18When the Lord finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, written by the finger of God.Exodus 31:18
1Then Moses and the leaders of Israel gave this charge to the people: “Obey all these commands that I am giving you today. 2When you cross the Jordan River and enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. 3Write this whole body of instruction on them when you cross the river to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you—a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.Deuteronomy 27:1-3
Just like other nations in the Ancient Near East, the Israelites utilized a stela to record the commands from the Lord. (See Out of the Chaos 04.01.2021 for more information about the use of stela in the ANE.) In this way, the laws governing Israel would be visible to anyone coming into the area and would immediately tell something about the God these people served. (Another item of note is that there were not many roads that went through a given area. There were only three main roads of travel and perhaps only one through between the mountains referenced in this reading. Unlike today when I can choose one of several ways to get to my desired destination.)
I always find it interesting to notice places where God uses what is common and accepted in a culture to make himself known to his people and to the world. He could have come up with something completely different so that his methods and means would stand out. But he didn’t. He used what the people already knew and were familiar with. Covenants and the format of the laws (Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20 and the chapters that follow) also follow the common format of the day.
Certainly there are ways he deviated from the culture. His laws, as I mentioned before, protected human life and dignity. His concern stretched beyond humans and included nature as well. That wasn’t the case in other nations.
Why do I mention this? First, it’s interesting to me. Secondly, if God worked within a culture then, wouldn’t he also work within culture today? At times, I am so enamored what I know about life that I expect God to work within certain parameters. It is uncomfortable to me when he doesn’t. For instance, style of worship is greatly affected by culture. I have not been to Africa, but it is my understanding that worship there is louder, filled with music, dancing and movement. Worship among the Quakers is the exact opposite. Is one right and the other wrong? I don’t think so.
Today as I ponder on this, spurred by the reading in the One Year Bible last night, I wonder. I wonder if there are ways he works through our culture. If he is not bound by any certain set of “rules,” what is he doing or wanting to do that I am missing?
My prayer today is, “Father, open my eyes to see in a new way what you are doing. Help me not to miss your activity because it doesn’t fit into my cultural box.”
What about you? Having trouble with something because it doesn’t fit? Is perhaps God just moving within the cultural understanding because he isn’t bound by time or tradition? Are you willing to have your eyes opened to something new?