The first thing I want you to understand about history is that it is messy. History is not a simple list of names, dates, people, and events. History is the family drama of the human race. History is messy because humans make history, humans sin, and humans create massive disasters.
But, history is also beautiful because God did not give up on our horrific mistakes and purposeful attacks against those around us. History is beautiful because it didn’t start with a mess; it started with a God proclaiming truth, painting with light and dark, and playing in the dirt. It started with the community of the Trinity who loved one another before time began. This community was full of so much love that it spilled over into the universe, the Milky Way Galaxy, the earth, and to our parents Adam and Eve.
History is beautiful because it started with a garden to work in and to worship God without any sin or messes. God is taking us back to this garden. The moment Adam and Eve spoiled that first garden, God had a plan to redeem us. Ancient history is what happened in the world while God was working out this plan. We live on the other side of this redemption plan. We are redeemed. We are building His kingdom and rebuilding His garden.
History is mysterious. Details in history require documents and artifacts which verify each other. In the 4,000 years that make up ancient history we just don’t have much. Ancient history is studied in chunks of hundreds or sometimes thousands of years. Because of this, there are many mysteries yet to be solved.
Ancient history is also mysterious or odd to us because it was an entirely different world. Reading ancient history is a bit like reading backwards science fiction. History is divided into an Old World and a New World. I don’t mean North and South America versus the rest of the world like modern history refers to. The Old World was pre-Jesus and the New World is post/with-Jesus.
The Old World was full of sin without attention to law, consequences, or love. It was filled with demons wreaking havoc, kings with unchecked power, and technology mixed with selfishness. The New World is still a mess with remnants of that Old World. But, you can also see new inventions of our world: entire cultures who support compassion, hospitals and orchestras, churches and orphanages. They simply didn’t exist before Jesus and His followers turned the world upside down.
History is your story. Although the stories we’ll learn this year took place in a world that felt and looked different than yours, they still took place on the same ground you walk on today. Your ancestors created these stories. Bible “characters” were real people who missed it colossally and lived alongside other cultures. We study ancient history to see what the tiny nation of Israel was up against, to study the other “Goliaths,” and to see how amazing it is that a family chosen by God changed the entire world.
History has consequences. Who won and who lost battles affects you today. Drive through Fort Payne and you’ll see Greek architecture in the church buildings and the courthouse. Do you like to watch the Avengers? Thor and Loki are straight out of Norse mythology. The names of our days and months come from ancient stories. Pythagoras and Euclid, two Greek men, figured out your geometry rules. Our calendar came from ancient systems. Suzanne Collins wasn’t very creative when she wrote The Hunger Games. She took the Minoan story of the labyrinth, the Roman colosseum, mixed them with teenagers, and threw it all into a dystopian future. The same lies believed in the Old World are still told today only with different faces, but the consequence of Jesus coming to our world means that He’s already conquered these lies giving us the power to fight them and to conquer them.
You make history. History is made up of man’s choices, natural disasters, spiritual warfare, and God’s amazing intervention. The choices you make, the buildings you design, the work you do with numbers, and the battles you fight or choose not to fight write the next chapter of history. To make history wisely you have to know your story. This year we are going to crack mysteries, tell stories, and thank God for how well He has written ours.