History was a big part in the life of a Jew. It was a source of pride, a standard of their life, and a reminder of past deeds, whether they be good or bad. Sometimes, in the case of Stephen in Acts 7, it was a measure of criticism based on the patterns they followed in response to God’s help. Other times, in the case of Paul in Acts 13, it was a way to show them the path to their Messiah, by showing them how Jesus of Nazareth fit with the examples of the Old Testament. They looked to these examples daily for guidance, and valued them very highly. As evidenced in Psalm 44, they can provide guidance, security and safety through hard times.
However, it is not simply knowledge of an example that would prove useful, but the application thereof. If I saw a person get food poisoning from a certain restaurant, knowledge of the situation would be futile if I did not apply it to myself, and refrain from eating there. In the same application, but in a spiritual sense, a man would look to the examples of what had happened in the past, given their actions, and learn from them. On the other hand, a man facing extremely adverse situations could look to the story of David and Goliath, and watch the impossible become possible. A man wondering if he was the only righteous person left could look to the story of Lot with Sodom and Gomorrah, and witness God’s protection for His people, no matter the population.
These stories were communicated by any means necessary, whether by parents, written documents, or other forms of handing them down. In Exodus 1:8, Scripture records for us that there “arose a king over Egypt that did not know Joseph.” He had not heard the stories of what this man had done for the country and his people, and henceforth did not care to treat Joseph’s descendants favorably. Later, Stephen, in Acts 7:25, would claim that Moses, on the other hand, believed that his brethren would understand that deliverance, promised beforehand by God, would come by the hand of Moses. What is the difference between these two? Moses had been told and understood the stories of his people from old, while Pharaoh had not heard the same stories. The teaching that Moses had been given prompted action, and Pharaoh’s lack of history proved devastating to him and his army.
1 Corinthians 10 gives us a list of the people in the exodus from Egypt, and what happened to them given their actions. Many were immoral, and subsequently destroyed, and a list of certain offenses are given. Paul says, in verse 11, that these things, “happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” We would do well to look to them for our own lives, as a way to understand what God truly approves of and disapproves of.Last modified: February 5, 2019