History Matters

This word came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews living in Lower Egypt—in Migdol, Tahpanhes and Memphis—and in Upper Egypt: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You saw the great disaster I brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Today they lie deserted and in ruins because of the evil they have done. They aroused my anger by burning incense to and worshiping other gods that neither they nor you nor your ancestors ever knew. Again and again I sent my servants the prophets, who said, ‘Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!’ But they did not listen or pay attention; they did not turn from their wickedness or stop burning incense to other gods. Therefore, my fierce anger was poured out; it raged against the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem and made them the desolate ruins they are today.

“Now this is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Why bring such great disaster on yourselves by cutting off from Judah the men and women, the children and infants, and so leave yourselves without a remnant? Why arouse my anger with what your hands have made, burning incense to other gods in Egypt, where you have come to live? You will destroy yourselves and make yourselves a curse[a] and an object of reproach among all the nations on earth. Have you forgotten the wickedness committed by your ancestors and by the kings and queens of Judah and the wickedness committed by you and your wives in the land of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem? 10 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 ancestors.

11 “Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am determined to bring disaster on you and to destroy all Judah. 12 I will take away the remnant of Judah who were determined to go to Egypt to settle there. They will all perish in Egypt; they will fall by the sword or die from famine. From the least to the greatest, they will die by sword or famine. They will become a curse and an object of horror, a curse and an object of reproach. 13 I will punish those who live in Egypt with the sword, famine and plague, as I punished Jerusalem. 14 None of the remnant of Judah who have gone to live in Egypt will escape or survive to return to the land of Judah, to which they long to return and live; none will return except a few fugitives.”

Jeremiah 44:1-14 (NIV)

I have always been a history buff. In fact, history was part of my college major. One of the reasons I enjoy history so much is because I subscribe to the words of the 19th century philosopher, George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Winston

Churchill paraphrased Santayana in his 1948 speech by saying, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” Unfortunately, history is too easily forgotten and/or not taught and we see a  repeat of wrong decisions with disastrous results.

In the passage from Jeremiah, we see God communicating the same message. God has a message for the Jews who fled to Egypt. Jeremiah shares this message. Here God reminds them of what happened when they lived in Judah and Jerusalem. The people had chosen to burn incense and worship gods other than God.  Despite continued warnings to stop, the behavior continued. This led to the destruction of the Temple and all the Judean cities, including Jerusalem. Now the remnants in Egypt are repeating the same behaviors. They have failed to remember their history so they will experience the same negative results.

Here is a lesson for us today. God may have put the words spoken into Santayana and Churchill’s mouths. We are to remember those events which occurred before us. It is important that we understand what led to the negative times in order that when we see or partake in similar behaviors, we stop. Only then will we not suffer the same outcomes or worse.

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