You may have heard of the possibly apocryphal tale of the Detroit manufacturer of buggy whips early in the twentieth century. Although he heard rumors of a newfangled horseless carriage that some chap called Ford was building down the road, he made no changes to his profitable business. Needless to say, he was soon out of business.
When steel eventually was discovered in the nineteenth century and began to replace cast iron, a vast part of American and British wealth that lay in the many old-fashioned foundries and iron-casting operations was tossed aside as these now obsolete operations were destroyed and replaced with early forms of steel-making furnaces. Then Englishman Henry Bessemer invented the Bessemer converter and made possible the economical manufacture of steel, which quickly replaced cast iron as the building material of choice for bridges and other constructions. All the earlier furnaces were scrapped and replaced with the faster and more efficient system.
Later, the Bessemer converter itself was replaced with the Siemens Open Hearth Furnace, which in turn was replaced in the middle of the twentieth century with the Electric Arc Furnace. Innovation, even in the mature steel industry, is not over. Mini-mills are famously encroaching on larger and less flexible operations many of whom have scrapped their plant and replaced it with several mini-mills.
We all must recognize that change is an inevitable necessity in business. Regardless of exactly how we serve our fellow humans, we need to wake up every weekday morning asking ourselves, “How has my world changed since yesterday? What should I be doing differently today?” In business, we look towards the future. Tomorrow will be different; embrace it.
In our spiritual lives, however, we embrace the past. It is our past that sustains our journeys into tomorrow’s unknown. As important as it is to face change in business, it is every bit as important to recognize that we must resist forces that try to change our spiritual realities. Those unchangeable fixed points that anchor me during the turbulent changes of life need to be protected.
Abraham, who relished the new experiences to which God exposed him, knew his unchangeables. He moved to a new land, he encountered powerful kings like Avimelech and Pharaoh, he nearly lost a son, and throughout it all, Abraham walked before God. (Genesis 24:40 & 48:15)
Is there anything in Abraham’s background that reveals him as part of a chain rather than completely forging a new path himself? Amazingly, his father, Terach, was the first person in Scripture to name a son after his own father. Nachor gave birth to Terach and Terach gave birth to Abram, Nachor, and Haran. (Genesis 11:24-27)
Not only did Terach respect the connection between the past and the future when he named his son, but he impulsively took his family on an unprecedented journey, heading toward a destination he’d never seen—Canaan. (Genesis 11:31) They didn’t make it all the way, but a generation later, following in his father’s footsteps, Abraham did. (Genesis 12:5)
Why did Terach try to reach Canaan? It was known in ancient times that the land of Canaan possessed especially close connections with God. It was where Jerusalem would be established and it would become the land of His people. Terach, perhaps in ways he didn’t even understand, wanted connection with God and his son actualized that desire. Terach gave a springboard to Abraham by recognizing the value of the past and the spiritual wealth that had been forgotten over the generations since Adam.
In matters of the body, we look towards tomorrow. Food production, medical procedures, transport, and other similar concerns are all better today than they were last year. But in matters having to do with the soul, we look towards yesterday. When it comes to how to marry and build a family, how to pray, how to raise boys and how to raise girls, yesterday’s approaches were more correct than today’s.
We find direction for all these areas in ancient Jewish wisdom. Susan and I love hosting our daily TV show on the TCT network. We have the time to delve into these topics – we hope with humor and insight. Now that the weather is turning cold we invite you to sit back and share 12 of our favorite episodes with our Ancient Jewish Wisdom DVD Set, on sale right now.