In the biblical text of Hosea, we read the following words in Hosea 4:1
Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites, because the LORD has a charge to bring against you who live in the land; “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgement of God in the land”.
Here is an ancient text, written in an antique language a couple of thousand years ago. Why read it? Why do all that work to make sense of something so far removed from our fast-paced, quick-info, data-driven times? Surely there are better ways to figure out how to live well in 21st century societies?
We are often told that newer is truer; that later is greater. We are immersed in a spirit of cultural superiority that assumes old things are inferior things and we don’t need either the lessons of history or the weight of ancient wisdom to get by in our rapid-fire times.
Perhaps we need to slow down and think again. Truth speaks powerfully across all generations. It abides not only in words but in the lives of people of integrity who have gone before us. If the everlasting God has spoken through people and events throughout history, we do well to keep listening.
Jesus told a couple of folks in his time that they were “thick-headed” and “slow-hearted”[i] because they did not understand what ancient prophets like Hosea had written.
It is not so much that wisdom and truth are “timeless” as that they are always “timely” – always rich and fertile as the grounds out of which human life will flourish. In the strange and challenging days of the 21st century, we do well to attend again to the words of an ancient prophet who spoke boldly to a previous generation that desperately needed to hold on to truth and hope. And as Hosea asserts, when faithfulness, love and acknowledgement of God are absent from cultures and nations, we are in deep trouble. We must take the time and do the work to immerse ourselves in ancient writing for modern living.
[i] Luke 24:25 as translated in The Message.