The (not so) glory days

I am such a homer for the "way things used to be." Yeah, I was the guy that rolled my eyes whenever my parents or those from their generation spoke of how things used to be so much simpler/easier/more meaningful/etc., back when they were younger. My response to all of that was, "Come on, get with it! Today is so much better - we have cassette tapes, 5 cable channels, and more than one phone mounted on the wall in the house. What more do you want?" My eyes saw things only through my self-imposed utopia.

Fast forward a few decades and now I'm a dad with four kids who all look through tainted lenses of their own. Whenever we are in the car and I come across a song from my high school or college days that jams, I get "the look" from them that I gave to my parents. "How can you listen to that stuff?" is written all over their faces. And yes, I find myself rehashing the tired line, "You know, when I was your age..." Please, bring me my Geritol now.

Even though many of us cling to the cheesy relics of years gone by, we can learn a whole lot of valuable lessons from the past. Some dude named George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," and for the most part I agree with him. There is a difference between people who live in a whole other dimension of the past and can't seem to grow past the music and styles of a certain era and those who refuse to learn from the successes and mistakes of previous generations. We don't have to look far to see how disastrous that can be.

I find the account of the early history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah to be fascinating and revealing. To give you a quick recount, Saul started it all as Israel's king, then came David and Solomon. After Solomon things got a little sticky - his son Rehoboam was crowned king of Israel but another guy, Jeroboam, was given the crown for the southern region called Judah. A kingdom divided is what resulted. From then on it was the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, each with her own king and all the issues that come along with trying to lead a nation.

Throughout the history of these two kingdoms there were a bunch of kings that came through. Some of these kings were attentive to the things of God during their reigns, but for the most part the rulers of both these kingdoms did a pretty lousy job of living up to God's leadership standards. From the time the kingdoms were divided, a template had been set and the kings of Israel specifically struggled to learn from a past that would certainly doom them if they repeated it.

Jeroboam, the first king of Israel after the division, had some serious issues. Since the temple was in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was in Judah, Jeroboam decided to set up his own cities of worship in Israel complete with golden calves to represent God (1 Kings 12-13). Do you want to be a priest in Israel but have no credentials? Sweet, you've got the job! Long story short, Jeroboam did a miserable job of leading Israel and brought the people about as far away from God as he could.

King Jeroboam established a pattern that, unfortunately, many of the kings who succeeded him chose to follow. I won't bore you with a whole bunch of names and dates, but I will share with you a consistent description that was attributed to most of the kings of Israel that followed:
He did what was evil in the Lord's sight and followed the example of Jeroboam.            (1 Kings 15:26; 15:34; 16:26; 16:31; 22:52; 2 Kings 3:3; 10:29; 13:2; 13:11; 14:24; 15:9; 15:18; 15:24; 15:28)
This Jeroboam guy certainly did not leave a healthy legacy. In fact, when Israel finally fell to Samaria in 722 B.C., the reason listed was that "The Israelites persisted in all the sins Jeroboam committed and did not turn away from them." (2 Kings 17:22) Yet in spite of Jeroboam's awful track record, the kings who followed him refused to learn from it. We know that there were some pretty sweet times in this history of Israel, but the ignorance and obstinance caused most her kings to live in a past that spelled certain doom for their future.

So what can we learn from this? Following in the footsteps of those who have royally botched things before you is not the path to take. You don't have to live in the glory days but you should certainly learn from the not so glory ones. Examples of this are everywhere, especially in the Bible. Learn from the mistakes of past or you will certainly be doomed to repeat them. And nobody wants to be like that Jeroboam guy.

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