There is a story in Numbers 11:4ff when the people of God are in the wilderness, they have forgotten bondage and slavery they were in, instead they look back to Egypt and the rich foods they had. They forget that Egypt wasn’t the nice time they remember! (Read Exodus 3:7 – note “misery”). It is sad to think that we all tend to look at the past positively – something in our nature makes us forget the reality of the past. We tend to look back and wish that we were still there -we even use the term “rose-coloured spectacles” to describe this attitude.
We so often look back to a time when things weren’t as tough as they are now – or so it seems but is this really true? – I would suggest not, I would say that the past is never as rosy as we remember it!
No matter where you are in life you can look in three directions – back, around and forward. What direction are we looking in?
The Israelites didn’t look back far enough! They looked back to Egypt – they should have looked back to Abraham, the father of their nation! What does the Bible say about Abraham? – Hebrews 11:8-12 tells us that he left one place, he didn’t look back (Lot’s wife did – but that’s a different blog!) but looked forward “to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”
Paul writes Philippians 3:13 “forgetting what is behind…”
Jesus even says “if you look back to the plough you are not fit for service in the kingdom of God” – Luke 9:62 (different context I know)
I believe God is saying don’t hanker after the past, it is gone and it is never coming back. Rather, concentrate on the present, having one eye on the past and one on the future!
The Bible tells us to remember 161 times! Many of those references encourage us to remember what God has done for us. The whole point of the tassels on the robes of the priests is to remember “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember” (Number 15:39).
Deuteronomy 5:15: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm”.
God has given us a memory!
Without a memory we would have no testimony – and as Revelation 12:11 says “they overcame Him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony”
Not so that we live in the past, or try to drag the past into the present, but …
To encourage us in the present & to learn from the mistakes we have made!
If we forget the lessons of the past we are destined to repeat them
Look around for the blessings of God now.
Looking back can create dissatisfaction with the present.
If the Israelites had stopped to consider for a while, they would have realised the stupidity of what they were saying!
A phrase my mum and Gran used to say was “count your blessings”.
Is God saying that to us today?
Cf. Matthew 6 – Lilies in the fields and not worrying about tomorrow.
Look forward to the Blessings God promises
Note again Abraham’s direction of faith – a forward faith
We can so much get locked in the past – after all Jesus death and resurrection is something we remember – we are a remembering faith in that sense.
But we look forward to His coming again!
God wants us to look forward – he wants us to work for the future – the message of Haggai 2:3-9 very much has a sense of looking forward and working towards a goal. A God–given goal! That is why we want a vision from God for the church – we want to see the direction He wants us to go in and walk in it!
Even in the journey, God blesses
The Israelites weren’t judging the situation properly – they were on the journey, yet they were assessing the situation (it seems to me) as if they had already arrived at the destination.
It is not wrong to assess where we are, to take stock and see how far we have to go. I believe it is legitimate and right to do that.
But remember – we are not yet at the destination!