“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21 NIV84)
I want to make this perfectly clear from the very beginning. God does NOT want us to remember our past so that we wallow in the guilt and shame of the sinful mistakes we’ve made. From that perspective, our past is dead to Him. It died when Jesus bore those sins on the cross. God has forgiven and forgotten those sins. Our verse for today is reminding us, as the children living in the gracious providence of God, that life wasn’t always like that for us. Just as the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 430 years, we have a history of hurts and pains. We need to remember those experiences so that we do not become proud and forget how to treat people. It’s easy to begin to think that somehow we deserve the position we have in life. We need to remind ourselves that if it weren’t for the grace of God we would have nothing.
Our history matters! It helps us to properly root ourselves to our past and appreciate what God’s grace has done for us. It also allows us to appreciate where someone else may be in his or her life. It is impossible to look down upon someone less fortunate if we are reminded that we too were in that same state. We all live our lives completely reliant upon the grace of God. None of us is better than any other because of the things we have. In God’s eyes there is no distinction. We are all sinners who have fallen short of God’s expectation of us and are all freely redeemed by the death of Jesus on the cross. One last thought about the past: the past forgotten can be repeated! We ought to remember our past so that we do not repeat the failures embedded in it.