“Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. ‘Look,’ he said to his people, ‘the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.’” (Exodus 1:8-10 NIV84)
To many modern historians, the past has become something that we can never be truly sure of. So, in this sense, the past can be redefined to the point that no one can be certain what was really true. I have a real concern about this view of history because it negates the ability to look into the past with any certainty regarding reality and meaning. Here’s a modern-day example: If we were to forget the true history of our founding fathers, we would lose any connectedness between our present purpose and theirs. Let’s use our verses for today as an example. More than 400 years after Joseph brought his family into Egypt to survive the famine, a king came to power who didn’t know the history of Joseph. That means he did not know that God used Joseph’s ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams to save the Egyptian people from a 7-year famine. He didn’t have that knowledge of the past rooted anywhere in his understanding of the Israelites. Because of this broken connection to the past, he began to view the Israelites as a threat rather than a blessing. He began to fear them and consequently, to severely oppress them. In short, left with no true connection to the past, he developed false views about his present situation. Once he accepted his new (but false) views about his present, he began to create attitudes and policies reflective of his new view rather than the truth.
Forgetting the past is like pulling up the pegs of a tent and trying to live in it. It’s like untying a docked ship and watching it drift away. It’s like charting the future of a country and having no clue who its people are and what makes them tick. When we look at the current state of our country, we should take this truth to heart. But the same truth applies to our spiritual history. A lot of Christians think biblical history is unimportant. Some are even willing to deny some of the history surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus. Understand, as we pull up those tent pegs, the question begged is, “Where and when do we put them back in?” Truth has to be somewhere or it gets lost completely. Like this new Pharaoh that came to power in Moses’ day, we are apt to draw false conclusions and move in the wrong direction because we rely on our personal opinion rather than historical truth.
One last thought: This same Moses ended his ministry with God’s people by writing the book of Deuteronomy. Numerous times he warned the Israelites about the danger of forgetting their past. He told them if they forgot their past, they would then forget about the God of their past. Which is exactly what ended up happening. Just read Isaiah and Jeremiah and see what they ended up going through because, by forgetting where they came from, they completely lost where they should have been going. They began to get involved in idolatry and ugly practices that put them at odds with God Himself.
May we cherish, understand, and move forward with a clear and certain understanding of our past.