Solomon nailed it:
“What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun. “ (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Everything we see and marvel at today is old news. It has happened before and will continue to happen over and over. Irish statesman Edmund Burke expanded the idea with his famous statement that “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” The Old Testament, with its history of the ups and downs of God’s people, is more important in light of Solomon’s and Burke’s assertions. By observing the Israelite successes and failures, we learn to avoid the bad and accentuate the good.
One feature of Israelite life was the infamous cycle of disobedience. Although present from their Sinai beginnings, the cycle is most evident during the period of the Judges. In Judges 2:11-23 we see a divine explanation of the problem. Israel departed from God’s law and began to serve idols. God punished them by the hand of the remaining pagan nations. They would cry out to the Lord for deliverance and he would raise up judges to deliver them. Typically, they remained faithful for many years and then drifted back into their old ways. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Over and over.
The pattern is seen again in Judges 3:7-11 and in passage after passage. A reader is inclined to think that Israel must have been mentally deficient in some way. Why else would they persist in behaviors they knew were sinful and would bring the wrath of God upon them and their children?
“what has been done, will be done”
Solomon’s message explodes with meaning now. The Israelite sin is our sin! They are us and we are them! The only difference is that our punishment does not come as quickly and as obviously as theirs. In a sense, Israel was blessed because their sin and punishment were constantly before them. We are lulled into a deadly sleep of comfort that soothes our conscience. Danger lies ahead just a certainly as wicked nations lay in wait for Israel.
Paul says we are not to sleep for we are children of the day. We are to be alert, sober and prepared for the coming of our Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:5-11).
History is repeating itself. Each day the same struggles arise. Let us learn from the troubles of those before us and let us resolve to be prepared for those same troubles when they come our way.