I love history! I love history because it is His Story, the story of God’s dealing with us. But I also love history – and you should to.
And don’t tell me about how much you don’t like or didn’t like history in school. You think you had a bad history teacher? You should have had one of my high school history teachers, who had the third worst pedagogical style known to the galaxy. Here was his technique: he would take out the American history textbook and begin reading from a chapter. Stumbling over every third word, after a few paragraphs he’d realize he was stomping all over his own tongue and would deftly say something bright like, “Leslie, would you read the next 3 paragraphs?” And that was it. Thankfully, I had learned to read by myself by 11th grade. I had usually read the entire chapter in 2 days in class and was ready for the test, while the class droned on for an eternity.
That’s not history: that’s some guy talking about a book that is a cemetery, killing you with his monotony so you can join all the dead people in the book.
I’m talking about real history, the drama of life in which we participate every day. If you don’t think you’re making history, here’s a little trick I picked up from Conan O’Brien: play the Mission: Impossible theme song in your head (or better yet, get a copy of it and play it for real!), and whatever you’re doing seems cool and adventurous.
I love history. I love the smell of old books because it smells like the past. When I hold a book 300 or 400 years old, I can feel the history osmoting through my pores and entering into me – or is it that I’m osmoting into the book? I guess it depends upon whether history osmotes into life or vice versa. When I walk into museums, I can almost imagine the people who must have had the handlebar mustaches or rode on the bicycles with the large wheel in front or submitted themselves to the magical elixirs of the country doctor’s bag.
I want you to love history, too, and here’s my chance to get back into teaching. First, you’ll need to all hold hands as we enter into Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine.
We’re traveling backwards now, into the 1960s. Can you dig it? I hear guitars and sitars, smell flowers, puteoli and something strange burning, and paisley and psychedelia assault my eyes. A little faster now, and we’re back at the turn of the 20th century, where guess what? we see men in handlebar mustaches and hats and the smell of antiseptic substances fills the air. Here we are at the Revolutionary War, the discovery of America, the Holy Roman Empire, the sack of Rome, something significant that happened in Palestine, the Greeks blow themselves up, the Greeks invent a lot of cool things, Persia, Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Isaiah, David, and Moses, and now we’re slowing down.
It is the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, and the princes of Thebes have begun to reunify and restore the glory of the Old Kingdom. The Xia dynasty in China was probably beginning, and the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete suddenly emerged, building amazing new palaces in the process and preparing to spread to Greece.
And Abraham walked the perimeter of Israel, surveying the land that God had promised to him and his children forever. He must have looked out at this land often and thought of God’s promises, and he must have wondered about all of God’s promises when the promise of a son was made to him in his old age. He had years to ponder this promise and the other promises God made to him. He was to be the father of many nations, and his descendants were to be as numerous as the stars. These things seemed impossible, especially as he grew older and the son of promise had not even been born yet.
Yet Abraham believed. God also said to Abraham that He had made him the father of many nations and would be the heir of the world (verse 13), yet Abraham did not see these things, not even after Isaac had been born.
But Abraham believed in the presence of Him whom he believes – God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did (verse 17). Here is the secret to Abraham’s faith: He was “fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore, it was accounted to him for righteousness (verse 21).So why the history lesson? Because God’s promises to Abraham, and God’s justification of Abraham by his faith were not for Abraham alone – they are for you! You are connected by God and His Story to Abraham and his story. You are here in this history book, the Bible. But it’s not just any history book. It’s not a cemetery but a Book of Life, and into it each of us with faith is sucked, and into each of us we take it, eat it, and digest it until it becomes a part of us!
“Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us” (verses 23-24).
This faith that was Abraham’s can also be yours: it must be yours! You also must hope that the one who promised is faithful. It is actually the faith of Jesus Christ that is your faith. Do you think that you, of yourself, after having read Romans 1-4, actually have enough faith on your own to believe in God and His promises? Isn’t it a gift from God, a gift of grace that He continues giving? That faith of yours is the perfect of faith of Christ, which is given to you so that you may believe and be saved. It’s yours alright, for God gave it as a gift. But it is entirely a gift.
But since it is a most excellent gift, given by the one you are to trust, use it! Believe according to what God has promised and spoken in your life. Follow father Abraham in faith: he did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform (20-21).
And what has God promised? You know the promises. They are many, but they all are one. “Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you.” “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Go back and read the Beatitudes. And, of course, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” and “Repent and be baptized.”
God has promised you many things, but especially He has promised you Himself, if you will give yourself to Him.
God has promised you other things as well, and you know what they are. He has promised you smaller, individual things involving your life, your relationships, and your situation in life. And all that He asks is your faith and faithfulness.
It is almost impossible to believe how much God gives and how little He asks for. It boggles the mind to think that someone would actually forgive a $100 million debt, but it’s beyond belief (except for the gift of faith) that He would forgive me all my sins and debt and deliver me from Hell. It’s incredible (except for faith) that He would offer me all of His blessings and especially Himself and that as payment he would accept my offer of myself. That might seem like a fair deal: a Self for a self. But look at how much God gives and how little He asks. He doesn’t ask that I save myself. He doesn’t ask that I be perfect yet.
He does it all, and all that He asks is that I believe Him – enough that I will trust and obey what He says.
I want what Abraham had: through Jesus Christ it’s mine.
Who said history was boring?
Prayer: Father, I thank You that You are the giver of every good gift and especially the gift of Yourself through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Give me today your gift of faith that I may believe all that You have promised to me. Having received You, give me the grace to give myself to You today that I might receive what I have been promised, which is Your blessing, which I ask through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
Make a list of the things God has promised to you. Look at the list and meditate on it. What is your response?
Resolution: I resolve to rehearse God’s promises to me today and to respond with faith and thanksgiving throughout the day.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson