In the classic movie Back to the Future, a teenager from the 1980s enters a time machine (a modified DeLorean car) and speeds down a flaming path back to the 1950s. The town is the same, but everything has changed. Girls wear ponytails and bobby socks and say things like, “Isn’t he a dreamboat!” Guys have oily, slicked-back hair and wear letter sweaters and baggy pants. As a car with white sidewall tires pulls into a service station, uniformed attendants rush out to fill the tank, clean the windshield and check the oil. Gas is 19 cents a gallon, and Cokes are 5 cents. As we watch the movie, we are struck with how odd life used to be and how much things have changed!
We also realize how many things are the same. Being a teenager is as awkward now as then. We still have school, homework, parties, friendships and first love. People still cruise down the road with their favorite music blaring from the radio. Little boys will always tease their sisters, and although Coke is no longer 5 cents, people still love to drink it. What’s so different?
We have a similar experience when we read the Bible. Many things seem strange or unfamiliar. People wear sandals, ride camels, and live in tents. They offer animal sacrifices and consider pork “unclean.” They worship on Saturday and work on Sunday. When a woman can’t have children, she allows her husband to marry her female servant. What a different world!
Of course, many things seem just the same. The people in the Bible struggle with temptation and have difficulty trusting God. So do we. We identify with Job’s suffering, even though he lived 4,000 years ago. Husbands still need to love their wives, and children still need to obey their parents. Many times we feel that the biblical writers are speaking directly to us, giving us encouragement, comfort, and hope.