Learning by Example

One of the things we would all like to be able to do as parents is to teach our children well so that they don’t have to make the same mistakes we have made. It rarely works. Why is that? What is it about us that causes us to repeat the same foolish actions as the generations before us? This question is generally asked by those who possess a few more years and a longer history of bad decisions and ill-conceived plans. The pain caused by those mistakes begs us to share our learning with those who come after us – but they don’t generally listen. We are hard pressed to learn from the mistakes of others.

Read Amos 1:6-2:3. (Part of a devotional is to look up and read your own Bible!) There you will find a series of warnings similar to the one we read yesterday for Damascus. The verbiage is almost exactly the same for each of the 5 nations to whom God speaks words of warning. As He admonishes the nations surrounding the Northern Kingdom, His wrath is apparent and His prophecies are dire. And with each nation, he draws closer to those who would call themselves His children. The final nation spoken to (Amos 2:1-3) is Moab. While they are not included as members of the Hebrew nation, they were close relatives. King David’s great grandmother was a Moabite. The warnings are drawing close to home!

What would your attitude be if you saw people all around you being warned of coming disaster? Would you take those warnings to heart yourself, or would you say, “Wow! That’s too bad for them.” The people of the Northern Kingdom took the second option. They appeared to be somewhat self-satisfied as well, assuming that those warnings had nothing to do with them and could go unheeded. This was to repeat the mistakes of others instead of learning while the lessons were being taught.

Many Christians spend their Bible study time exclusively in the New Testament. It appears to be easier (this is probably not true) and beside, who wants to learn about all those wars and the judgment of God? But inside the pages of the Old Testament we learn about the character of God and we learn about ourselves. In the Old Testament we learn of God’s love, mercy, grace, creativity, strength, justice, wrath, and sovereignty. We read the stories of generations of His people and the mistakes that they made (sometimes over and over again). We learn of His continuing mercy with those who daily seem to turn their backs upon Him and the chance to start again we are given every day. The question is, are we able to hear their stories and see our lives in theirs? Can we read the words of warning spoken to another generation and apply it to ourselves and our lives in 2011?

As we will see, the people of the nation of Israel did not pay attention while those around them were being warned. Instead, they continued on as if they were exempt from the passions and laws of God. Instead of living as examples of what a truly godly life look like, they scoffed and felt vindicated in their own self-righteous attitudes. We must always hold them in respect as our teachers, lest we make the same mistakes again and again in our lives. Jesus has come and brought us back into a relationship with the living God. And He left us His Holy Spirit so that our spirits could be taught and molded. When the warning bell tolls and it is spoken by God’s Word, we would do well to hear and heed.