Jump Start # 1915
Daniel 9:5-6 We have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from Thy commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Thy servants the prophets, who spoke in Thy name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land.”
Should a modern generation tear down the statues placed by earlier generations? That seems to be a hot topic at the present. Mayors and governors across the land are calling for some statues to be removed. Some are not waiting for local administrations to decide, they are taking matters into their own hands and are tearing these statures down. Specifically, it’s those statues honoring the Civil War Confederates. I haven’t heard anyone wanting to tear down all Civil War statues, just those belonging to the south. One, but not the only cause of fighting the war was slavery. Whether it’s right or wrong to tear down statues and what is the best thing to do for this generation will be hammered out in court rooms and legislative halls.
There is a Biblical thought for us here. It takes us to our passage today, the prayer of Daniel. Nations, as well as churches, and especially individuals, have a history that isn’t good. Slavery isn’t good. Maybe for some, those statues remind them of that. But we can’t forget a history, even if it was wrong.
One of the unique things about the Bible is that God shows the failures, the blemishes and the warts of His people. The Bible’s “Hall of Fame,” could just as easily be the “Hall of Shame.” Noah got drunk. Abraham lied. David committed adultery and murder. John the Baptist had doubts. Peter denied. Paul and Barnabas disagreed and went different directions.
The history of the nations isn’t pretty. Israel and then Judah spent a long time bowing down to idols. Even the churches of the N.T. seemed to be plagued with problems. Paul warned the Galatian churches about devouring one another. The Corinthians were divided and a mess. Laodicea was lukewarm. Sardis was dead. Ephesus lost it’s first love.
Messy. Messy nations. Messy churches. Messy lives. In many ways the pages of the Bible are statues and reminders of these blunders, failures and sins. Why did God preserve these dark pages? Why do we need to know about Noah’s drunkenness? Why not tear these pages out? Why not just show the good stuff?
As with the Bible, and our nation, the true and complete story contains dark pages. They remind us that we are not perfect. That is important. Folks show up on Sunday mornings and they see everyone dressed nicely and everyone seems to have a smile on their face. It’s easy to conclude that I am the only one who is struggling. I am the only one who questioned whether or not I should come. I am the only one who is not right with the Lord. How perfect we can look. How perfect the church can seem. One wonders why we even need Jesus. It seems that we have it all together on our own.
Those dark pages of the Bible are a reminder of the dark pages in our lives. We all have them. It’s called sin. It is because of those dark pages that we need Jesus. Sometimes it’s better to be realistic than to put forth an image of what we are not. We are not perfect. We struggle. We have good days and bad days. There are times we forget to pray. There are times our attitudes are not right. We can say the wrong words. We can express feelings of prejudice. We are a work in progress. We are on a journey. None of us have arrived, not yet.
Without the dark pages of the Bible, it’s hard to find a connection with these people in the Bible. They seem too good and too perfect and too right, all the time. I’m not like that. But there is doubting Thomas. I can understand. There is Peter, firing off his mouth without thinking. I get that. There is Abraham, afraid, he lies. I know what that’s like. These dark pages are not to justify my wrongs and keep me in the wrong, but they help me to see the mistakes they made and I have made and to see what needs to be done.
Churches can have dark pages as well. Maybe there was a time when discipline was too quick. Maybe attitudes toward some weren’t kind. Maybe there were periods when it wasn’t as friendly as it could be. We can deny those things ever happened, but the people involved know. Or, we can use those dark pages to do better. No church is perfect. We learn. We grow. We make mistakes. We even sin. If an individual can sin, certainly a group of us, or a congregation of us can sin as well.
These dark pages in the Bible also serves to show the justice and the mercy of God. God struck some with immediate death. Some were forgiven. All of this shows the seriousness towards God’s word that we need to have. It shows how careful we must be with God’s word.
These dark pages also are teaching moments. We can use them to help another generation from making the same mistakes that we have. It’s easy for our children to think that we are perfect. The teenager who struggles with moral issues may have a tough time talking with his parents, because he sees them as never struggling. They always did what was right. They never messed up. But we know better. For many of us our teen years and college years were not pretty. Drinking, drugs and fornication were all too common. As difficult as it is to go back to those dark pages, your experiences can help your teen. If he asks you, “Dad, were you ever drunk?” What are you going to say? Are you going to lie? Are you going to lie to keep up an image that isn’t true, or, are you going to use that dark period of your life to show him how he can make better choices.
I fear that taking down Civil War statues is just the beginning. The next step may be the rewriting of our nation’s history. We can just remove those dark pages out of our history books and pretend that they never existed, or we can see, learn and be better because of those dark pages.
Daniel in his prayer, didn’t make things better than what they were. He was specific. Later he says, “Open shame belongs to us.” He realized that the right way to deal with wrongs is to confess them to the Lord. Don’t change the history. Don’t deny what has happened. Don’t cover them up. Don’t justify them.
Open shame belongs not just to Judah, but to this nation as well. But more than that, open shame belongs to you and me when we are honest about the dark pages in our lives. Forgiveness, honesty and changing is what needs to be done. I tend to think that the Confederate statues are a reminder of what we never want to do again. We don’t want to forget. We shouldn’t forget. If we do, we might repeat the dark pages again.
Now, we can dwell in those dark pages and believe that’s all there is, or we can also see that Noah, Abraham, David are well spoken of in Hebrews 11. They are examples for the rest of us, just as you and I, with our dark history, can be examples for people today. Forgiveness means forgiving yourself. We are not to live in those dark moments, but to walk in the light as He is in the Light. Because of Christ, we have moved on. We have done better. We now live, love and hope in the grace of Christ.
God kept those dark pages in the Bible for a reason. We need them.