“History repeats itself” is actually a terrible misquote. It leads students to ask questions like “If history repeats itself, why do I have to learn it the first time?” No, the actually quote is “Those who do not learn history (the past) are condemned to repeat it.” Google George Santayana. The point is that if we learn from history, we can avoid making the same mistakes. Here’s an example of New Testament people not learning their Old Testament history.
Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem. Much of Israel had already fallen, yet the people of Jerusalem felt safe because that’s where the temple was located. God would never let anything happen to it. But Jeremiah had inside information. In the Old Testament, prophets acted sort of like the mouthpiece for God. They did two things; prophesied the future, and also conveyed God’s will. The prophet was more than a fortune teller; sometimes he simply spoke God’s mind to the people of Israel, letting them know what they were doing right and wrong. In Jeremiah’s case, God was sending a warning.
Jeremiah was chosen by God to be His instrument. In the first chapter of Jeremiah, we read of his calling: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:4) So we see that Jeremiah had knowledge. God was using him to convey a message to the people of Jerusalem. Jeremiah also had concern. He shared God’s message and begged people to heed the warning. He pleaded with leaders and the masses, and is known as the weeping prophet because of his grieving (see chapters 8 and 9). This prophet had knowledge and compassion, but his word was not heeded and Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar.
Fast forward a couple thousand years. Jesus was more than a prophet. The prophets at times were anointed by the Spirit of God; Jesus was conceived by the Spirit of God. He had knowledge of events past, present and future. He knew the thoughts of men’s hearts. Jeremiah in his day had compassion; Jesus had compassion that surpasses understanding. Like Jeremiah, Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He even compares himself to a mother hen that would “gather her brood under her wings,” but Jerusalem would not. (see Lk 13:34-35).
In A.D. 70, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. The Jews were relocated to major cities all across the Roman Empire, a historical event known as the diaspora. The New Testament books of James and Revelation are for certain written after the destruction of Jerusalem. This is a people that did not learn the lessons of history. Jesus not only acknowledges that they ignored the prophets, but more than once points out they killed the prophets; and Jesus himself was no exception.