2015 Lent 18

janus

Jeremiah 7:21-34

More doom and gloom from the lone prophet to the stiff-necked people.

But here’s something for us to consider.  They “looked backwards rather than forwards” (v. 24).

God was mad at his people, so the story goes.  So God used Jeremiah to relay a message of frustration and wrath.  The people had done some rotten things, all right.  They neglected the widows and orphans in their land.  Murders and adulteries are mentioned.  Oh, and false worship: the people turned to a god named Topheth, for instance.

But among their other sins, they looked to the past instead of to the future.

How interesting!

It’s part of human nature to meliorify the past, isn’t it?

Okay, I made that word up.  But melior means better in Latin; so it should be a word, I say, meaning to make better.

We tend to look at the past, the good old days, the glory days, and remember all the good but not the bad.  Uncle Rico is the epitome of this selective remembering in the movie Napoleon Dynamite.  Ever see that one?

“Back in the day,” he tells his nephew Napoleon, reminiscing over his own high school days, “I could throw a pigskin a quarter mile.”

Okay, Rico.  But why are you a deadbeat now, living out of your orange bubble-top van?  (If you haven’t already, you’ve really got to see this movie.  It’s a cultural icon.)

Rico meliorifies the past.  That is, he remembers it better than it actually was.  (No way could anyone throw a football 440 yards!)  These were his glory days, to which he longed to return.  He gave little thought to his present life; even less to his future.  The past was his glory.  And there he dwelt.

But, even so, looking back longingly on the glory days isn’t necessarily sinful, is it?

In Israel’s case, apparently it was.

Because they looked there rather than to the future.

Life is in the present.  We can’t return to the past–or to some imagined time when things were better than they actually were.  We can only live in the present; and plan for the future.

And as we plan for the future in the present, we can’t recapture but we can learn from the past.  To help our future planning.

So long as we don’t meliorify it!

This is not looking backwards rather than looking forwards: Israel’s sin; what I call meliorification.  Rather, to plan for the future through reflecting on the past is looking backwards in order to look forwards.  Huge difference!

May God bless your present and future life as you learn from your past.

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