterns and practices of the old life. An outward change and not an inward one. In the end, we end up repeating the same mistakes and making the same bad choices as those that have come before us. All because we “forgot” the reasons why things got so bad in the first place.
Beloved, let us be among those that do not forget. Let us humble ourselves, showing reverence, and continue to walk with Him according to His ways. Let us be those that watch and pray, lest we fall into temptation. Certainly, for those of us in the North, let us be those that “remember”! Let it be said of us, that we knew truly our God, were strong in our faith, and truly did great things in the service of our King!
This is a time for renewed action, of resolute resolve. For we know the Bible promises that “in due time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up!”