History, monuments, and the Bible


Coach Wittenberg taught the U.S History class I took in high school. That is when my love for history began. He knew how to make history interesting—which is kind of an oxymoron. There are so many amazing stories and remarkable people to study, of course history is interesting. Actually its the teachers (and their students) who make it boring who are hard for me to understand. Sorry, I guess I’ve become a history snob.

But I am grateful to the Lord that my love for history grew beyond the fact that it is interesting. I came to understand that history is God working out His sovereign purposes in the earth. There is nothing haphazard about it. The theological term for history is “providence”. The definition we use at our church is this: “God from eternity, decrees all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any way to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.” I know that is a lot to digest, but to me that is what makes history fascinating. On the one hand we have a sovereign, good, and perfectly wise God who has ordained all things that come to pass. On the other hand, we have the acknowledgement that people oftentimes make stupid and sinful choices. But those stupid and sinful choices do not nullify the reality that God is working out His sovereign purposes in the earth. Can you see how this takes history out of the realm of just interesting stories to life changing purpose?

History is clearly very important to God. The Bible itself is full of history—and it is not sanitized history. The good and the stupid and the sinful is all included. So if history, even the bad stuff, is important to God it should be important to us.

God not only inspired men to write of history, He also directed that monuments and memorials of history be put in place. For example, when God delivered the people of Israel from Egyptian slavery, He commanded that a yearly memorial of the event be observed. That memorial is called the Passover. God did not want His people to forget this historical event. I wonder what the Egyptians thought of this memorial. You think it might have offended them?

Another example is when the Lord miraculously parted the Jordan River for the Israelites to pass into Canaan to conquer the promised land. The Bible tells us that God used the Israelites to punish the Canaanites for their long standing sins. After passing through the Jordan, the Lord told the Israelites to build a large rock monument as a memorial to what took place. I wonder what the surviving Canaanites thought about that monument in the years following. You think it might have offended them?

I believe there is a place for historical markers and monuments in our day as well. I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that many who are wanting to destroy monuments in our day are not seeing history from the providential perspective. So how do they interpret history? My guess is that many see history from a Darwinian perspective since that is probably what they have been taught. With its emphasis on chance and randomness, there is no real purpose to history. With its emphasis on the survival of the fittest, there is also a proneness to seeing certain races as being superior to others—it fosters racism. With its emphasis on man being simply a result of evolving material processes with no eternal soul, life is often not valued as it should be. Maybe its time that we reconsider God’s providence.

“Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” Isaiah 46:9-10

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By Mac Williams

Two Rivers Community Church

Mac Williams is the Pastor at Two Rivers Community Church which is located at 3400 Little York Road. He can be reached at 898-2824 or visit the church’s website at www.tworiverscc.org.