Judges 11:39-40: “Thus it became a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.”
Acts 1:11: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?”
In the first story Jephthah has just committed his daughter to God because he foolishly swore to sacrifice the first thing he saw pass his doorway if the Lord would grant him victory in battle (note that he didn’t kill her, he just sent her to serve the church thus preventing her from marrying or having kids — quite the sacrifice in that day). In the second the disciples have just watched the risen Christ ascend into heaven and they are staring up at the sky until two men appear to shoo them away.
What hits me today is the stickiness of awe in us, the propensity to dwell not in present but past.
The people of Israel were amazed, in Judges 11, that Jephthah would fulfill such a horrendous promise as to give his unwed daughter to the church to serve the remainder of her life, so they erected a permanent holiday to mourn her. In Acts 1 the disciples were clearly going to stand there long enough that God called two unrelated people to go confront them to ensure they didn’t erect a similar monument. They did as they were told and left without making such a marker, but we — the generations since — have done it for them.
How many people of faith stand staring at heaven just waiting for Jesus to come back and ignoring completely His call to go spread His Word? How many mourn eternally a past victory or failure to the exclusion of everyday life?
Because that is what we do; it’s part of the purchase we made when we traded our trust in God away to Satan. We make monuments to the past because we do not trust that anything so special will happen again or that anything so tragic will be properly credited in heaven unless we wail about it. We don’t trust that the road we’re walking leads anywhere good or has any purpose, so we need to make markers of times past and worship them in some vain hope of either rolling back the clock to live in that moment or rolling back the clock to undo it.
The things that happen to you do alter your path and it is important to know that history so that you can mark your growth and give testimony, but we must never believe the enemy’s lie that God is a forgetful and fickle old man who waffles indeterminately and needs to have things repeated back to Him so He doesn’t forget.
Don’t get caught in your past, the bad or the good. Live today, Love today, be righteous today, stand in victory today, because today is all we have. Despite the devil’s lies we don’t live in the past and neither does God. Today is where we exist. Today is where God is.
Father, You built the road I’ve walked and I know that it is simply a way of discerning the path before me today, but I so easily slip into trying to resurrect the joy or pain of yesterday forgetting that today has enough joy and evil for itself. I read Jesus’ words but my carnal mind rails against the idea that You could dare to forget my past and Love me today. Remind me, Holy Spirit, constantly. Remind me that Your Love is perfect and boundless and unconditional. Remind me that the path I walked yesterday wasn’t the end. Fill me up, Father, and let me focus on the work of today as Jesus did. I Love You. Amen.