Remembering the Past

There was something strangely beautiful about the scattered white headstones lost in the sea of prairie grasses, the rolling hills like rolling waves on an ocean of windswept, time-tarnished gold. It was hauntingly sad, so isolated and wild and completely alone. The date, June 25, 1876, is almost lost in time, but its memory lingers on at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.IMG_0937eIMG_0981eIMG_0932eAlthough our nation has enjoyed periods of relative peace and relative prosperity, that peace and prosperity has not been the usual state of things. A glance back through our history reveals many events most people would rather not talk about, and if one begins to dig even more is unearthed. Time obscures many more event, both the good and the bad, than most of us will ever know about. But we can’t forget, we can’t selectively remember, we can’t pretend that the tragedies didn’t happen, and we can’t erase them. The past is immensely important, not to treasure our hatred and nurse our resentment, but to foster compassion. We need to remember our past, with forgiveness, compassion, and humility.IMG_0957eeIMG_0969eeIMG_0965eeThe Battle of the Little Bighorn was a tragedy. The events surrounding it and the way the U.S. Government treated the Indians and cheated them out of land that was rightfully theirs and guaranteed to them is an ugly, disgraceful blot on our history. The crimes and atrocities committed on both sides are shameful and inhuman, and those who have proper perspective realize that and can acknowledge that. If we try to judge the past by the standards of the present, we’ll only succeed in cultivating and perpetuating hatred. We have to look at the past through the lens of the past, not through a lens of modern-day political correctness or 130-year hindsight. And the Monument succeeds in doing that. I was struck by the level of cross-cultural unity and the way in which all of the fallen were honored, not only the Army or only the Cheyenne and those who fought with them. It is a tribute to the heroism of all the warriors, and a love song to the lives that were lost.
IMG_0961eIMG_0980eThe men who died were warriors. It was their way of life to defend their way of life, whether we look back and judge their way of life as right or wrong. They fought bravely and according to their code of battle. The following quote inscribed on the Indian Memorial is striking:

“It was a terrible battle….a hard battle because both sides were brave warriors.” ~Red Feather, Lakota

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IMG_5301.lowrezChristmas Eve is a good time to remember – and to reflect. On Christmas Day, Christians celebrate the miraculous birth of a Savior, God Incarnate, who humbled Himself to come to earth as a baby, as the frailest form of humanity. But I think we often make the mistake of forgetting that the Christmas story doesn’t start in the book of Matthew, but it starts back in the book of Genesis. Throughout the Old Testament, a Savior was waited for – The entire Old Testament leads us to Christ.

It starts back in Eden, when Adam and Even were still the first people on earth.

In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve rejected God’s command, God cursed the earth and increased the trials both men and women would face, but He also gave them hope – The hope of Someone who would come to earth to do battle with Satan.

In Genesis 13, God told Abraham that all families of earth would be blessed through Abraham. And in Genesis 15, God told Abraham, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your offspring be.”

IMG_5295.lowrezIn Genesis 49, the last days of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, are recorded. Jacob was nearing the end of his life, and he gave a blessing to each of his sons. This wasn’t a blessing of earthly proportions, but was prophetic in nature and from the hand of God. In his blessing to Judah, he says, “Judah, your brothers shall praise you…The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”

In the second book of Samuel, chapter 7, the prophet Nathan came to King David, who was himself a descent of Abraham and Jacob, and told him, “….the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom….And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”

And in the book of Micah, the prophet speaks about Bethlehem: “From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

These five examples barely scratch the surface of the promises and foreshadowing of the Messiah in the Old Testament. These are just a few of the many promises and prophesies that God gave His people – These were signs by which they would recognize the Messiah. They were reminders that God hadn’t forgotten His promises. God had a plan, a perfect plan, a beautiful plan, by which He would bring Salvation into the world, by which all families of earth would be blessed, who would rule in righteousness and justice and mercy, who would establish His throne forever. The Israelites waited eagerly and probably wearily for the Messiah, a king who would come and free them from the various harsh oppressions they lived under. As is so often the case, our anticipation of God’s plan for our lives is so much less than what He actually has planned. They waited for an earthly king. God had a different plan.

IMG_5288.lowrezFinally, as is recorded in the book of Matthew, a baby was born, given the name Jesus, born in the town of Bethlehem, to a young virgin named Mary, who was of the house of David (Luke 3), who conceived her Child miraculously through the Holy Spirit. This Child’s legal, adoptive father, Joseph, was also of the house and lineage of David (Matthew 1), making this Child both legally and physically of the house and lineage of David the King, and Judah, and Abraham. God always keeps His promises.

From Abraham’s lineage there did come whole nations of people on earth, but more importantly, from Abraham’s lineage was born the Messiah, through whom “all families of earth shall be blessed.”Abraham’s lineage is truly a magnificent lineage, and includes every single Child of God, every single person saved from their sins by faith in God’s Son and adopted into that glorious heritage. Even Abraham, who knew God with such a blessed kind of faith, couldn’t have comprehended that his legacy would include everyone adopted into God’s family through the saving work of the Messiah who would come from his lineage! What wonderful history!

IMG_5302.lowrezAnd it continues today! The scepter hasn’t left the house of Judah. The never-ending throne of King David is still being ruled from today, because Jesus, the Son of David, is reigning in Heaven, risen and glorious, and will one day return to finish His battle with Satan. The king the Israelites expected was a king who would wipe out their earthly enemies, restore earthly peace, and give earthly justice. But the King that God had planned would be a King who would wipe away our sins, our tears, our spiritual enemies, who would provide the Gift of Salvation, who would come to earth as a Man, someone we can try to comprehend with our finite minds, someone who can sympathize with us in our weakness, someone to demonstrate a life of righteousness, love, faith, purity, joy, servanthood, humility, and sacrifice. A King who would restore Spiritual Peace, and give Spiritual Justice and Mercy. A King who would adopt us into His household and call us His children, His brothers and sisters, His family.

And all of this started back before Genesis 1. The Israelites waited for the coming of the Messiah. We wait for the second coming of the Messiah.

What a glorious heritage. What a glorious past, present, and future, in light of God’s gift to all mankind!

Laura Elizabeth