The philosopher, George Santayana, wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Truth indeed. The history of the world is littered with examples of this. Hitler should have learned from Napoleon’s horrific defeat by the Russians when he invaded during winter. Instead, Hitler also invaded Russia during winter suffering a stunning defeat. The irony was Hitler studied Napoleon’s campaigns but clearly he also executed poor judgment when it involved Russia. He did not remember the past.
The Bible records a tragic outcome of this failure to remember the past. The following passage seemed like a footnote in the history of Israel. A man named Hiel, rebuilt the city of Jericho, a city that was conquered and destroyed by Joshua and the Israelites hundreds of years earlier.
It was during his reign that Hiel, a man from Bethel, rebuilt Jericho. When he laid its foundations, it cost him the life of his oldest son, Abiram. And when he completed it and set up its gates, it cost him the life of his youngest son, Segub. This all happened according to the message from the LORD concerning Jericho spoken by Joshua son of Nun.
1 Kings 16:34 (NLT)
When Joshua conquered Jericho, he pronounced the following curse on anyone who attempted to rebuild Jericho. Hiel did not remember the past and it cost him the lives of his two sons.
At that time Joshua invoked this curse: “May the curse of the LORD fall on anyone who tries to rebuild the town of Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn son, he will lay its foundation. At the cost of his youngest son, he will set up its gates.”
Joshua 6:26 (NLT)
One would think that with such a dire warning, Jericho would never be rebuilt. Yet, even the Israelites did not remember their own past. Of course, today, we are far more enlightened and we always remember our past! I never make the same mistakes. I never lose my temper. I always remember the past and never repeat it. Right.
Perhaps upon reflection, some of you may share the same misgivings that I have. Our faulty memories may hinder an honest reflection of our faults and we are condemned to repeat it. How desperately we need a holy and merciful God who will forgive our sins when we confess and repent to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.