Wisdom-Trek / Creating a Legacy
Welcome to Day 1256 of our Wisdom-Trek, and thank you for joining me.
I am Guthrie Chamberlain, Your Guide to Wisdom
Mastering the Bible – Ancient Israelite Culture – Worldview Wednesday
Wisdom – the final frontier to true knowledge. Welcome to Wisdom-Trek where our mission is to create a legacy of wisdom, to seek out discernment and insights, and to boldly grow where few have chosen to grow before.
Hello, my friend, I am Guthrie Chamberlain, your captain on our journey to increase wisdom and create a living legacy. Thank you for joining us today as we explore wisdom on our 2nd millennium of podcasts. This is Day 1256 of our trek, and it is Worldview Wednesday. Creating a Biblical Worldview is important to have a proper perspective on today’s current events. To establish a Biblical Worldview, you must also have a proper understanding of God and His Word.
Our focus for the next several months on Worldview Wednesday is Mastering the Bible, through a series of brief insights. These insights are extracted from a book of the same title from one of today’s most prominent Hebrew Scholars, Dr. Micheal S. Heiser. This book is a collection of insights designed to help you understand the Bible better. When we let the Bible be what it is, we can understand it as the original readers did and as its writers intended. Each week we will explore two insights.
Mastering the Bible – Ancient Israelite Culture
Insight Thirteen: Ancient Israelite Culture Didn’t Drop From Heaven
People hostile to the Bible often attack it on the basis of the cultural customs found in its pages. For example, critics find easy targets in the Bible’s patriarchal culture, attitudes toward slavery, and social standards. In criticizing these customs, they make the fundamental mistake of not letting the Bible be what it is.
If we believe—and the Bible is very plain in this regard—that God chose the time, place, and people to prompt the writing of what we call the Bible, then the notion that God invented or inspired their culture is nonsense. They already had a culture—with many elements common to the wider world of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean.
What we see in Scripture is that the Bible presupposes culture. Biblical laws, for instance, presume the cultural practice of polygamy (see Deuteronomy. [21:15]—17 as an example), yet the Bible doesn’t require polygamy; in fact, it portrays it as negative. There are laws regarding slavery (Exodus 21), but there is no record that God installed the institution as something desirable or sanctified.
In other words, cultural institutions that we find offensive today (and rightly so) were part of the culture of the people God prompted to write Scripture. God didn’t first create their culture, nor did he insist they change their culture before using them to produce the books of the Bible. God knew what he was getting when he called Semitic people living 3,000 years ago to write Scripture. God was not the author of their culture. Only in the cases where practices are tied to Israel’s worship, such as their religious calendar, can God be viewed as an instigator.
In some fundamental respects, culture was incidental to God’s plans. God gave Israel a body of wisdom literature that laid out broad principles of justice and mercy that transcend all cultures. He kept reminding Israelites through the prophets that people from all nations would come to recognize him as the true God and therefore be members of God’s family.
This latter point has another aspect to it. God knew that his people would eventually encompass people from every nation. The point is simple but profound: the people of God are independent of culture—their identity is not bound to a single cultural expression. This is by design.
We need to consider this in the western world, especially in the United States. Our culture today is no more or less God-ordained than the ancient Israelite, or other Mediterranean cultures. God uses His children regardless of their cultural settings.
It makes little sense then for believers to presume that cultural practices in the Bible are something to be imitated for theological purposes. It is equally fallacious for critics of the Bible to pretend that the Bible can be criticized for culture. Our focus ought to be on the truth claims of the Bible that transcend culture.
Insight Fourteen: Biblical People Embraced the Idea of an Active Supernatural World
What would you think if a Christian friend confided in you that they believed they had been helped by a guardian angel? Would you expect that there was actually a more rational explanation? What if one of your kids told you about a dream they had the previous night where Jesus told them to tell you to call 911 because the elderly neighbor next door was lying on the floor unconscious? Would you go and see?
Because we live in a modern world, many of us are prone to doubt such things. We know that ancient people who lack modern scientific concepts incorrectly attribute natural things to the actions of spiritual beings. Weather is a good example. There are sound scientific reasons why droughts and floods occur, and why it rains and doesn’t rain. We feel no need to attribute these things directly to the hand of God, although we look for his providence in the circumstances of such events.
The Bible clearly teaches that angels, demons, and Satan are personal, spiritual entities. As we’ll see in other insights, those sorts of spiritual beings are not the only ones the Bible talks about. The Bible talks about several spiritual beings that interact with humanity and view the earth as their dominion.
Dr. Heiser elaborates that while Christians enthusiastically embrace their belief in the Trinity, they are far more cautious with the rest of the supernatural world. Even though most would say they believe in angels, the idea of angels genuinely interacting with us loses some support. The dark side is held at an even greater distance. Do we believe that demon possession is real? Many people today, including many Christians, consider demon possession to be a misdiagnosis of a psychiatric problem. Perhaps we might think that biblical people didn’t understand psychological disorders. This may be true to an extent, but that does not rule out true demonic control or influence.
Also consider, there are the “weird” passages that deal with the unseen world. Do we really believe that the angels who sinned (Genesis. 6:1-4) are being held hostage by God until the end times? (2 Peter 2:4-5; Jude 6; Revelation 9) Do we believe that people can contact the dead or other spiritual beings? (1 Samuel 28:1-19) How would the Old Testament prohibitions against doing these sorts of things make sense if they weren’t possible (Deuteronomy 18:9-14)?
People living in biblical times would have had no such intellectual struggles. They were predisposed to believing in an animate supernatural world that regularly intersected with their own. Is it possible that our modern Christian subcultures have trained us to think that our theology precludes these sorts of experiences? If we want to understand Scripture, we cannot think like modern skeptics.
We need to let the Bible be what it is. There is no need to protect the Bible by rationalizing away passages that we may not understand. We need to put on the author’s glasses and see it from their perspective. It would be good for us to learn what Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”
That will conclude this week’s lesson on another two insights from Dr. Heiser’s book Mastering the Bible. Next Worldview Wednesday, we will continue with two additional insights. I believe you will find each Worldview Wednesday an interesting topic to consider as we build our Biblical worldview.
Tomorrow we will continue with our 3-minute humor nugget that will provide you with a bit of cheer and help you to lighten up and live a rich and satisfying life. So encourage your friends and family to join us and then come along with us tomorrow for another day of our Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.
If you would like to listen to any of our past 1255 treks or read the Wisdom Journal, they are available at Wisdom-Trek.com. I encourage you to subscribe to Wisdom-Trek on your favorite podcast player so that each day’s trek will be downloaded automatically.
Thank you for allowing me to be your guide, mentor, and, most of all, your friend as I serve you through the Wisdom-Trek podcast and journal.
As we take this trek together, let us always:
- Live Abundantly (Fully)
- Love Unconditionally
- Listen Intentionally
- Learn Continuously
- Lend to others Generously
- Lead with Integrity
- Leave a Living Legacy Each Day
I am Guthrie Chamberlain reminding you to Keep Moving Forward, Enjoy Your Journey, and Create a Great Day Everyday! See you tomorrow!