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DO WE LEARN FROM OTHERSí PAST MISTAKES?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

20 SEPTEMBER 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Hosea 11:1-12
1 Timothy 6:3-10

Have you ever wondered why there is so much history in the Bible?

I believe that it's there for us to learn from the way people lived in those days, and from their relationship with God.

We should learn both the things to avoid and those things to pursue.

But, do we learn from othersí past mistakes?

Perhaps, as individuals we learn some things; but on the whole, history always seems to repeat itself.

We ourselves usually end up making the same or similar mistakes that those before us have made.

Even when we have a war to end all wars, as World War I was called, we still have wars.

When we are given freedom from oppression, we all too often persecute others, as is happening in parts of the former Soviet Union, in Yugoslavia, and in parts of Africa.

We do this because God and His love are not part of our willing nature, or at least they arenít with most of the people of this world, and most particularly with our leaders.

Chapter 11 of the book of Hosea speaks to this very issue, and of the way God deals with the situations we cause.

1. When Israel was a youth I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.

God wants only the best for us, and He will free us from the oppression of others.

But in the process, we should learn why God has come against those who oppress us, and avoid what they did to incur Godís wrath.

Likewise, we should also remember why God is helping us.

But all too often, we follow the mistakes of Israel.

2. The more they called them,
The more they went from them;
They kept sacrificing to the Baals [or other gods]
And burning incense to idols.

Since Israel really knew the truth, why would they turn away from God?

And similarly, why would we, in this community or in this country, who know the truth, so easily turn away from following the ways of the Lord?

We do it because we want to think that we are the most important beings in the universe; and in this pride, we desire God to go along with everything we do.

And what is even worse, we want God to bless it.

All we do is cause God emotional pain.

We break His heart.

It's as He expresses in the next two verses.

As we read them, feel what God feels.

Feel His pain and suffering, as if it is our own.

3. Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them in My arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.

4. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love,
And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws;
And I bent down and fed them.

With all His love, God humbles Himself and becomes our servant, so that we would love as He does.

Yet we all too often mistake His love for weakness, and go our own way.

Thus, the Lord has no option but to put on the robe of righteousness, and punish His wayward children.

Surely, we should know this fact from what we are told in the Bible and from watching our own, and other parents, as they react to the ways of their children.

But do we learn?

Unfortunately, not very well.

5. They will not return to the land of Egypt;
But Assyria Ė he will be, their king,
Because they refused to return to Me.

6. And the sword will whirl against their cities,
And will demolish their gate bars
And consume them because of their counsels.

When we won't receive God's love and follow Him; and, instead, turn after others and their false teaching, He in turn hands us over to those in the world who care only about themselves; so that we would learn through our pain about the ways of the world and return to the loving ways of the Lord our God.

7. So My people are bent on turning from Me.
Though they call them to the One on high,
None at all exalts Him.

I pray we see the truth in this.

There are always some in the world who continue to preach and teach the truth, in order that perhaps someone will hear and return to the Lord and, in turn, cause others to return.

The Lord does this because He loves us.

He does this because our wayward lifestyle hurts Him, and the pain of losing a son or daughter is almost more than even God can bear.

8. How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I surrender you, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah [one of the cities I destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah]?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim [which was among those cities]?
My heart is turned over within Me,
All My compassions are kindled.

9. I will not execute My fierce anger;
I will not destroy Ephraim again.
For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst,
And I will not come in wrath.

At times, we may think that God is cruel, but He is not.

It is humankind that has proven to be the cruelest.

The things we do to each other and to animals are unequalled among all living beings.

And still we turn away from God.

Why be destroyed, so that we will learn of God's grace when He restores us?

But we haven't learned, and we are being destroyed.

Those of us who know the truth can no longer afford to keep silent and live in the shadows.

The Lord our God needs more of us to live and speak the truth, so that others might see and hear, and turn back to God.

10. They will walk after the Lord,
He will roar like a lion;
Indeed He will roar,
And His sons will come trembling from the west.

11. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt,
And like doves from the land of Assyria;
And I will settle them in their houses, declares the Lord.

The Lord will do all of this, if we receive His love and grace in truth and love.

If we are truly repentant, He will do all of this.

But, unfortunately, we are all too often like Israel.

12. Ephraim surrounds Me with lies,
And the house of Israel with deceit;
Judah is also unruly against God,
Even against the Holy One who is faithful.

Even when we're not faithful, God remains faithful.

But think of how much more we would have, and how much happier we all would be, if we just listened in the first place, and received God's faithfulness the first time.

Turn in your Bibles to 1 Timothy 6:3f, and listen to the way Paul explains to Timothy and the Church about the things we have been talking about.

3. If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness,

4. he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,

5. and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

Isn't this also an accurate description of the world today?

It shows that we haven't learned from othersí past mistakes.

We are making the same mistakes.

But, we who know the truth can make a difference; we can turn the tide.

We can love where there is no love.

We can show that there is a better way.

6. But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.

If we appreciate and are thankful for what we have, we are far better off than the person who has much more, and who is always looking for more, because they are not satisfied with what they have.

If we are truly thankful for the little things we have, we usually will gain more.

But those who are never satisfied often lose their abundance.

7. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.

This is a truism that the world doesn't want to accept.

Then Paul says something interesting:

8. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

There are very few people who truly seem to be content with these bare essentials.

Most people want more.

But it is in our attitude about these simple things that we express our true feelings, and whether or not we have learned from past mistakes.

The Bible, as well as our own life experiences, is full of examples of people who want more than they have, because they don't appreciate what they already have.

And the reverse is also true, and is also before our eyes: that those who are truly thankful for the little things also seem to get more.

It is what we do with our gain that can make a difference in the world.

9. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.

10. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.

Look around us.

A few miles to the north, in the two correctional facilities, are more than 2,000 men who fell into this trap and have ended up with far less.

In fact, all that most of them have left is their food and covering.

And until they are thankful for that, they will continue to fall into the same trap.

All our wars are also based on greed: the desire for power or the desire for what others have.

But we in this little congregation can reverse this trend, or at least be a strong dike against the flood of those heading for destruction.

We must learn to appreciate what we have until we are truly thankful and just naturally thank the Lord at every opportunity.

We are to love each other; truly love each other.

We are to love each other with a love that would never say anything harmful about another person.

We are to love each other with a love that just naturally meets each otherís needs.

We must love each other with a love that won't make us a burden to others, for we will each be doing our own part.

We must love each other with a love that is supportive and encouraging.

And we must love each other with a love that will graciously receive the love of others.

And we must learn to love God's other animals in the same way, and bring no harm to them.

And we must love God enough to protect and care for the whole of His creation, and preserve it for all who come after us.

All our past mistakes are really founded in our lack of love.

And it is love that will teach us to learn from othersí past mistakes, as well as our own.

Love the Lord your God.

Love yourself.

Love each other.

Amen.

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