Trinity 9 2020
1 Corinthians 10:6-13
Learning from the past
August 9, 2020
Zion Lutheran Church
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” This is a phrase that is usually repeated in high school and college history classes trying to get students to recognize the importance of learning history. Some people really like learning about the past, the people, the places, the events. Others dread the dates and names. Some have a hard enough time remembering what happened last week or even yesterday, not to mention thousands of years ago.
Regardless of how much you may like history, there is no denying the kernel of truth in that phrase. One of the greatest dangers to Christianity occurs when people forget their past, when they forget who God is and what He does for them in Christ. The amount of people in today’s society who forget their faith is staggering and extremely sad. There are too many people who have grown up going to Church, going to Sunday School, baptized and confirmed, who forget the mighty works of the Lord. Tearing down statues and revising history is bad enough, but it won’t destroy our history. What will destroy it is ignorance of God’s Word.
The book of Judges is a sad example of this. Over and over again, Israel strays from the Lord, forgetting who He is and what He has done for them. As a result of this forgetfulness, they fall into idolatry. Then another nation invades and oppresses Israel, so that they cry out to the Lord for deliverance. The Lord provides a judge that delivers them from oppression and leads them to right worship and living.
This cycle continues today. We continue to be doomed to repeat history all over again. Ecclesiastes 1:9 states, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Whether in our own personal lives, or the church as a whole, we live in this constant state of sin and being called back from it to God; from being called from death and into life; from crying out in distress and being rescued by a mighty deliverer. This is why we spend so much time focusing on the Word of God – reading it in the Divine Service, praying it in our prayers, confessing it in our creeds, studying it in Sunday School and Bible studies, meditating on it in our devotions. This is one of the great benefits of the repetitious nature of the Divine Service. We do these things so that we may know our past, and therefore know our present, and rest secured in our future.
We learn from our past, our history, our ancestors, in the Bible. This isn’t just to learn facts and dates and names. This isn’t for information and there is no pop quiz. This is how we often treat the Bible though. Too often we look back to Jesus and think only of history from 2000 years ago. While we read and hear Bible stories, these are so much more than mere stories. Knowledge is good, but it’s not the point. The point is faith in Christ. St. John writes near the end of his Gospel account, “…these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
Through this life-giving Word of God, by faith, we learn a few things: First, we learn: flee from idolatry. St. Paul writes of this in today’s Epistle reading. This is an issue of the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” Over and over again we see idolatry in the Bible and the devastating effects of it, both in this life and into eternity. St. Paul writes of our past, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” For those refusing to know history, for those who refuse to know the Scripture, idolatry is the issue. It is saying “I” am more important than those who have come before me and those who come after. It is saying “I” am more important that what God has done, still does, and will do in Christ.
Second, we learn: repent, or perish. The verses right before our Epistle begins speak of Israel’s sinfulness during the Exodus. They had seen and received good things from God, yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were overthrown in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:1-5). They put Christ to the test, and they sinned against Him. It’s not that they couldn’t have been forgiven, but that they refused to repent over their sin. The continued to eat and drink and rise up play, indulging in sexual immorality, and grumbling against God. Because of their refusal to repent and their stubbornness of continuing to sin intentionally, they were not welcomed into the promised land. This serves as an example to us, in the same way as the sinfulness of the Corinthians does. Just as the Israelites were unfaithful to God, so God would judge the Corinthians, and us, if we do not live in repentance and faith in Christ. As Christians we ought to flee from treating God and the Christian faith as something unimportant, we ought to live a sexual pure and chaste life that reserves sexual activity exclusively for the marriage relationship between one man and one woman as God established it for, and live a life of gratitude toward God for all the gifts He gives to us.
Third, and most importantly, we learn: God is faithful. He hears the cries of His repentant children and He answers them in Jesus. He proves His faithfulness in the cross of Christ. The Father sends His Son to face the temptations of this world, to overcome them, and to provide an escape for you – an escape through turning people from their sin and to Him for forgiveness and life. Where there is repentance over sin, there is forgiveness in Jesus. And where there is forgiveness, there is life and salvation. And that is yours, by virtue of faith in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.