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Ed Jordan: Remembering and Learning from the Past

Posted: 10/26/18 at 3:15pm. Column by Ed Jordan. 

In the book of Exodus, we find a very important truth which has timeless implications. Exodus 1:8 (NLT) says: “Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done.”

There are many ways to phrase and apply this truth principle. When we focus only on what we have today, without acknowledging those who went before us to make it possible, we become a people who “knew not Joseph.”

This verse can be understood literally to mean that the Pharaoh at the time of the Joseph had been indebted to Joseph for saving Egypt during the years of famine, but has now later been followed by a new Pharaoh who did not personally, literally know Joseph.

It also means that the leadership and the people of Egypt, probably one or two generations removed from the time of Joseph, had quickly forgotten what God and Joseph had done for their country.

This “forgetting” phenomenon happened again about 40 years after the Exodus event, when God through Joshua led Israel into “The Promised Land.” We read in Judges 2:10 (NLT): “After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things He had done for Israel.”

If one generation fails to learn from history about how we became the country or culture we are, the lessons of history are lost as well.

If one generation fails to learn from history about how we became the country or culture we are, the lessons of history are lost as well. As we have heard frequently, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

To sum up, the new Pharaoh who enslaved the Hebrews had forgotten that one of the ancestors of the Hebrews had been used by God to save Egypt from extinction during the seven years of famine.

But instead of appreciating those who went before him, he enslaved the Hebrew people. Then later the Hebrews also forgot the God who called them to be a special people and instrument through which God would bless other nations.

In the account in Judges, the people of Israel received the inheritance that God promised them and enjoyed their many blessings. But when Joshua died, the next generation forgot that those blessings came from God and did not remember to honor him for it.

Amazing, isn’t it? Every culture is one generation away from losing the understanding of its history and thus a part of their identity. All it takes for Christianity to disappear from America is to have it eliminated from one generation.

This is in the process of happening right now. As a nation, we need to study the original documents that reveal the role God played in the lives of our founding fathers, and early settlers.

The Annals of America, which is a compilation of thousands of documents written by leaders in our early history, is a great example of using original documents to understand the true nature of our history. Today we think we are too busy to read. We get our “facts” and history from miniaturized snacks that someone predigested and prepared to take the place of reading the original documents.

When one generation fails to learn the history of our “roots” as a nation, we have no idea what America’s core values are, nor do we know the reasons the founding fathers wrote the constitution the way they did. Similarly, when one generation is taught that God is not relevant for their lives today, then succeeding generations will be exposed to that same mistaken information as well.

When we are ignorant of the struggles and hardships that our American ancestors went through, we become ignorant of how we acquired all the blessings that we have today. In our ignorance, we fail to remember that those blessings came to us at a cost, and once gone are difficult to replace.

One of the saddest things a people can hear is that a new generation does not know or appreciate the history of those who lived before them, nor what made possible what they enjoy today.

What are you doing to help coming generations understand the importance of God in daily life?

What are you doing to help younger generations understand our country’s history and origins?

We do not want to become a country that “knew not Joseph.”

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.