Living the Future in Light of the Past

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One of the best ways to prepare children for the future is to teach them about the past. The writer of Hebrews was concerned that Christians were going to drift away from their faith. He told his readers:

. . . we must pay much closer attention
to what we have heard,
so that we do not drift away from it.
Hebrews 2:1

One way he helped those Christians was by reminding them of the past. He began the eleventh chapter with these words:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen. 
For by it the men of old gained approval.
Hebrews 11:1-2

Then, beginning with God creating the world, . . .

By faith we understand
that the worlds were prepared
by the word of God,
so that what is seen
was not made out of things which are visible.
Hebrews 11:3

. . . he told his readers about one faithful person after another — Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, David, and more. In chapter 12, he explained why he told their stories and pointed his readers to our Savior.

Therefore, since we have
so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
let us also lay aside every encumbrance
and the sin which so easily entangles us,
and let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of faith,
who for the joy set before Him
endured the cross, despising the shame,
and has sat down at the right hand
of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

After hearing a reference to George Washington’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation recently, I looked it up. I was thrilled by the strong faith it reveals, not only the faith of President Washington, but also the faith of the men in the first Congress of the United States. This is how President Washington began that proclamation on October 3, 1789, from our nation’s first temporary capital in New York City:

By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be . . .

In 1939 actors reenacted George Washington’s trip to New York City for his inauguration as our first president. In this picture, he says goodbye to his wife Martha at Mt. Vernon. 1939 was the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution going into effect and of George Washington’s first inauguration. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

As you think about your goals for your children in this new year, I am grateful that you can:

  • “acknowledge the providence of Almighty God,”
  • “train your children to obey His will” and “to be grateful for His benefits,” and
  • “humbly implore His protection and favor.”

As you teach your children history, you can teach them about that “great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” You can also prepare them to live the future in light of the past.

Moses used these words when he talked to the children of Israel about the importance of remembering their history:

Remember the days of old,
Consider the years of all generations.
Ask your father, and he will inform you,
Your elders, and they will tell you.
Deuteronomy 32:7

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