"If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree". This is a quote from Michael Crichton, famed author of such fabulous novels as Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, and The Great Train Robbery. It's a great quote, and one that relates to my thoughts today.
I want to discuss why I often get frustrated with Christians who don't seem interested in studying the past of our faith in order to understand the significance of God's truth for today or the future. If we're honest with ourselves, we can all see that things aren't right with the world. Some are able to face the dreadful possibilities without fear, while others would rather cling to the knowledge that our destiny is to be in the presence of the Lord at the end of this world. If we don't look too closely at the present, nor make the effort to study the past, then the image of that heavenly future helps us to sleep better at night. But does it benefit our commission from Christ and our responsibilities as citizens of Heaven on earth?
I think we are focused on where we're going instead of where we've come from for a couple of reasons: 1) the Church uses terms like Victory, Hope, We Win, and Glory to describe the environment of the earth at Christ's return because 2) it's too scary to contemplate what the Word of God in the Bible has to say about what will be a harrowing time on earth before His glorious return. And who voluntarily wants to think on the darkness of soul and spirit among earth's inhabitants that will inspire us Believers to adhere to our Hope and Faith?
So, that brings me to the importance of knowing our history... knowing the history of our families, of our nation, of our Christian faith, of our Bible. True knowledge comes from our experiences; from having gained physical or practical understanding of a subject. If something has not been experienced, how can we say we really know it? Take our faith, for instance. We all agree with the writer of Hebrews who says, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen". We may not be able to point to something concrete or tangible and say, there .. that's my faith. But when you share your experiences of trusting God in something you can't explicitly prove, it is the history of those experiences that provide evidence for your ability to have faith and hope.
Which brings me back to Michael Crichton's quote ... If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree. It is important that we study and understand the history of the Old Testament and the entire Bible. We must not focus only on the end of the story when we are translated into the glorious Presence of our Savior! If we believe that there is purpose and meaning to our lives for the Kingdom of God here on earth, then doesn't it serve us to understand and comprehend how God has evolved His relationship with man from the beginning until this very moment in our lives? And don't we want to learn from the history He shares in His Word about that journey? Doesn't even the leaf on a tree have a connection to the whole system of a tree?
Let us contemplate that whole structure in nature for just a moment. The function of a leaf is to help the plant produce food by converting the energy that comes from sunlight into chemical energy that the tree can eat. But the life of the tree is dependent on so much more! The leaf is supported by a branch, which provides a way for leaves to act as a net for the sunlight. Tree branches will grow to give the leaf the most light, even if that means growing sideways. But branches don't just exist on their own. They grow from the trunk, which provides structure and protection to the delicate network of branches and leaves, and which grows from the root system. The roots support the tree by absorbing water and storing nutrients for the tree. They also anchor the tree to the ground. A healthy root system is essential for the survival of the tree. And then finally, the roots grow from a seed that is planted. The most basic function of a seed is keep the species of the tree in existence. In His extraordinary plan for the world, God designed all the different functionality mechanisms of a tree to work together to keep the tree's embryo inside the seed alive until conditions are optimal for that seed to germinate with some chance of the seedling's survival.
So, can you see that the existence of the tree isn't just dependent on a leaf and it's singular reality and function in space and time? There's a history to its existence... an interdependent synergy between that leaf and all that came before it. It exists because at some point in time a seed was planted that, at just the right time for its survival, it sprouts and forms a root from which the tree springs forth from the earth, forming a trunk that supports the branches and leaves. In a poetic sense, the trunk is the part of the tree that connects the leafy crown to its roots. There is a history of any leaf on a tree that goes all the way back to a seed that was planted. So it is with our existence in God's plan for the earth and His creation of man. And the Bible is that roadmap. How can we possibly think that just focusing on the end game is all that we need to know?
Just like that leaf on a tree, there is an interdependence in the history of the Bible; the experience of God choosing Abram to be the seed of a faith that would sprout and grow, developing a divine root system that was destined to overcome the obstacles it encountered in the world. And as those roots spread, they grew into a tree and anchored the True Vine that was Christ. And from the foundation of that Vine would grow branches designed to bear much fruit for the Kingdom. But if we don't understand how it all came about, then how can we truly understand that we are part of the whole system and understand what came before us? We cannot simply say we know who we are based on what we look like when we look in the mirror. We are the fruit that was born from all that has happened to that seed of faith that sprouted from Abram! And if we don't understand all the obstacles and battles that came against that faith, then how are we to learn from those struggles and avoid the same pitfalls that the history of the Bible clearly tells us the long line of faithful suffered?
The Bible and its history are as much a cautionary tale as they are a promise of an eternal life; they are a guide for those of us who are the descendants of that first seed of faith. Why would we ever think that this history is unimportant to us -- that all we need to know is the ending to the story? We don't need to stay mired in the failures we find in the history, but we should learn from them so we recognize the strategies of the Enemy and can warn others. Yes, our victory is in Christ; and yes, we win in the end. But if we can avoid some of the temptations and circumvent the mistakes God is gracious enough to show us in His Word .... why wouldn't we? And how are we to avoid the traps that those who came before us fell into, if we do not learn from history? "My people perish for lack of knowledge" goes hand in hand with this dynamic. Let's not just be happy to exist as a leaf in the 21st Century, but let us be fed and strengthened in the wisdom and experiences of the whole tree of our faith.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example and warning [to us]; they were written for our instruction [to admonish and equip us], upon whom the ends of the ages have come.