Before moving forward it’s usually wise to take a look back. Recalling what you have faced in the past before stepping into the future may save you from repeating a mistake or may help you accomplish something you once failed to achieve. By looking to the past, we gain wisdom for the future.
That’s the story and the message of Deuteronomy. Moses gave a series of speeches shortly before the end of his life and recorded them for posterity in his final book. He recounted for the Israelites all they had ex-perienced since leaving Egypt and during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
God had rescued His people and given them the Law at Mt. Sinai. He had fed them each day with man-na from heaven and water from miraculous springs in the desert. And yet the people rebelled, complained and even forged idols to worship in God’s place.
Moses retold these stories and reminded Israel of the 10 Commandments and other regulations God expected them to observe. Moses pleaded with the people to repent of their past failings and to remain faithful to the God who cared for them. This was Moses’ final opportunity to lead the people he loved and to serve the God he worshiped. Moses told Israel to look back before moving forward into the Promised Land.
I plan to preach from Deuteronomy in the coming weeks to help us consider how we can follow this same wisdom. What have we learned through our years of walking with God that can help us bear fruit today and tomorrow? How has God led us in the past, and how can we trust Him to show us the way forward?
Think about the past three years of navigating the pandemic. What have we learned from dealing with illness and anxiety? How has our church changed? How has your own view of the world been affected? Maybe you have become more cautious about large gatherings. Maybe you will be more skeptical about government regulations. Maybe our church will value more highly on our shared times of worship and fellowship.
We may also want to look back on past seasons of financial hardship to help us weather this year’s high inflation and possible recession. Remember how God has provided through other times of uncertainty, and now trust Him again. Consider the choices you have made – some wise and profitable, others misguided – and apply these lessons to what you face today.
Looking back to prepare for the future is also a wise habit in our personal and family lives. Before you begin a new chapter – perhaps a job change, retirement or moving away to college – think back to other sea-sons of change you have experienced. How did you adjust to a new routine? How did you build new relation-ships? What did you do that worked and what fell flat? Recalling the highs and lows of past experiences can show you a better way forward this time around.
Our spiritual lives also benefit from looking back. God’s word was written long before we were born, and we gain wisdom from those who have gone before us. In the same way, our own journeys of faith prepare us for the next steps ahead. Remember answered prayers and moments of closeness with God. Recall dry sea-sons when you struggled to hear God’s voice or make sense of His word. These experiences and the wisdom of past generations can help us find our way forward.
What will happen tomorrow may feel new and surprising, but looking back can put the future into help-ful perspective. That’s why Moses asked the Israelites to remember their 40 years of wandering before cross-ing the Jordan into a new land. It’s also why we should consider the many ways God has been faithful to us as we trust Him for tomorrow.