Things Past and Things Present

“That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See, this is new’? It has already been in ancient times before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:9,10).
I recently had an opportunity to take my first tour of a brick-making facility in Bangladesh. I was impressed with both the efficiency and the simplicity of the equipment and the process. Some fifty thousand bricks are produced every day in this one yard, using relatively little and basic equipment. A couple of conveyor belts, a smoke stack and a pile of coal were about all it took.
I could not help but think of the ancient Hebrew slaves making bricks in Egypt more than three thousand years ago. I wonder how different their process was from what I observed in the twenty-first century AD. Certainly the product is quite similar, and I suspect many of the principles of brick-making have not changed much.
It is easy for us to become enamored of our modern technology. We tend to think that no one has ever known what we know, or done what we can do. In some cases this may be true, but on the other hand, the reverse also pertains. When we view ancient wonders, we are often puzzled as to how they were accomplished. The great pyramids remain a construction marvel. King Hezekiah of Judah tunneled several hundred feet through solid rock, starting at opposite ends, and meeting in the middle without laser instruments or modern surveying tools. We could hardly improve on his results all these centuries later. All secrets have not been reserved for our age. All great accomplishments are not achieved in our civilizations.
Some have argued that the Bible itself is rendered hopelessly outdated and irrelevant by modern technology. Since our inventions were not known when it was written, how can the Bible speak to us and guide us to regulate them. Bio-engineering, cloning, artificial insemination, and other modern techniques demand ethical standards that the Bible cannot help us to establish, they argue. But is this really true? Solomon insists, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Every temptation and challenge is paralleled in previous human experience. Perhaps the technology is different, but our responsibility to God and to one another has not changed. Love of our neighbor, the sanctity of human life, and submission to the purity and holiness of God remain constant. If we keep these always foremost, solutions to modern questions will come.

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