As you have read in various posts, I am a history buff. Over the last 6 years I have read scores of books on history and political thought. In the last six years I have read series of books on these topics:
- English History from Roman Conquest to 1400 (currently)
- English Culture and history in 1100’s
- English Culture and History in 1300’s
- The Plague of 1300’s
- French History in the 1300’s
- Middle Ages Europe
- Age of Discovery
- Dutch colony of New Amsterdam 1600’s
- Whiskey Rebellion (USA – 1794)
- Lewis and Clark exploration of America’s West (USA 1802)
- Birth of Mormonism
- Sherman’s March to the Sea (1864)
- Egypt in 1880’s
- Johnstown Flood 1889
- 1893 World’s fair – Chicago
- European history 50 years prior to World War One
- Building of Panama Canal (late 1800’s – early 1900’s)
- World War One (4 books)
- Exploration of Antarctica
- World War Two (10+ books)
- Algerian War of Independence (1945 – 1963)
- The Vietnam War
- Cambodia 1975 – 1980
- Ronald W. Reagan Presidency
- Afghan War (1980’s)
- The Iraq War
- The G. W. Bush Presidency
- History of Economic thought (Adam Smith – Marx – Keynes)
- Biographies of:
- John Adams
- Harry S. Truman
- Ted Kennedy
- Ronald Reagan
When you read one history book you get one look at one point in time. One of my favorite books from the last six years was The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman. It is a very thorough history documenting the events of the month just prior to the start of World War One and then the first few weeks of the war. It gives a great look at what were the motivations of all the countries involved and what were the thoughts and attitudes of the leaders. However, it is only a snapshot. It tells a good story, but not a complete story. Had you only read this book, you would not understand how much what happened here affects what will happen 20 years later at the start of World War Two. Had you only read this book, you would not understand how the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 between France and Germany impacted World War One 45 years later.
When looking at history, you must always be zooming in and out of the story. You must look at the history that came before what you are studying and what history came after the history you are studying. You must get the whole picture.
Today’s reading (Numbers 30-31) is a great example of why we need to know the whole story. We can’t just read Numbers 31 without any context. If we did, it would be quite depressing and overwhelming. It was not pleasant for me to read in Numbers 31:2 that God tells Moses to take revenge. It is even more depressing to read in Numbers 31:15 that Moses was angry that they had not killed all the women.
In the time of Moses it may have made sense. It may have been culturally accepted and practiced by all nations to be so revengeful and vicious. But if we know the whole story we know there is more for us.
The Good News we have is that the history of man’s relationship to God does not end with the Israelites destroying the Midianite cities. Nor does it end when they capture the promised land of Canaan. Nor does it end with the reign of David and Solomon. Nor does it end with the divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Nor does it end with the Babylonian and Assyrian exile. Nor does it end with the exilic return to Jerusalem. God’s word to us does not end with the history and prophets of the Old Testament. That history and prophecy are building blocks that leads us to the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I can read the Old Testament with its very R rated history of violence and death and sin and shame because I know the whole story. I know that as I keep reading I am going to hear about a savior who is going to come and change the world. I can read that there is a new way to live.
The same Word that we are reading today will also include these world changing words of Jesus later this year as we read through the Bible:
38 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Luke 23:32 – 34
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Let us focus not on the revenge of old, but on the Love of Christ for today.