Yesterday was free museum Sunday around here, so we went to a couple of different places that we thought would interest the kids.
We learned lots of interesting things about Colonial times...
watched someone spin wool into string...
observed a blacksmith shaping metal into tools...
found out how a steam engine works...
got to try out a handcar....
and saw how a turntable is used to park a train in a roundhouse.
And, in reflecting on all this, I think its somewhat legitimate to ask, "Why do we care?" Don't get me wrong...I really like history. I think its valuable and important, but sometimes we should remind ourselves why.
For example, yesterday I was reminded that I'm really glad I can just pick up my bread at the grocery store rather than having to go out and gather sticks, weave them together in a dome shape, pack them with a clay substance, and then wait two months for that to harden so it can be used as a bread oven. I mean, that's interesting and all, but there's got to be more significance to history than just evoking a sense of appreciation for the hard work of people in the past and deep gratitude that I live in the days of grocery stores, microwaves and peanut butter from a jar!
In thinking about this I was reminded of something I read recently in Psalm 105 and 106. The psalmist reminds his reader of the history of Israel from the days of Abraham through the Exodus and into the Promised Land. And he challenges the people to "Remember the wondrous works that [God] has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered" (Psalm 105:5).
And so, we're reminded that history is important for more reasons than just appreciating our modern conveniences or knowing that "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (George Santayana).
History paints a picture of God's hand continually intervening in the life of man. History tells the story of God's redemptive love and His faithfulness to a covenant promise to rescue and create "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (1 Peter 2:9).
So, history is important. And while little details like how people cooked from one century to the next may be interesting, the greater value in history is to see the unchanging nature of our great God as He preserves His Word from one generation to another, until that day when time as we know it will end and eternity will begin.
"I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work and meditate on your mighty deeds." Psalm 77:11-12
And there is a reason that "He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered" (Psalm 111:4)...because we are to pass this knowledge on to those around us and those who follow us, that they too may know and worship our great God!
"I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done." (Psalm 78:2-4)
"from generation to generation we will recount your praise." (Psalm 79:13b)
"Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord" (Psalm 102:18).
And so, whether we're studying history from the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the American Colonial period, or the Second World War, we don't want to get hung up on the accomplishments of man.
Instead, we want to trace the hand of our great God, who created and orchestrated this whole thing we call life, who intervenes on our behalf and poured out a message of love and redemption for all people throughout every generation.
Yes, study history! And focus all attention on the One whose story it is! Then let our prayer forever be "Lord, who should I tell today? How can I pass this along?"