March 13: Nostalgia: My Old Friend
Numbers 14:1–45; John 19:17–42; Psalm 14:1–15:5
Regret and nostalgia can destroy lives. They are mirrored ideas with the same pitfalls: neither can change the past, and both keep us from living in the present. When we live wishfully rather than interacting with the present, we’re bound to miss out and hurt others. Since other people don’t necessarily share our feelings about the past, they feel less important to us here and now. And indeed, we’re making them less important. We’re concerned instead with how things could have been or used to be.
This is precisely what happens after the Israelites flee Egypt: “Then all the community lifted up their voices, and the people wept during that night. And all the children of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and all the community said to them, ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt or in this desert!’ ” (Num 14:1–2).
As usual with regret and nostalgia, these words were said in frustration but born out of fear: “Why did Yahweh bring us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little children will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to return to Egypt” (Num 14:3).
And their fear even takes them to the next level of disobedience against God’s will—they will overthrow Moses’ leadership: “They said to each other, ‘Let us appoint a leader, and we will return to Egypt’ ” (Num 14:4). Nostalgia is dangerous: it causes us to forget the wretchedness of the past and exchange it for fond memories. We begin to focus on the good things and drift away from obedience in the process. Regret, too, is dangerous, as we wish we had never ended the good times but kept on living the life that was never good for us to begin with.
This scene in Numbers illustrates a profound point: collective memory enables regret and nostalgia to create mob rule instead of God rule.
What memories are you holding too dearly? How are they holding you back from the life God has for you now?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Then all the Congregation lifted up thier voice, and cried: and the people wept that night, And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron: and the whole assemblh said unto them, Would God we had died in the land of Egypt, or in this wilderness: would God we were dead. Wherefore now hath the Lord brought us into this land to fall upon the sword? our wives and our children will be a prey: were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain and return into Egypt. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the Congregation of the children of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephenneh two of them that searched the land, rent their clothes. And spake unto all the the assembly of the children of Israel, saying, The land which we walked through to search it, is a very good land. If the Lord love us, he will bring us into this land, and give it to us, which is a land that floweth with milk and honey. But rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear the people of the land: for they are but bread for us: their shield is departed from them, and the Lord is with us, fear them not. And all the multitude said, Stone them with stones: but the glory of the Lord appeared in the Tabernacle of the Congregation before all the children of Israel. And the Lord spake unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me, for all the signs which I have showed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence and destroy them, and will make of thee a great nation and mightier than they. But Moses said unto the Lord, When the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest this people by thy power from among them) Then they shall say to the inhabitants of the land, (for they haave heard, that thou Lord, art among this people, and that thou Lord, art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by daytime in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.) That thou wilt kill this people as one man: so the heathen which have heard the fame of thee, shall thus say, Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore hath he slain them in the wilderness. I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, The Lord is slow to anger, and of great mercy, and forgiving inquity and sin, but not making the wicked innocent, amd visiting the wickedness of the fathers upon the children, in the third and fourth generation: Be merciful, I beseech thee, unto the iniquity of this people, according to thy great mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this peope from Egypt, even until now. And the Lord said, I have forgiven it, according to thy request. Notwithstanding, as I live, all the earth, shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. For all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles which I did in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and have tempted me this ten times, and have not obeyed my voice. Certainly they shalln ot see the land, whereof I sware unto their fathers: neither shall any that provoke me, see it. But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit, and hath followed me still, even him will I bring into the land, whither he went, and his seed shall inherit it. Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites remain in the valley: wherefore turn back tomorrow, and get you into the wilderness, by the way of the red sea. After, the Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying, How long shall I suffer this wicked multitude to murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. Tell them, As I live (saith the Lord) I will surely do unto you, even as ye have spoken in mine ears. Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness, and all you that were counted through all your numbers, from twenty years old and above, which have murmured against me, Ye shall not doubtless come into the land, for the which I lifted up mine hand, to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your children (which ye said should be a prey) them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have refused: But even your carcasses shall wander in the wilderness. After the number of the days in which ye searched out the land, even forrty days, every day for a year, shall you bear your iniquity, for forty years, and ye shall feel my breach of promise. I the Lord have said, Certainly I will do so to all this wicked company that are gathered together against me: for in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die. And the men which Moses had sent to search the land (which when they came again, made all the people to murmur against him, and brought up a slander upon the land.) Even those men that did bring up that vile slander upon the land, shall die bya a plague before the Lord. But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunnethh, of those men that went to search the land, shall live. Then Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel, and the people sorrowed greatly. And they rose up early in the morning, and got them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be ready to go up to the place which the Lord hath promised: for we have sinned. But Moses said, Wherefore transgress ye thus the commandment of the Lord? it will not so come well to pass. Go not up, (for the Lord is not among you) lest ye be overthrown before your enemies. For the Amalakites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: for inasmuch as ye are turned away from the Lord, the Lord also will not be with you. Yet they presumed obstinantely to go up to the top of the mountain: but the Ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses departed not out of the camp. Then the Amalakites and the Canaanites, which dwelt in that mountain, came down and smote them, and consumed them unto Hormah. (Numbers 14:1-45)
- And he bard his own cross, and came unto a place named of dead men’s skulls, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote also a title, and put it on the cross, and it was written, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified, was near to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Then said the high Priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews, but that he said, I am the King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments (and made four parts, to every soldier a part) and his coat: and the coat was without seam woven from the top throughout. Therefore they said one to another, Let us not divide it, but cast losts for it, whose it shall be. This was that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my garments among them, and on my coat did cast lots. So the soldier did these things indeed. Then stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. And when Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son. Then said he to the disciple, Behold thy mother: and from that hour, the disciple took her home unto him. After, when Jesus knew that all things were performed, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, he said, I thirst. And there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar: and put it about an Hyssop stalk, and put it to his mouth. Now when Jesus had received of the vinegar, he said, It is finished, and bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. The Jews then (because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day: for that Sabbath was an high day) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken down. Then came the soldiers and brake the legs of the first, and of the other, which was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. and he that saw it, bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe it. For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, Not a bone of him shall be broken. And again another Scripture saith, They shall see him whom they have thrust through. And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) beought Pilate that he might take down the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave him license. He came then and took Jesus’ body. And there came also Nicodemus (which first came to Jesus by night) and brought of myrrh and also mingled together about an hundred pounds. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wrapped it in linen clothes with the odors, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. And in that place where Jesus was crucified, was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There then laid they Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation day, for the sepulcher was near.. (John 19:17-42)
- The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God: they have corrupted, and done an abominable work: there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that would understand, and seek God. All are gone out of the way: they are all corrupt: there is none that doeth good, no not one. Do not all the workers of iniquity know that they eat up my people, as they eat bread? they call not upon the Lord. There they shall be tkaen with fear, because God is in the generation of the just. You have a mock at the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his trust. Oh give salvation unto Israel out of Zion: when the Lord turneth the captivity of his people, then Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. Lord, who shall dwell in thy Tabernacle? who shall rest in thine holy Mountain? He that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that slandereth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor receiveth a false report against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned, but he honoreth themthat fear the Lord: he that sweareth to his own hindrance and changeth not. He that giveth not his money unto usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent: he that doth these things, shall never be moved. (Psalm 14:1-15:5)