"Give mommy hug." "Time to go nighty night." "It is hardly pertinent to me that you do not desire to repose." One of these three statements is not what you would say to a toddler. When you speak to a child, you adjust how you speak, grammar and vocabulary, so that the child can understand you. In the same way, when God spoke to the Israelites, he adjusted his speech to the culture and worldview of the people to whom he was speaking.
In the past week or so, we have read a lot of things that are difficult to understand for us. We have read of ancient laws, designs for the tabernacle, and how to consecrate priests. This all seems weird and remote to our 21st century minds. However, these things all fit into the culture of the people to whom they were originally written. Archeology had found similar laws, altars and ceremonies in the cultures that surrounded Israel. That makes sense. God had to speak to Israel in terms that made sense within their worldview.
Some people might think that God should be beyond culture. That he should have spoken in a transcendent way that was above every culture. The trouble is that we can only understand things within our culture. When I write "神爱你“, you cannot understand what I have written unless you know Chinese (or you use Google Translate). Language is one aspect of culture but there are more. All of the instructions for building the tabernacle and the furnishings for worship were speaking into the Israelite worldview. They were saying that God cared enough to enter into the culture of this ancient Semitic People in a way they could understand. He would use building materials and altars with horns that were familiar to the people. This helps us to understand why the bible sounds strange to us sometimes. Even so, the message is encouraging. Just as God spoke to the Israelites in cultural forms they could understand, he comes to us in language and cultural forms we can understand. It is one of the strengths of our faith that Christianity is translatable.
What sections of the bible that you have read so far this year have been confusing because of their cultural aspects?