“You gave your good Spirit to instruct [our ancestors].” —Nehemiah 9:20
I have a love/hate relationship with the past.
On the one hand, I’m fascinated by the study of history. And on an emotional level, I easily get nostalgic over time periods in the past (whether I actually experienced them or not).
On the other hand, I also fall into the trap of lazily assuming that newer is better. If I watch an old TV show or movie, I end up being surprised that people started being funny before The Simpsons went on the air.
Sometimes I treat the wisdom and experiences of generations past as precious and invaluable. Other times, I’m ashamed to say, I assume that the best ideas are probably the newest ideas.
The Scriptures don’t assume that older is better. There’s no inherent preference for old-time religion or traditional ideas. But there is an awareness that God has been in the business of acting and revealing in this world for a long, long time, long before any of the human writers or editors of the books of the Bible breathed their first breaths, and long before I breathed mine or you breathed yours.
So God will gently (or forcefully) remind us that his Spirit has been at work bringing instruction and wisdom in all the generations that have come before us. It is to our benefit—and to the benefit of those generations that will follow us—for us to learn from what God has taught our ancestors in faith. Their wisdom, experiences, and instruction are God’s gifts to us.