I just didn’t get it. I’d watch the Canadian TV news, I could understand English just fine, but I didn’t get what the report was actually about – why the reporter was dealing with a particular issue, and why it was important enough to make the evening news.
I had grown up in India, gone to college in the USA, completed a Masters degree in Israel, and had just arrived in Canada to take up my role as a pastor. English was not the problem. What I didn’t get was the context for the evening news. It took me several years to begin to understand what was going on in the bigger picture of Canada. Things like:
- How large Canada was
- The differences between East and West
- The unique situation with Quebec
- The First Nations perspective
- Oil and Alberta
Only as I came to understand this larger context of Canada did I begin to “get” what the evening news was really about. All of this was completely obvious to my local Canadian parishioners; they were surprised at my naive questions.
I was experiencing what any person entering into a new culture goes through. And that is also what happens to us when we read our Bibles. The stories are set in a particular geographical and cultural context, and even though we can read the stories in plain English, we really don’t “get” what is actually going on – why this story matters enough to make it into the Bible’s pages. When we read our Bibles, we are entering into a completely different culture. And we need help to make sense of it.
I had a similar experience entering into the Biblical culture. I had grown up in a missionary home reading the Bible, and I had completed a four-year degree with a Bible major. The Bible was clear, black and white. I had my theology all worked out.
Then I went to Israel.
I was stunned how little I knew about the Bible! There was so much more to learn. I spent a year working on a Master’s degree in “The History and Geography of Ancient Israel.” It was when I learned the larger context of the Bible that I finally “got” what was going on in the Scriptures. The Bible was now in three dimensions and colour. It all clicked into a comprehensive picture that has been a delight my entire life.
Ever since the lights came on for me and the Bible, I have had a passion to help others “get” it. I try to help them understand the geographical, cultural and historical contexts of the Bible stories in my preaching. But the best is when we go to Israel and experience it.
I am inviting you to come with me to Israel for two weeks to experience a crash course in the geography and cultural context of the Bible. We will go to the very same college I took my Masters; we will read and mark maps in preparation for the tour; we will stand at the places where Scripture happened and learn about the cultural context of the Bible. Your Bible understanding will take a quantum leap forward. From then on, whenever you read the Bible, you will have a 3-D colour video playing in your mind which makes the stories come alive in a whole new way. It is an investment that will pay rich dividends the rest of your life.
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