A History Lesson

Image: Frederick Douglass – Getty Images

A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron, OH, Sunday, February 26, 2023.

For the “Live in Church” audio of this message, click here.

This past week, I was part of a committee presentation for my company’s celebration of Black History Month.  Within this presentation, it was important to point out that the recognition of those who are a part of Black history is beneficial to all Americans of all races, and it is especially important for African Americans to learn and know about people of color who made history with important societal contributions in science, technology, arts and literature.  The truth is that many Black Americans do not know much about history, let alone Black history.  Now, there are more schools teaching Black history along with key moments in American history, but is any of this information really sticking with the children?  You know there is something wrong when, according to data collected by Brainly in 2021 (a website that helps with student homework and studying), 63 percent of students didn’t know Martin Luther King, Jr.’s accomplishments or were unaware of some of the important things he did in his part of America’s Civil Rights Movement.1  According to the survey results from Brainly, after surveying more than 1,700 U.S. students the findings were as follows:

  • Over 25% of U.S. students said that Dr. King did not lead the Montgomery Bus boycott
  • Roughly 18% didn’t know Dr. King organized the “March on Washington”
  • 19% said Dr. King didn’t give the famous “I Have a Dream Speech.”

This is why we need to talk about Black History Month.

We need to talk about history, period.  Why?  Because human nature reminds us that we can be our own worst enemy if we don’t learn the lessons of history.

Winston Churchill, in a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, paraphrased writer and philosopher George Santayana with the words “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”2  Nicholas Clairmont, philosopher and contributing editor to Big Think (Bigthink.com), writes, “It may be common sense that all of the good things and all of the bad things about people, and the way that we organize ourselves, are simply going to breed patterns as we continue to make history as a species. It may be that we are simply given to a certain irrationality which leads us down paths, some disastrous, again and again.”3

Now, let’s look at familiar people in Bible history.

There many passages in the Old Testament where God Himself or others declare Him to be “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6).  Yet, if we look at the lives of these men, we will see a body of evidence to show that these men were subject to human nature just as we are.

Genesis 15:6 NLT

And Abram (Abraham) believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.

James 2:21-23 CSB

21 Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. 23 So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.

But we also see Abraham in a negative light.  He lied to protect himself from being killed by King Abimelech (Genesis 20:1-2) and he and his wife Sarai (Sarah) showed a lack of trust in God’s Word about having children (Genesis 16); as a result, Hagar was given over to Abram and gave birth to Ishmael.  Abraham had to repent of his sins of lying in order for God to bless him and Sarah with their true first born, Isaac.

Now, let’s look at Isaac:

Genesis 26:23-25 CSB

23 From there he went up to Beer-sheba, 24 and the Lord appeared to him that night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your offspring because of my servant Abraham.”

25 So he built an altar there, called on the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there. Isaac’s servants also dug a well there.

Isaac, following in the footsteps of his father, had already lied to a future king Abimelech about his wife Rebekah as he feared for his own life, stating “she is my sister” (Genesis 26:7).

His sons were Jacob and Esau.  There was ongoing conflict within the household of Jacob and his wife, Rebekah.  Isaac loved Esau because of his hunting prowess, but Rebekah loved Jacob (Genesis 25:28).  Esau was the first born, but he had already rejected his birthright to Jacob over some bread and a pot of stew (Genesis 25:29-33), and later Jacob, with the prompting of Rebekah, deceived Isaac to receive his blessing (Genesis 27).

And yet, God blessed Jacob, who would eventually be renamed “Israel” by God (Genesis 32:28).

So we can see from Scripture the imperfections of these three men, and if we were to continue in the bloodline and look at Jacob’s ten sons outside of Joseph and Benjamin, we would also see that they were a mess, as well.  They caused a lot of trouble for Jacob throughout his life, but these men, who were jealous of Joseph and evil-minded, eventually experienced deep regret and repented for their treatment of Joseph.  From there, they experienced God’s forgiveness.  Even after this experience, they were the foundation of the twelve tribes of Israel, but like all of us, struggled with fleshly behavior.

All of these men were flawed by sinfulness.  Human nature, over the course of history, has followed the pattern of disaster for generation after generation.

Proverbs 14:22 NLT

If you plan to do evil, you will be lost; if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness. 

Have you noticed how God shows us, over and over again, how flawed people represent Him in the efforts to win over others for Jesus?  All that He wants from us (the flawed people) is to believe in Him.  He already loves us because we are His special creation, and He is faithful with His own promises.

Genesis 1:26-28 NLT

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

27 So God created human beings in his own image.

    In the image of God he created them;

    male and female he created them.

28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

We are His special creation.  We were not created originally as flawed people, but even though we now have Adam’s sin nature, God still loves us.  His remedy for us in salvation through Jesus Christ.  We just need to believe in Him and who He is. 

Here’s a prime example of this:

John 4:3-30 NLT

3 So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.

4 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

17 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

This village has historical significance in that one of Jacob’s wells was located there, and this woman was VERY popular and influential in the village.  EVERYONE knew who she was, and yet Jesus loved her and must have known that she would bring many people to Jesus.  She was very intelligent and had a lot of historical knowledge, but she was flawed, as well.  She was divorced FIVE times and was unmarried in her present relationship.  But Jesus used her.

God uses flawed people to fulfill His will and demonstrate His faithfulness.

Are you getting the picture of today’s history lesson?  What you should be getting here is that no one is beyond redemption by Jesus and that everyone who believes in Him can be an active member in the body of Christ.

In spite of our history of sinful, fleshly behavior, He loves us.  He loves us even though we don’t deserve to be loved, but He loves us anyway.

1 John 4:9-10 NLT

9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

2 Peter 3:8-9 NLT

8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

God is VERY patient.  That is the reflection of His grace, but we need to remain in prayer for others who don’t know Jesus in order that they will accept Jesus.  We have a group of people in our sphere of influence who need our prayers and to hear the truth of the gospel.

1 Timothy 2:1-5 NLT

1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5 For,

There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.

We need to know more about our history.  We need to look at our history in the Bible.

The most important elements of history center around the works of Jesus.  What are the words that best represent the character of Jesus?

Revelation 19:11 NLT

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war.

Jesus is faithful and true.  He is righteous in everything that He does.  Our faith in Him is what makes us righteous and precious in His sight.  In spite of who we are, He is the great “I AM.”

The God we serve is a God of all history.  But He’s also the God of our present, and He knows our future into eternity.  Let’s continue to dig deep into His Word and recognize His truth and faithfulness.

2 Timothy 2:13 ESV

If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

He remains faithful, and God wants to use each of us to proclaim His good news wherever we are and wherever we go.

May we remain faithful to Him as He is always faithful to us!

Copyright © 2023 Melvin Gaines

1 Garrett, J. (2022, January 18). Brainly: Survey reveals that not many students know about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s accomplishments. Eyewitness News (WEHT/WTVW). Retrieved February 21, 2023, from https://www.tristatehomepage.com/news/national-world/brainly-survey-allegedly-reveals-that-few-students-know-martin-luther-king-jr-s-accomplishments/

2 Geller, L. (2021, May 11). Folger Library – Churchill’s Shakespeare. International Churchill Society. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/in-the-media/churchill-in-the-news/folger-library-churchills-shakespeare/

3 Clairmont, N. (2022, April 19). “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” really? Big Think. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/those-who-do-not-learn-history-doomed-to-repeat-it-really/

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