Teaching History as HIS Story

When I was a student history seemed boring. Over and done. Pointless lists of dates and wars and people long dead—events that had little to do with my own life. History only became fascinating when I began to see events as scenes in HIS story (HIStory)—God revealing His ultimate purposes through time. As it turns out, God is a master storyteller!

Most classic stories begin, “Once upon a time” (or, “In the beginning, God”) by describing an original story-world—an ideal world in which often the key characters do not appreciate what they have until it is lost. We identify with characters who want things they cannot have. Sometimes their desires set in motion an unintended series of events, and other times they are victims of some evil force, but however the crisis comes about, our characters are shoved into a situation they are unprepared to face. They have a problem that must be solved, and life cannot go back to the way it was before. Just as adventure enticed Bilbo to leave the shire and boredom lured four children through a wardrobe and into Narnia, Adam and Eve were tempted to abandon their walks with God in His garden and instead decided good and evil for themselves.

The longest part of any story is the middle. This is the part where the characters change and grow. When they first recognize their crisis, they try one scheme after another to escape. They experience conflict, hardship, discouragement, and finally reach the dark moment when they realize there is only one way out. Bilbo struggled with fear and self-doubt until he summoned the courage to face his dragon. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy fled from the White Witch until they met Aslan and gained the strength to vanquish the witch.

Mankind is now in the middle of God’s story. Unable to return to Eden, we need to be redeemed and restored to relationship with our Creator. As any good storyteller will tell you, every event in the middle of the story builds in some way toward the happily-ever-after ending. God’s story is no different. Every event, past and present, works together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Such is the journey of each civilization and each individual. Of course, the Author and Perfecter of our faith has known from the beginning how HIStory will end.

HIStory is wonderfully complex, repeating universal themes on multiple levels. When we look for those themes, HIStory automatically brings biblical truth into personal perspective. We see, for example, that choices have consequences and that we often make poor choices without realizing it. (“There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death.” Proverbs 14:12, 16:25) We realize that just as Adam and Eve had access to God’s wisdom as they walked with Him in the garden, we have access to it today as we make our own decisions. (“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5) We understand that there is a correlation between obedience and blessing for individuals and for nations. (“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14) Many such concepts are illustrated over and over in HIStory—so often that once we grasp them, we see them everywhere. These are the concepts we must look for and train our children to recognize.

Fortunately, we live in a nation and in a state founded on biblical principles. Many revisionists would argue, but facts are stubborn things. If we read original-source documents that contain our Founders’ thoughts in their own words, their motivations are plain enough. Were they perfect? No, they were human. Was their faith orthodox? Not always. Though God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now we know in part, but then we will know fully just as we also have been fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12) We are each a product of our own era, but this is exactly the way God reveals Himself to bring about individual growth and to redeem a people for Himself.

The blessings Americans have experienced are a consequence of our Founders’ determination to establish a new nation built on godly principles and the faithfulness of successive generations. For this we are grateful, but it is God who blesses, prospers, and saves. Be careful not to confuse patriotism with faith. HIStory is about His people: Israel and Christendom. If we hope to present His full story, we will have to acknowledge that no good character is entirely without faults, just as no villain is entirely without hope. It is the same with nations. The hero of HIStory is not man, but God. His plan is to redeem for Himself not only America, but people from every nation.

I encourage you to approach whatever era of history you teach in the context of HIStory—the story of a God worthy of glory (Revelation 4:11), a Brother sent to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10), a Father in search of people who will worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23) God tells wonderful stories, and in HIStory He has given us a wonderful gift.