Lessons from the Past

   Family history has always interested me but finding documentation of the several “fables” that have been handed down through the ages has been challenging. Fortunately, a few family members made collections of newspaper articles of nearly any mention of family, brethren, or friends of their acquaintance; now, many of those collections are within my possession but not until recently have I found time to review them.

   This past week, a few hours were found investigating the oldest of those collections, some of the articles dating back to the late 19th century. I found several articles that documented stories I had heard but could only ponder their reality. What a reward to finally find proof of these matters, and clarity regarding some of the unknown details!

   I also found pictures of individuals whose identities were mystical to me. Though only newspaper prints, at least I have some semblance of their appearance and an increased appreciation for their place in my family history.

   Granted, within these boxes of assorted mementos are some items of no immediate interest to me, but they blend themselves to the completeness of what mattered to my family members who kept these articles of various events in their lives. Combined, one gains an increased understanding of their way of life, and their genuine care for others who influenced them.

   For example, tiny clippings relate who shared a meal or came from a distance just for a brief visit. Other articles are rather verbose in their descriptions of funerals or describing worship services. (Yes, worship services were considered newsworthy in the early 1900s.) Though most preachers for the church of Christ refused to use religious titles themselves, most news reporters would identify them as “Elder So-And-So” or “Pastor.” The style of their writings expressed great dignity and respect for leaders of the community, including preachers, doctors, schoolteachers, and other prominent business owners. One obituary of a local farmer declared how well-known he was, and how eloquently he kept his animals and his farm, thus gaining him tremendous respect among his peers and those of other business operations.

   As I read through several of these articles, learning more history that relates to my family and how they lived, I thought of how wonderful it is to have the Bible and its genuine documentation of all things pertaining to life and godliness (cf. 2 Peter 1:3). We just finished studying Genesis and noted at its close how necessary it is to go on into the book of Exodus to at least complete the story of Joseph. We’ll find that we gain much more if we kept studying through the Old Testament, as no other record authenticates the history, customs, and life events of Israel and the surrounding nations as does the Old Testament. Paul concurred when by inspiration he wrote, “The things written aforetime were written for our learning.” (Romans 15:4)

   As with our lives, the “who, what, when, where, and why” of matters is clarified when we know the history of such things. Likewise, the New Testament gains a much greater value to us when we understand the prophecy of what brought about Christ and the New Law, including God’s plan of salvation, the Lord’s church, and the promise of eternal life! As noted from a very careful study of Hebrews, the New Testament grants us BETTER hope; it is a BETTER testament; Christ is the mediator of a BETTER covenant with BETTER promises, being established with BETTER sacrifices. But we’ll never completely understand what makes it BETTER without learning from the past. As brother J.C. Roady used to say, “If every Christian would gain a good understanding of the Old Law, then he would achieve a much greater understanding and appreciation for the New Law of Christ.”

   Do we fully comprehend how blessed we are to be living under the Law of Christ instead of the Patriarchal Law or the Law of Moses? How can we until we examine the documentation of how those souls lived and believed what they believed? Do attitudes of reverence and dignity exist as they did in those times long past? If not, why not? What changed? Have we become too casual in our relationship with Christ and His Word as time marched onward? By what authority have souls diminished from a once exalted demeanor of love, honor, and dignity for God, Christ, the church, and for that matter, his fellowman?

   Those old clippings contain much more than a family history for me: they contain a fashion of reading that is seldom found in any of today’s literature. The Bible contains a narrative that likewise is unequaled by anything an uninspired person writes! But one must READ it to learn these truths. Further, in those olden times, newspapers were printed only once a week. It gave the readers time to read and read it again more carefully! What a powerful example for the Bible student: to read it … and then read it again more carefully! The more you read, the more you learn. The more you learn, the better equipped you are to face daily challenges and ultimately, find yourself prepared for eternity! Do we appreciate God’s word as we should? If not, why not?