Every Page Looks the Same
We are all appropriately wearied with the old saw “They who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.” Most of us tend to shrug off the adage as an innocuous relic of the past, born when people were less capable of assessing danger than are the sophisticates of this generation.
After all, aren’t we, as Westerners, covered by a mantle of democracy and economic affluence that stands as a bulwark against the forces of fanaticism? And doesn’t an ocean separate us from the pestiferous terrorists operating on the other side of the world?
So away with the cheerless admonitions of a generation past its prime. Yesterday’s gone. Let’s not stop thinking about tomorrow, and let’s get on with building bridges to that new “global village.”
Of course, this philosophy is nothing new; it is merely history repeating itself. For if one searches the pages of the past, ancient and modern, every one appears to be the same. Every one reveals a succession of surges of evil being hurled against the dreams, desires, and accomplishments of decent, peace-loving people. And, sorry to say, this situation will never change; and we only deceive ourselves by thinking it will.
A Look Back Is a Look Ahead
Solomon the wise was dead:
Then Solomon rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place (1 Ki. 11:43).
The issue now became which course to take. The old men said one thing; the young men, another:
Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, “How do you advise me to answer these people?”
And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him (12:6–8).
In the end, the young king decided on a radically different course than recommended by the men who had witnessed his father’s follies. And it was a course doomed to fail.
To make a long story short, the new king’s obstinacy and his refusal to listen to the sage counsel of experienced men brought disaster and divided the nation.
An ancillary yet cogent comment can be made when it comes to comparative history. In the current rush toward contemporary relevance now taking place in evangelical circles, a disturbing trend is arising that consigns to the dust bin biblically legitimate traditions, music, and worship forms of past generations in favor of a change-for-the-sake-of-change superficiality that is becoming the new wave of modern Christianity. It will do well for church leaders to take a page from the annals of the Israelites and consider the fact that wisdom and experience are never out of date. Godly counsel from those saints who have lived long enough to attain these indispensable attributes is worthy of consideration and provides a source of stability that we can ill afford to dismiss as irrelevant.
Chilling Reminders of the Past
As a child of the ’30s, I remember the newsreels featuring the massive torch-light parades and pageantry of the Nazi propaganda machine preparing a nation for war against the world. Hitler’s mesmerizing hate speeches were actually prophecy in the making. But the adoring crowds saw only the hundreds of thousands of banners and torches that ended up lighting a road that would lead some 50 million people to their graves.
A short time ago the lights were on again, this time in the streets of North Korea’s capital city, Pyongyang. They were displayed in a spellbinding exhibition of military pomp, pageantry, and power, buoyed by pronouncements from the tiny state’s dictator who declared that he will soon have his hand on the triggers of weapons capable of destroying millions of innocent people.
All of the ingredients needed to incite the masses were in evidence. Perfectly symmetrical blocks of uniformed troops marched in lockstep through the city streets. Lines of missile-bearing trucks trundled along the parade route. The declaration of intent was broadcast via the hands of soldiers gripping rifles and the arsenal of missiles and other materials forged to wage war. Like proverbial sheep hurrying to their destruction, the people cheered and waved their little flags hysterically, while the author of their impending calamity preened before them on the stage.
Rational people see all of this and, perhaps, remember. Others—the neo-Neville Chamberlains of the 21st century—wave paper promises and declare that we can achieve “peace in our time,” refusing to believe that dictators and tyrants actually mean what they say. In 1938 Britain’s Chamberlain inscribed his infamous place in history by returning from appeasement-driven negotiations with Adolf Hitler, deluded that he and his French colleagues had won the day and saved Europe from “Armageddon.” They were wrong; and as we should have learned from that ignominious chapter in history, there is no “war to end all wars” in the current conduct of international affairs.
A Query That Merits an Answer
Things being what they are, one may wonder, Why, indeed, does every page look the same to us? When someone asks, “Why can’t we all just get along together?” the question is considered naïve and simple. It is, however, a reasonable query that deserves an honest answer.
In fact, there are two reasons why we can’t all just get along, neither of which is given credence by the secular movers and shakers of this age.
(1) Depravity. The first is the depravity of humanity brought on by the Fall. The Fall infused a sin nature that is passed down through the lineage of the human species. The Scriptures define that nature; historical reality confirms it.
Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom. 5:12).
(2) Denial. Pagan cultural and political icons, along with liberal religionists, refuse to believe the first reason. Their mantra is the inherent goodness of man and the redemptive effects of education, interaction, and compromise.
Together, these two incendiary elements are the lethal combination, one that has delivered the Adolf Hitlers, Joseph Stalins, Saddam Husseins, Mahmoud Ahmadinejads, and Kim Jong-ils to the stage of human history. And it will one day indulge the Antichrist, who will perfect evil in the Armageddon chapter of this planet’s history.
But there is a third element, one the “intelligentsia” scorns and disregards as heartily as the aforementioned duo. It is also delineated in Romans 5 and is the antidote for mankind’s otherwise incurable sin malady:
For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (vv. 17–21).
God’s grace and mercy are contrasted with perpetual sin, death, and deprivation. Those who refuse to trust God are destined never to trust one another. It’s a simple fact of history, and one that has caused immeasurable suffering and death. Unfortunately, the future does not bode a better state—that is, until the Lord and His Christ intervene.
Citizens of Another Country
If all there is were the here and now, with its downward spiral into chaos, we would have every reason to plummet into a deep state of despair. The apostle Paul put it this way: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:19).
I choose to think of it like this:
If all our dreams and hopes were bound by earth and time,
If all our lives were fading, frail todays,
Then even crowned with robust length of years
Our lives would prove a pilgrimage of tears.
All the good, the best that this world gave,
Would end in muted dirges at the grave.
But if all our dreams and hopes are fixed on Jesus Christ,
If all our lives are rooted in His Word,
Then all that’s bright in life looms fairer still
As we become the subjects of His will.1
I have been deeply affected by the extremely vitriolic nature of the recent campaign season here in the United States. Of course, our politicians only reflect the national mood. Unfortunately, a malicious tendency toward violence seems to be breaking out around the world, and it is reaching America. Some have even suggested that we are engaged in the opening phases of World War III.
Many Christians despair the outcome and wonder if there is any acceptable remedy for the national affliction that seems to be upon us. The answer is yes. And it will do us all good to remember what it is: As believers, we hold dual citizenship while we sojourn through this little while we call life.
Certainly, we have a solemn responsibility to participate in the affairs of our democracy. Those who told us to stay home during the recent, critical elections sold us short. Voting is not an option; it is an obligation, one that we are privileged to enjoy during our pilgrimage here. But that is the point; we are, if you will, on a pilgrimage in a far country:
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them (Heb. 11:13–16).
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20).
And though we may rightly observe that, in this world, every page in history may look the same, we are moving toward a better country where we will be home at last.
- Elwood McQuaid, “If,” Come, Walk With Me (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel, 1990), 125.