If there is one thing that stood out during my recent visit to England, it is a deep sense of history. In Cambridge there are banners flying that celebrate the 800 years that the university has been in operation, from 1209 to 2009! At the Tower of London, we walked on cart paths and wide walkways that have been in use for a thousand years. London itself began as a village some 2,500 years ago. I spoke in a church that was 350 years old. In contrast, the university I attended began in 1926, and the town where we now live is less than 200 years old. My church began 14 years ago. England has survived through wars, famine, plague and conquerors for over 2 millennia. It is difficult not to be overwhelmed as the pages of history jump to life in the many venues of the United Kingdom.
The history of God’s people is even more overwhelming. Since the time of Abraham, four thousand years ago, God has had a particular people for himself. The history of God’s people has spread from one man and his family living in what is now Iraq, to cover the entire planet. This history of God’s people is called redemptive history–the rich story of what is really important in life. Redemptive history not only tells captivating stories of the past, but it offers a certain hope for the future. As magnificent as the history of England is, it offers no hope for the future. It only speaks of glorious things that once were. In contrast, redemptive history speaks not only of the past, but of the hope of a future in which the earth and those of the human race who are called by God will be caught up in the great consummation of all history to be with God in Christ for the balance of eternity.
Redemptive history is not based upon myth and legend. It is based upon the plan of God revealed in the Scriptures. As impressive as the historical archives of England are, they are still the records and testimony of men. God’s historical archives, the Scriptures, are beyond question. They are the truth of God. This is eloquently stated in Daniel 2:20-22:
Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him. NIV
God is the author of all history and, in particular, redemptive history. As Daniel indicates, it is the story of redemptive history that gives context and meaning to all other history. Apart from understanding the role of redemptive history, all other history is just a collection of records of the past that leave man wondering with uncertainty how future history will unfold. Redemptive history speaks of a future where God will be glorified and his people called home to the wonder of the life that is yet to come.
This story of redemptive history begins in Genesis. The stories told there are the stuff of reality and bring hope to you and your children. What happened in Genesis impacts life today. Indeed, life today without the truths of redemptive history told in Genesis would be utter chaos. Read the pages of God’s history with your children. Read them with awe and wonder. Read them with a hope that man’s retelling of his past can never give. British history is powerful and moving, but unless it is set in the context of redemptive history, it will lead only to despair. Praise God that he is at work in redemptive history.