"Future generations of your children who follow you and the foreigner who comes from a distant country will see the plagues of the land and the sicknesses the LORD has inflicted on it… All the nations will ask, 'Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?' Then people will answer, 'It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which He had made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt… The hidden things belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law. – Deuteronomy 29:22,24-25,29 HCSB

It is a strange fact that every time something wonderful was about to happen, God’s prophets retold humanity’s long sad and sordid history of betrayal. When the prophet Moses was preparing the people of Israel to finally enter the Promised Land, he made sure to remind them of their past experiences with God. When King Solomon was dedicating the newly built Temple, he took the time to systematically confess his own and the people’s past sins. When the Church was in its infancy, deacon Stephen summarized Israel’s history of disobedience and God’s faithfulness to his executioners.

Rarely was this grasp of history truly appreciated, even when the people said “Amen” at the end rather than grinding their teeth and throwing stones. It soon became apparent that they weren’t truly listening because they fell right back into the same sins.

Nevertheless, they conquered the Promised Land; the Temple was dedicated and used; the Church was founded and flourished. If we are faithless, Hashem remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.[1]

“What is the use of these stories?” you ask. “Why tell them when no one seems to actually listen or to grasp their implication? Why take the time when they don’t seem to affect the course of history?” Actually, I believe they do.

You see, God always has a remnant of people, a select few who understand the value of history and seek to apply its lessons. Though an underappreciated minority, they carry a lot of weight spiritually. A single wise man can either save or take an entire city.[2]

When they hear the stories of the past, when they see the consequences of leaving God’s side, the wise learn and change. When they truly grasp that the nation that turns toward God turns toward life, they start trying to gather other like-minded people around them. When they believe that God curses those who harm children, they do their best to stop society from doing so.

Then they turn to the next generation and tell their stories. They pass on their accumulated wisdom. They seek to stem the tide of unavoidable evil that is coming. A story teller – that’s what every wise person should be.

[1] 2 Timothy 2:13

[2] Proverbs 11:11; 21:22; 29:8; Ecclesiastes 7:19; 9:14-15