History

Preaching and Worship Resources about History

The central concept of history is an inquiry into the past. At the core of the Christian understanding of history is the enduring faithfulness and sovereignty of God: History is God's story. God's people are rooted in the story of what God has done in the past and therefore they can trust in God's faithfulness for the future.

In Scripture

God's active role in history, sovereignly holding all things "But God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors" (Gen. 45:7). "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecc. 1:9). "Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, am first, and will be with the last" (Isa. 41:4). "[T]his man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law." (Acts 2:23).

God is more powerful than events by which we mark time "Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of what now I bring to pass, that you should make fortified cities crash into heaps of ruins" (Isa. 37:26). "He changes times and seasons, deposes kings and sets up kings" (Dan. 2:21). "From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live" (Acts 17:26).

God's authority over history is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ "But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (John 21:25). "He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col. 1:17) "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Rev. 22:13).

God's people tell the story of God's faithfulness in generations past, both as a prompt for thanksgiving but also to encourage proper living in the present "You shall live in booths for seven days; all that are citizens in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 23:42 - 43). "Those twelve stones, which they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal, saying to the Israelites, `When your children ask their parents in times to come, `What do these stones mean?' then you shall let your children know, `Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground'" (Josh. 4:20 - 22). "I will call to mind the deeds of the LORD; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work and muse on your mighty deeds" (Ps. 77:11 - 12). "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. . . . [W]ho struck Egypt through their firstborn, for his steadfast love endures forever; and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever" (Ps. 136:1,10 - 11). "O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord" (Mic. 6:5). "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Pet. 1:16).

Points to Ponder

Redemptive historical and modern understandings of history Some places in the Bible, such as passages in the Gospels that are similar to one another but still different, remind us that while the Bible tells the true story of God, its primary goal is to tell redemptive history. The Bible should not be expected to adhere to standards of modern historiography. At the same time, the redemptive focus of the Biblical story should not be seen as a detraction from the truth contained within.

History as God's story An emphasis on the sovereignty of God suggests that, because God rules over all things, the story of the past is also the story of God at work in the past. Of course, as with all things related to the sovereignty of God, we must be careful before we claim to know definitively the will and plan of God. If we are insensitive, we may write off tremendous evil and suffering as "God's will." At the same time, we can recognize and affirm that even in the midst of such tremendous suffering, God offers hope and redemption, as in the story of Joseph.

Intergenerational church With increasing mobility, greater geographical distance between families, and delayed childbirth, some of the means by which family stories were passed down are becoming less a part of the cultural landscape. Scripture repeatedly warns Israel to know its story, to learn from it and to celebrate God's faithfulness. The church remains one of few social institutions where young and old alike are brought together in the same place and cross-generational learning can occur. Churches can facilitate relationships between young and old where the stories of God's faithfulness in generations past can be told once more.

One generation to the next "We will extol you, God and King, and bless your holy name. Day after day we'll sing your praise, forever and forever. One generation will call to the next: "Our God is good and his hand is strong!" All of the world sings his marvelous acts and our voice will join with theirs in the song. Great is the Lord! In all his ways he's greatly to be praised. Were we to search for endless days, his greatness none could fathom. We contemplate the splendor of the world your hand has made. Far greater still the majesty we see in the Creator! Now may your name be sung in every tongue, in every place. Singing the fame of your great love in ev'ry generation."

Others tell our story In Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton: An American Musical," George Washington sings to Alexander Hamilton: "Let me tell you what I wish I'd known / When I was young and dreamed of glory / you have no control: / Who lives, who dies, who tells your story? I know that we can win / I know that greatness lies in you / But remember from here on in / History has its / Eyes on you."


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.