I returned from Israel Saturday evening and started a summer class Monday for my teacher certificate. That's on top of my work with EE, so I'm quite busy! It’s on reading and writing; and some of the articles I’ve read explains how readers bring a variety of ideas, opinions, and prior knowledge about a topic, including their own cultural background, to their reading material. I already agreed with this, but my trip to Israel has reinforced this in my own life!
|View of the Temple Mount through the stained glass window|
at the church right at the Mount of Olives
Several people predicted that visiting the Holy Land would change my life and really make the Bible come alive like never before. I wasn’t quite sure how to imagine that. After all, I’ve been privileged to visit many amazing places on the earth; and the Bible is not a boring book to me. But as soon as I began to walk in the very places I’ve read about in the Bible and experience the environment that my Biblical heroes and heroines lived in, I knew what they meant. More than that, we were blessed to have an incredibly knowledgeable guide who shared details that brought a whole new perspective to my understanding of the Bible.
For example, at the time of Jesus, Nazareth had only a handful of families there. Mangers weren’t made of wood, but of stone. In Matt 16:18, When Jesus told Peter “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," He was talking about a real place called “the gates of hell” where the Greeks worshiped their fertility god Pan. The white-washed tombs that Jesus used as an example to the Pharisees were real tombs at the Mt. Of Olives visible from the city of Jerusalem. Pontius Pilate was not a sensitive man we should feel sorry for, but hated the Jews with a passion. When the soldiers were mocking Jesus before His crucifixion, they were playing a popular Roman game called Game of the Kings. Of course, there's more, but how's that for some background information?
|Grotto of Pan|
|White-washed tombs at Mount of Olives are in the background and|
were easily visible from the temple (further in background) when Jesus spoke
to the Pharisees.
I am reminded once again that not only did God in the form of His Son Jesus come into a context (a place called Israel 2000+ years ago), but He came for a certain people, the Jews. And what tremendous and sheer grace it is that those who are not Jewish get to be included or as He would call it, be grafted in. God has been clear in His Word that it was His plan all along to save all mankind from all nations, yet to reveal Himself through His own chosen people, Israel. What grace was shown us that when they rejected Him, He didn’t reject us (or them)! He kept to His promise and plan of salvation. So even though my own personal and cultural background may not relate to 2000-year old relics and ruins; the topography and climate of the Holy Land, nor ancient Roman or Greek society (the more I learned, the more I realized there’s so much more to learn!); our Lord still made a way for His Word to relate to me—and all—through His Spirit that surpasses time and geographical limits.
I think it’s a good reminder that this side of heaven, we will never know all there is to know about God's Word; and yet the knowledge that our Heavenly Father desires is the personal relationship that the knowledge of His Word can deepen and strengthen, but not replace. What an amazing God He is!