The Past: Learning From or Running From?

January 14, 2001

How many of you are familiar with the Disney movie, The Lion King?

Let me share a brief summary of the storyline so that all of us can understand what I want to point out in a moment.

The Lion King is the story of a young lion named Simba and his life and family and friends. His best friend is a young lioness named Nala, his father is Mufasa, and his uncle is Scar.

Mufasa is the King, as the story opens and Simba, not Scar, becomes the next in line behind Mufasa. That does not sit well with Scar who devises a plan to get rid of both Mufasa and Simba.

Well the plan succeeds and Mufasa is killed by a stampede of wildebeests that is created by Scar’s three henchmen hyenas – Banzai, Shenzai, and Ed. Simba escapes death but is put to flight by Scar who blames Simba for his father’s death.

Simba runs for his life from the three hyenas and escapes death again when two new friends, Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog, rescue him from the desert heat.

Simba becomes friends with these two lovable creatures and one day encounters a lioness on the hunt for food and with Pumbaa in her sights. The lioness is Nala.

Well, Nala tells Simba about the condition of his family and pride and reveals in her comments of his place and authority as the real king that take Timon and Pumbaa by surprise.

Well Simba has some real soul searching to do as he wrestles with whether or not to return to his pride and attempt to take back his rightful place as King or spend the rest of his life being chased by the shadow of shame that haunts him.

He makes the decision to return and, with the help of his friends and family, takes back his rightful place as king and learns the truth that he is not responsible for the death of his father – his uncle Scar is responsible.

There is one other character that I have yet to mention, Rafiki, the wise baboon. Rafiki, in my opinion is the most spiritual character in the entire movie. He sees things and knows things and hears things and understands things that no one else does.

He is the first to discover, in a way that only someone like Rafiki can, that Simba is still alive. He confronts Simba after he is reunited with Nala with the truth that he still is Mufasa’s boy.

A hard and tumultuous struggle begins within Simba, and in one of the printed versions of the storyline, the following dialogue takes place between Rafiki and Simba.

“After a moment Rafiki joined him. “The weather. Very peculiar-don’t you think?” “Yeah. The winds are changing.” “Ah, change is good.” “Yeah, but it’s not easy. I know what I have to do, but going back means I’ll have to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.” “The past can hurt, but you can either run from it or learn from it.” Simba looked at Rafiki and smiled. Then he headed for the Pride Lands.”

One of the issues that is raised for me in this movie, is “how are you going to deal with your past?” Simba is presented with two ways to deal with his  – one is embodied in the message of Pumbaa and Timon ‘Hakuna Matata’ – no worries and the other is presented in the just mentioned segment with Rafiki. Simba tries both but only one brings the inner peace that he needs.

As I shared last week, we are starting on an 8 week journey that will helpfully and hopefully help you to dare to dream again God’s dreams for your life by breaking through the barriers that hold us back from experiencing the future that God has already given to us and waits to help us possess.

The first barrier concerns our past. It may be the hardest barrier to overcome because it is the most personal of the 8. But, just as God has helped the Israelites overcome their past, He stands willing and ready to help us overcome ours!!!

Wait a minute. Let me rephrase that last paragraph. God stands willing to help us overcome those parts of our pasts that keep us from embracing the future that He has for us.

Last week I shared the story of the Israelites who stood on the threshold of the future that God had already given to them. They carried a lot of stories with them into the Promised Land. Those stories were a part their history, their past. Why were they important to remember? They were important to remember because they would serve as reminders of God during the future that Israel and her people would experience.

One such story that they would carry with them is a story about the past and whether or not you choose to run from it or learn from it. It takes up 13 chapters of Genesis, basically the last 13 chapters of that book, and is the story of Joseph and his brothers.

When Joseph faces his brothers for the first time in chapter 42, he has to make a decision about his painful past and those who made it painful. Forgive and begin to let go or hang on and get back at them.

Joseph ultimately choose to forgive and begin to let go and as we read chapters 42, 43, 44, and 45 we see a process of letting go of the past and allowing God to have His way.

When Joseph meets his brothers as recording in chapter 42 he treats them harshly. He accuses them of being spies, arrests and imprisons them for three days, then tells them that all but one of them will be allowed to go free and return home with their grain only to bring their youngest brother back.

But, he also hears their cries of pain from their past, though they don’t know he speaks their language. He hears his name spoken by them and the troubled ness of their souls as they link the trouble they are in to his death.

But, Joseph can’t bear to hear more and so He leaves their presence for a moment and weeps. Why? Maybe he struggles between letting go of the past and forgiving or hanging onto the past and pay his brothers back for what they did to him.

Well he lets all of them, except Simeon go free with grain. And in their presence, ties Simeon up. Maybe it was the way he was tied up years before as they stood and watched.

But, then he does something interesting. He secretly has their money placed back in their sacks of grain, at the top of the sack, where they discover it on the journey home and which creates further fear in them and their father Jacob.

More time passes. Simeon sits in Egypt where Joseph might have seen him every day. I wonder how hard it was for Joseph to sit there day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, perhaps, and see his brother in the same situation that he had been in. I wonder if there were moments of wanting to release him and kill him.

As we move into chapter 43, the famine grows worse and finally Jacob relents and allows them to take Benjamin with them back to Egypt in the hopes of more grain and getting back Simeon and Benjamin.

They return to Joseph who meets his younger brother for the first time. Once again, he removes himself from their presence as we ready in Genesis 43:30 as is “overcome with emotion for his brother and wanted to cry.” Why?

Maybe it was perhaps the joy of seeing him for the first time. Maybe Joseph was growing tired of keeping his identity a secret. Maybe he was wearying of wanting revenge and instead was thinking about his father and maybe even was beginning to think that God brought this whole situation about for their good, for their survival as he would say in a few chapters.

Well he releases them to go back but has his silver cup placed in Benjamin’s grain sack and has them stopped and searched. Well, for the brothers it was another bad situation. This time their second youngest brother was in dire straights.

What was going to happen to them? What was the Egyptian now going to do to them?

Joseph, as we read in verse 17, makes Benjamin his slave. But, then Judah steps forward and makes a statement that I think forces Joseph to make a decision about what is going to do with his past. I am going to read both Judah’s statement starting with verse 11 of chapter 44 and concluding with Joseph’s response up to verse 8 of chapter 45:


Two sentences stand out in that segment. “Joseph could stand it no longer.”

I think he couldn’t stand it in two ways: 1. He couldn’t stand the emotional strain of keeping his identity hidden. 2. He couldn’t stand to keep holding on to his past.

The second phrase is “God has sent me here to keep you and your families alive so that you will become a great nation.” These brothers share the same father but not the same mother. Joseph understands that their lineage is part of a great nation. That is confirmed in Matthew 1:2 where we read Jesus family tree and see Jacob, his father’s name and Judah, his brother name listed in that verse.

But that’s quite a statement to make about your painful past isn’t it? How many people do you know could say that about their painful past? “God sent me here to keep you alive!”

I think that Joseph made the decision to let go of his painful past the moment he revealed his identity to his brothers. And the brothers began to let go of their painful past the moment that both the acknowledged the truth about Joseph in chapter 42 and when Judah made his statement in chapter 44.

What about you this morning? Are you willing to let go of your painful past? Are you tired of looking over your shoulder and seeing the shadows of shame and guilt, of sorrow and despair, of anger and resentment right behind you?

That song that Susan sang earlier was a song that came to my mind in the days just after the building, which housed my former congregation, burned on December 6, 1999. It helped me to mourn and grieve the loss of a place that had seen Jonathon and Daniel dedicated to God, numerous youth activities, discussions, and events my ordination service, and many other memories take place.

That song is a song of hope. It is a song that says that the past does not have to keep us from getting back up and moving forwarding into the future that God has for us. It is a song that says to us, God brings good out of the terrible, peace out of the trouble, hope out of the hopelessness.

I would again remind you this day, God has a future for you. But, for you to start embracing that future, you have to let go of your painful past and allow God to bring healing out of the ashes of sin and disobedience, out of the dust of disappointment, out of the fog of failure.

As we conclude this morning, we are going to listen to Crystal Lewis’ wonderful rendition of Beauty From Ashes.

If you are tired of carrying the burden, the pain, the loneliness of your past, I invite you to let it go, give it to God, and let Him heal you, forgive you, restore you so that you can begin to possess the future that he already has for you. I will not say that it will be easy or an overnight event, but I do believe that you will never regret doing it.


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