569) Were the Old Days Better?

     

     Ecclesiastes 7:10 says, “Do not ask, ‘Why were the old days better than these?,’ for it is not wise to ask such questions.”

     Do you ever ask that or wonder that?  Do you, perhaps, as the question implies, just take for granted that things were indeed better in the good old days?  Or, are you more comfortable with all the conveniences of modern life, happy for what you have had, but happy to be where you are at today?  I would imagine that in all of us there is a bit of a mixture.  But don’t waste your time, says the writer of Ecclesiastes, don’t even ask, “Why were the old days better than these?’” for it is not wise, he says, to ask such questions.

     The Bible is not opposed to looking back in gratitude for all of God’s past blessings.  In fact, the Bible itself does a lot of that sort of thing.  There are whole Psalms that retell the mighty deeds of the Lord on their behalf.  In the New Testament we are encouraged to trust God because we know from past experience that He has been faithful to us.  After all, the entire Bible itself is a retelling of the past; a retelling of that old, old story of God’s love for us?

     But the writer of Ecclesiastes has a point.  There the question asked is not just about looking back, but it is has to do with looking back wistfully, enviously even, at when things were better.  That we are told not to do.  Do not ask, it says, why were the old days better than these, for it is not wise to ask such questions.

     The Biblical writers always remember the past in a different way and for a different reason.  They don’t look back to remember how much better things used to be.  To do that would be to remember God’s blessings then, but to forget how God is continuing to bless us.  Rather, the Bible’s way of looking back is to look back for just one reason, and that is in order to look forward.  They look back, and they remember with thankful hearts what God has done, in order to proclaim the truth that we can trust God for our future.  And then immediately the Biblical writers go on to say that we can look forward to the new things that God is going to do for us in the days to come.  “I will do a new thing,” says the Lord through the prophet Isaiah.  “Create in me a new heart,” prays the Psalmist.  “The time is coming,” says the Lord in Jeremiah, “when I will make a new covenant with my people.”  And on the night he was betrayed, Jesus himself said of the cup of wine he was about to share, “This is the new covenant in my blood.”  Jesus was always looking forward, announcing the coming Kingdom of God.  “Thy kingdom come,” he taught us to pray; always future oriented, but based on past promises.  We look back so we can look forward.

     That is the message of All Saints Day, which is observed today.  All Saints, not just Saints Peter and Paul and Francis and Theresa and all of those famous ones, but all saints, all who have died with faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  We look back and remember with thanksgiving all those great men and women in the history of God’s people; and we also remember our loved ones who are now with the Lord, or, as an old prayer says, those whom “Thou hast taken into thy nearer presence.”  So we look back at those lives with thanksgiving, and also no doubt, with a bit of sadness; but we do not ONLY look back.  Because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, we are turned from looking back to looking forward; forward to when we will see all those folks again.  All Saints Day is a time to remember those who are dead, but also to look forward to a future beyond the grave, and of that time when all of God’s people of every age will be together, and everything will be made new.  

     No matter how good the good old days were, the best is yet to be.

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Ecclesiastes 7:10  —  Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”  For it is not wise to ask such questions.

Isaiah 43:18-19a  —  (This is what the Lord says), “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

Revelation 21:1a…5  —  Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

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REMEMBERING OUR LOVED ONES WHO DIED IN THE FAITH:

We give back to you, O God, those whom you gave to us.  You did not lose them when you gave them to us, and we do not lose them by their return to you.  Your dear Son has taught us that life is eternal and love cannot die.  So death is only an horizon and an horizon is only the limit of our sight.  Open our eyes to see more clearly, and draw us closer to you, that we may know that we are then nearer to our loved ones who are with you.  You have told us that you are preparing a place for us, prepare us also for that happy place, so that we may be with you always, O dear Lord of life and death.  Amen.

–William Penn  (1644-1718)

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