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The History That God Records

“And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar).” (Genesis 14:1-2)

I have always been fascinated by history. When I was in school, it was one of my favorite subjects. I realize that many people are bored to tears with studying the past, but I think that the stories of what happened to those who lived their lives before us are extremely interesting. One thing, however, becomes quickly apparent when paging through most History textbooks or listening to the lectures of the majority of historians: the record of history is overwhelmingly focused on war and conquest.

How people lived their daily lives, what was important to them, what motivated them to live the way that they did, are all questions that inevitably take a backseat to who conquered whom and what military power was dominate from one historical period to the next. In fact, such a fixation on military combat is what often leads people to conclude that the entire topic of the past is completely uninteresting. If you are not a person with an interest in military matters, then the subject of History as it is typically presented in schools and on T.V documentaries will not likely hold much attraction.

But as we continue our journey through the Word of God, we notice something very remarkable. It is not until we come to the Fourteenth Chapter of the Book of Genesis that we are told of a single war! When we consider the vast expanse of time that the narrative has already covered and the epic, worldwide events that have already unfolded, it is amazing that not one military conflict has been mentioned until now. It is noteworthy that the events that mankind feels are the very mile markers of the progression of Civilization since the dawn of time are but secondary, peripheral issues in the historical record given by the Holy Spirit. From God’s perspective, all of man’s wars, conflicts, and campaigns of conquest are not even worth mentioning save when they happen to meet at the crossroads with His purposes. Nine kings are mentioned here in Genesis 14, prominent rulers of great fame and renown in their own day. Yet their struggle for control of the cities of the Plain of Jordan, a conflict that doubtlessly captivated the attention of the entire region at that time; and even their own names – as familiar to the tongues of the populace living under their sovereignty as the names of modern political leaders are to us – only find their way onto the pages of Scripture because of their incidental encroachment into the affairs of a nomadic herdsman named Abram. Had the man Lot not been among the captives of Chedorlaomer, this entire incident and even the names of these kings themselves would never have been written into the Genesis account.

What a profound lesson in the contrast between what the world finds to be of importance and what the Lord of Heaven says is truly important. These nine kings waged a war over who would take control of the wealth and resources of this entire region beside the river Jordan. The position of Sodom and Gomorrah on the route between Egypt and Babylonia was quite strategic and the area is known to have been mined for valuable sources of copper even at this time, but none of this is really important in the grand scheme of things. These nine kings were willing to risk all that they had and even spill their own blood over matters that are not even worth being remembered. The only object of any real importance at all in this whole affair was the life of Lot. It has been concluded by examining the route toward Sodom that the Eastern kings took in their conquest that, at one point, their vast army passed no more than twenty miles from the tent of Abraham. He must have been able to witness the passing of this vast army through the land on their way to vanquish the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. But it only became of any concern whatsoever to him when his nephew was captured.

Man’s record of history pays homage to the great kings, rulers, and military conquerors of the past. The exploits of Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon are taught throughout military academies and studied by young students in school to this day. Yet what Spirit of God records in the pages of the Holy Bible is vastly different. Although one of the most powerful men in the world at the time, the Pharaoh of Exodus is not even mentioned by name! The specific identity of this individual is left entirely to speculation. We know the names of Moses, his brother and sister, even his father-in-law, Jethro. But the “mighty” ruler of the whole nation is not even given by name. Powerful kings such as Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus the Great, Darius, and even Augustus Caesar find their way into the Biblical record, but only in relation to how their paths crossed with the Lord’s people and how they fit in with the plans and purposes of God Almighty.

The history that God records is not about kings and emperors, wars and conquests, or struggles for wealth and power. It’s about shepherds and farmers, common people whose names would never have been deemed worthy to be recorded into the annals of history by man. It’s not about what extraordinary people have accomplished by their own strength and power, it’s about what God has accomplished through ordinary people. In the end, the only names set down in a Book that will really matter are those written in Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27). And that Book will not be filled with the names of great kings and rulers, but only the names of those who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Ordinary people, like you and me.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 7, 2009]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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3 responses

  1. Loren,

    When I was in high school, I didn’t care for history because the teachers were boring and only into memorizing dates and names….. But, in college, I had a most wonderful professor, who knew how to make history come alive by telling us the real story behind that one little paragraph in the history book that was more intent upon listing names, dates, and places….. Then, I became interested in real history — the story behind the data.

    When you stated that the history in the Bible is “not about what extraordinary people have accomplished by their own strength and power” that made me think about Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4….. God had blessed Nebuchadnezzar’s conquests to serve His purposes, but Nebuchadnezzar took all the credit for himself in Daniel 4:30….. Because of his audacity, God took away his mind for seven periods of time….. Then, he acknowledged God’s supreme authority again.

    The only thing that counted in the end was knowing how to praise God for all that He has done through the ages — just what we need to do.

    Margaret

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  2. Wonderfully said, Margaret! The only things done in this world that will remain are those things done in the name of Christ for His glory.

    As a sideline: I had a similar experience with studying History in school. In High School, it was always just memorizing dates and names (I was still interested in the subject, though). In College, I had a History professor who put into our hands textbooks that discussed nuances of personality which inevitably have played a role throughout history. I think it is a shame that High School kids are only taught the cold, hard facts of events without the motivations behind them; or else the motivations presented are severely under-emphasized. History is about real people with real emotions, dreams, desires, and interests. It helps to understand that even some of the heroes in History suffered from bouts of depression, fears of inadequacy, and sometimes acted in very unheroic ways! If teachers of History presented these individuals as real people, I believe that students would find them much more compelling and could better relate to them.

    The Bible presents the people who it tells us about in exactly that way and it is because of this that we can learn from their experiences. We are told not only of the mountains they reached, but the valleys they sank into. Their experiences are not unlike our own and we see that if God could move in their lives to accomplish His will, then He can do the same in ours.

    Thanks for the great comments!

    In Christ,

    Loren

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  3. When I took history in school, I memorized what they wanted me to memorize in order to pass the course but I always thought about the people of that time. You had me enthralled in this post and you’re absolutely right, what God deems important does not make it into our history books. Wars and conquests is what man has deemed important. All those ‘mighty’ men of old are not even mentioned but the common people are.

    And in the end, the most important book, the book of life, is where people should want their names recorded. In time, all these history books will go up in flames but the names written in the book of life will forever be recorded.

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