I’ve been reading this book written by this interesting woman and, even though it’s not really the best book I’ve ever read, the message, the concept really, is brilliant. The woman who writes this book takes four separate trips to four distinct places to discover what the Lord meant when he breathed life into specific Biblical stories. She visits a shepherdess in Oregon, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in Colorado, and a wine-maker in California. In each instance she gathers a bushel of Biblical references specific to each of those occupations (or sometimes the end product of those occupations) and seeks for context from the people who would understand them best.
For example, did you know God’s commandment to rest on the Sabbath was extraordinarily difficult for farmers because, if the weather outside was nice, taking a day off could mean the difference between a good and bad crop? And did you know God’s commandment for the best livestock to be sacrificed was a source of tension for shepherds because it can take generations (decades) to breed an ideal sheep? Or did you realize that when God talks about leading the Israelites into “a land flowing with milk and honey” that meant a land that, essentially, had perfect conditions and a perfect landscape? Or that the shortest amount of time it takes to make a decent bottle of wine is 8 years, underscoring the phenomenon (as if it needed it) of Jesus’ water to wine miracle.
I guess I’ve never really considered the historical context God gave to the Bible. To borrow some research from the book, we’ve almost always been an agrarian society so for God to provide metaphors that related to agriculture and the land was a way of Him saying “here’s something you can understand, know this, feel this, let me be your God.” The book really captured me because it’s so hard for Americans in 2010, in our computer-centered and automobile-dependent culture, to fully understand the agricultural metaphors of the Bible. In fact, they weren’t even really metaphors, they were just stories about life, as if Jesus came to earth in 2010 and talked to us in terms we understand like “Macbook” or “suburban” or “cnn.com”
I suppose all of this begs the question, do our scientific and technological advances help or hurt our ability to understand God the way He wants us to understand Him? I’m not saying they hurt because for us to have the ability to Skype with missionaries anywhere on earth or microlend to foreign entrepreneurs via Kiva or read the Bible literally anywhere we can take our phones is for us to worship God. I just think the question needs to be asked…