I personally cannot think of any longer series of sermons, Bible class lessons, books, or articles that can possibly be drawn from a single verse contained in God’s Word, than that of what the beloved Apostle Paul divinely penned in Romans 15:4. The text reads, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Just think of the almost endless Bible lessons you and I could “milk” from this one verse!
Since Paul had just quoted from a portion of Psalm 69:9 in verse 3, we know that the word “aforetime” was referring to the things recorded in the Old Testament. Hence, the lesson here is quite simple, though most important: If Jehovah God caused a
number of things to be recorded in the Old Testament “for our learning,” then He is telling us and all others constituting mankind to study and not only learn them, but to also learn from them. We are to profit from those who lived righteously as that being how to live, as well as heeding a warning from those who lived ungodly as that telling us how not to live.
How true and full of wisdom are the following two pieces of advice: (1) Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and (2) Perhaps one reason history keeps repeating itself is because mankind keeps on making the same mistakes. If I see with my own two eyes—-that which is unavoidable evidence right in front of my nose—-what the consequences are that many have suffered due to drug abuse, alcoholism, smoking, dipping snuff, children born out of wedlock, lying, stealing, cheating, infidelity, etc., and I commit one or more of these very same things myself, then what is the obvious fact here? While I have, saying once again, learned all of this, I have not learned from all of this by seeing others suffer from their own wrong doings. Such is equivalent to hitting one’s self on the head, yelling “ouch,” while one keeps right on hitting one’s self on the head! However, do we not all fall under this category from time to time?
Paul speaks in a similar fashion when writing his first epistle to the church at Corinth. When mentioning some of the journeys of the Israelite nation following their crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness due to unbelief, idolatry, fornication, and tempting God in the process, (Numbers 14–Joshua 2), along with their eating of manna while in the wilderness (Exodus 16), Paul declares, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon which the ends of the world are come” (I Corinthians 10:11). So, where you and I are concerned as regards to the times in which we live, we are to learn from the entire Bible as to what is needing abstinence from, as well as what we are to do. After all, if we claim to follow Christ, remember that He did, as well as did not, to be sure. The middle of Acts 10:38 says of our Saviour, “who went about doing good.”
In Romans 15:4, Paul also stated “whatsoever.” Therefore, anything and everything we read about in God’s Pages, I mean to say from Genesis 1:1, all the way through to Revelation 22:21, contain words recording people, places, events, happenings, sins, commands, and pleadings that “were written for our learning.” Not one thing is stated from which we exempt from drawing some kind of a worthwhile and humble lesson! The Psalmist taught that very thing: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word shows us where we presently are, then leads us in the path we need to continually go while still in this physical life. The critical question is: Are we going to heed what God says?
While none of us can claim perfection to always listening to God and those around us concerned about our welfare, therefore, not learning the hard way, I find another question that manifests itself before us: Do we ever learn? Yes, we do for sure, either often or from time to time, make the same mistake twice—-and no doubt much more. Though that be true, still, somewhere along the line there has to be that “cut off,” when it comes to those sins that can truly be permanently corrected. Too, we must admit that there have been those errors avoidable the first time around.
Pride often gets in the way of decent learning and progress, as does stubbornness. Nonetheless, if something is sinful, that something is also harmful, and nobody on the topside of God’s earth can change that, for our Creator has set that fact in perpetual motion, both in His laws of Nature, as well as in His Holy Word. What is more, if something does not work after one or more attempts, it definitely continues to not work, nor will such ever be otherwise! One illustration of a fool is someone who tries the same thing repeatedly, with the expectation that the end result will turn out differently. Much is said about the life and attitude of a fool in the book of Proverbs. I challenge the reader to investigate that book. Perhaps you, like me, have seen your own reflection in some of those verses! Yet once again this writer says, we learn from the Bible, as well as learning the Bible. To learn, but not learn from, is as useless as digging a hole with one hand, then turning right around and filling that same hole with the other hand.
Indeed, the words are conclusive: “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.”