March 31, 2019—I Wish I Understood Then…

Our youthful inclinations are something!  We think back on it with regret, and joy, and wonder at the things we accomplished and the things we survived. 

There is quite the dichotomy between wisdom and knowledge and youthful indiscretion and adventure!

For example:

Someone once famously said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

Then there’s the song titled “Ooh La La,” which has this great lyric that I just love to chime into whenever I hear it,

“I wish that I knew what I know now 
When I was younger.
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger.”

And I know that I myself really enjoyed taking kids to the Christian Prom in Jacksonville FL, when Marcy and I were much, much, younger…

We would watch the shy high school boys waffle back and forth about whether they should ask the numerous wall flowers to dance, and I would encourage them…

“What have you got to lose? The worst thing they can say is no, and your no worse off than you are now, come on boys fortune favors the brave.”

But I knew I was saying that with confidence I never had at their age,

I just knew better now.

Oh I think we can all say, at whatever mature stage we have been at…I wish, that I knew, what I know now…when I was younger.  I wish that I knew, what I know now…when I was stronger…

Unfortunately, we never do, and that’s just how it is isn’t it?

All together now: Let’s hear your best Peanuts Character Imitation, “SIGH”.

Ironically enough, the children of Judea were no less ignorant of the blessing they were receiving through Isaiah’s prophecy today. 

Righteous King Azariah (Uzziah) had just died, and the celebratory singing of today’s Hymn would be very much premature. (2 Kings 15:8-11)

For King Jotham would take the throne doing right in the eyes of the Lord, “But the people still followed corrupt practices” (2 Chronicles 27:2b)

And their corrupt practices would lead to Babylonian Captivity as they lost their homeland, their place of worship, and for all practical purposes; their God.

Unfortunately, they did not know then what they would know now when they finally heard today’s, passage again in captivity.

And the truth was then, they left God; long before God ever left them.

They forgot their confession of faith in the one true God, not unlike our wandering children, who so often wander from away from the church in their youth!

They no longer trusted in the strength of Yahweh, seeking alliances with the hated Egyptians instead of trusting the might of the Lord!

Had they so quickly forgotten the Lord Almighty vanquished the armies of Pharaoh in the Red sea, only to turn to their former slave masters for protection?

And did we likewise trust the strength of friends in our youth that just used us, or betrayed us?  OR were we the awful friends that tempted innocents, to activity we would all be embarrassed by in our latter days?

Sadly, God’s children went from being people that dug life sustaining wells under their father Jacob, which irrigated fruitful farmland that fed multiple kingdoms; to becoming servants in Babylon who were forced to walk to the river Euphrates to carry jars of water for their masters and their captors.

So, many of us likewise, gave up the milk of human kindness from our family, for the liquor of lasciviousness that we loved so much it became our master!

Oh how I wish that I knew, what I know now, when I was younger.

But that was not the case with our spiritual brothers and sisters in the past, and we, likewise, have no such advantage, at least no such advantage, apart from God!

For all that we do not know, cannot not comprehend, or lack the wisdom, experience, or maturity to understand…our eternal Father does know and always knows what is best for us.

He gives us His counsel through the prophets and the apostles day after day in simple devotion to His Holy Words.

He encourages us in communities where we gather together with the songs of salvation that remind us, in the good times and the bad, our Redeemer is with us and will never leave us.

And we come together, especially in the worst of times, drawn closer, through the agony and the misery, to the company of the only one who understands the most ultimate misery of all.

This One understands the pain of watching us make our foolish immature mistakes, not because it hurts him, but because He knows we are only hurting ourselves.

This One accompanies us in our travail whispering words of comfort through compassionate friend and caring congregants.

This Holy One puts the confession on our lips, so we are no longer burdened with our youthful indiscretions and know the full forgiveness only He can give, because He paid for our debts in full.

This One is the God of our Salvation and the only strength we will ever need forever.

For He was there in the waters of the Red Sea that first baptized God’s people and set them free Physically and Spiritually.

He walked the way of the fertile crescent with the captives being dragged to Babylon, never leaving them, even though they, long ago, had abandoned Him!

And their children would see Him by Jacob’s well, ironically enough, with a woman descended from the captors who replaced their beloved taken into captivity in Babylon.

And He showed her that He would give her water far better then what she would draw from Jacob’s well; He would give her the water of eternal life. 

Then He made sure that she understood worship would no longer be in Jerusalem nor on the Mountain in Samaria but directly through Himself. (John 4:1-27)

Now In those days no one would understand why The Redeemer would ever even talk to this hated descendant, after all, this Holy One of Israel should understand, we are forever enemies with them, even though it was our sins that caused them to take our Promised Land.

They didn’t wish at all that they knew then what they knew now, because maturity rarely trumps anger, especially when it takes hold generation after generation.

Well Jesus went to Jacob’s well anyway, for our God would not be motivated by revenge, anger, or hatred, rather He knew then, and knows know, and will know forever, Joy only comes through The Jesus, who loves first and forgives everyone forever!

So easy to see in hindsight, so hard to accept in real time.

Hurting people hurt people, but how might the love of Christ heal those hurtful ones.

Children try us, and annoy us, and even drive us to drink, but how might a hug of compassion win a friend forever!

And enemies intimidate us, even threaten kill us, and at the least seek to betray us, but what if we simply destroyed them, by making them our friends!

Oh Pastor you assume too much, that’s impossible!  And you would be right, for you and me it is impossible.

But look how many times we were the harbingers of hate and hurt even to those we loved.  Look back to our petulant days of youth, and the insane things we said and did.  Look at how we were the enemies of the state, the church, and even God Himself.

And look at what Jesus did for us.  He came to us, He died for us, and on that final day He will take us to Himself. 

He knew what we all wish we knew, but because of sin, could never know, not even now without Him.

In these final days of Lent, don’t concern yourself with knowing everything there is to know, to prevent sin in the future.

Don’t concern yourself with perfect piety that cannot be had had by anyone this side of Heaven.

And don’t regret not knowing then what you know now.

Seek only to know Jesus, better than you did before in devotion to His trusted and Holy Words, and then let some else know, what you know now, that one day they might know Jesus too.