Antiques are popular! Perhaps some like them for good workmanship, others for their style. At any rate, shops, books, fairs and television programmes abound.
In the New Testament, if you were to look for antiques, you would immediately turn to John the Baptist. (John 1:6-8 and 19-28) Perhaps he was himself an antique, to judge by what other gospels say about his clothing and style – the “classic” Elijah-type prophet.
There hadn’t been a prophet for several hundred years, then John arrives, insisting on bringing up things from the past. The WILDERNESS: the place where a group of slaves became a nation, and a nation of God’s people, with identity, Law, and leaders. John lives in the wilderness, teaches in the wilderness, about JORDAN the original way in to the Promised Land; his baptism seems to be saying “go back to the beginning and do it right!” It’s not just individuals who have sinned, the whole society needs to repent and make a new start.
So it comes to a crisis. John has preached with some success, he has a group of disciples of his own, and then – they send a delegation. John is the son of a priest, so they send Priests and Levites. Who are you? Explain yourself! No, he’s not the Messiah, not Elijah (as Malachi 4:5 expected to return before the Day of the Lord) nor the prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15. His answers get shorter; he’s not interested in being classified. But they go on, they have to have an answer. Eventually, John quotes Isaiah 40:3 (though the Septuagint, Greek, version rather than the Hebrew), for now the voice is in the wilderness, shouting about preparing a Way for God.
John may be the antique dealer of the New Testament, going back to the old style, bringing back a fashion for wilderness, and ways in by Jordan. But he’s got his eye firmly on the situation of Judah, and the future of God’s people. He knows something is happening, and he is desperate to direct people, not to analysing his style, but to preparing for the one who will follow him.
Antiques are junk, unless they adorn modern living. John deals in religious antiques, and perhaps we ought to pay attention to his sales talk, – and buy before the price is our of our range.