Learn from the Past
IF YOU could relive the last ten years, would you live them differently? Have you ever thought about what might have been if you had not made certain decisions or had done certain things?
No matter how much you would like to turn back time and relive it in a different manner, the past cannot be changed. It is like a word that goes out of a man’s mouth. Once it leaves his lips he cannot grasp it and pull it back.
Your life’s course is marked by what you have done, just as footprints in moist concrete indelibly mark the path you have taken. You can look back on your life markers, but all you can do is look; you cannot erase them or change them. If you have lived foolishly and selfishly your life’s course may be strewn with the wreckage of broken friendships and shattered marriages. It may be scarred from acts of dishonesty, deceitfulness, and perhaps even violence. Think what could have been if you had acted wisely, had been considerate of others and had shown love.
But the future does not have to be like the past. You do not have to repeat your mistakes or continue walking in the same course. Know what the right decision is before you make it, and the right thing to do before you do it. This is not impossible when you have wise counsel to go by and many examples to profit from.
The Bible provides the necessary counsel. Its wisdom can act as a lamp for your feet. “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.” (Ps. 119:105) As long as you make decisions in harmony with its principles and do things in accordance with its instructions you will not go wrong. It is a window to the past. It permits you to see how some people brought trouble upon themselves by what they did and how others brought blessings upon themselves. By looking at their lives you can be aided in planning your own. You can thus learn from the past.
If someone in the past made a mistake that brought heartache, trouble or perhaps even disaster upon himself, it would be foolish for you to make the same mistake and reap the same misfortune. The nation of Israel is a classic example of not learning from past mistakes. It was not long after entering the Promised Land that the Israelites turned away from Jehovah God and took up the worship of dumb idols. This mistake resulted in their being enslaved and oppressed by their enemies. As the years passed, one generation after another repeated the same mistake and reaped the same fruits.
The Bible points out that what happened to these people was written down as an example for us so that we should avoid their folly. “Now these things became our examples, for us not to be persons desiring injurious things, even as they desired them. Neither become idolaters, as some of them did; . . . Neither let us practice fornication, as some of them committed fornication, only to fall twenty-three thousand of them in one day. Neither let us put Jehovah to the test, as some of them put him to the test, only to perish by the serpents. Now these things went on befalling them as examples and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the accomplished ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Cor. 10:6-9, 11.
NEED RIGHT GUIDANCE
While it is easy to look back on your life and see where you made wrong decisions, it is difficult to look forward and see how to make right ones. You need good guidance, wise counsel and proper instruction. The Bible gives all three, besides many examples from the past.
Jerusalem would not have been destroyed in 607 B.C. and again A.D. 70 if its people had listened to the wise counsel of God’s prophets. The Bible has preserved that counsel for our benefit today. The people of Noah’s day would not have perished in the Flood if they had heeded Noah’s warning and had not made the same bad decisions made by their forefathers. The Bible contains similar warnings for the benefit of the people living today in this time of the end.
A wise person will not ignore God’s written Word but will turn to it for the good guidance it can give him. He will consider carefully its record of the past. He will learn why some persons received God’s blessing and the promise of eternal life, whereas others received his disapproval and were condemned to destruction. He will not bring divine disapproval upon his own head by making the same mistakes others foolishly made. He will foresee the bad results coming from doing things that are contrary to the good counsel and instruction set down in the Bible. What he thus learns from the past can guide his future.
As Noah warned of the Flood, so the Bible warns of a greater evil, the battle of Armageddon. This long-foretold war of God will bring to an end the present wicked system of things. The wise person who permits God’s Word to guide his life will foresee this evil and will seek divine protection from it. “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.”—Prov. 22:3.
The inexperienced do not learn from the past or listen to counsel. They blunder on like the foolish ones of ancient times. There is no need for you to be like them when you can follow the guidance of the Scriptures. What you learn from this Book about the past can guide your future.