Read the Bible For Life online Bible study continues this week with a discussion of week one from the workbook by George Guthrie. We are learning about the value of reading God’s Word and also different Bible translations. This week you will read week TWO in your workbook and join a small group discussion via Facebook. Welcome to online Bible study!
Cultural Context and the Bible- From a Missionary Mom (written by Stasia Nielsen)
I had never fully appreciated nor understood the importance of knowing about cultural differences until our mission trip to Thailand years ago. There were so many things to learn and I naively thought that I was prepared for it all. However, our sweet guide carefully and patiently helped us through each of the traditions and customs that we needed to understand so that our time would be as free from difficulties as possible. Without her help we would have encountered and even created problems that would have hindered what we were hoping to accomplish while we were there.
Once while exchanging currency, a coin slipped from my grip as I was counting out the odd looking money in my hand. As it rolled across the floor, I ran after it trying to stop it by stomping on it with my foot. Our little Thai guide immediately stopped me and then stooping to the pavement she collected the coin. She quietly pointed to the image of the King on the face of the coin. I did not understand the significance and urgency of her actions until we arrived back at our host home. She carefully explained that Thai people (most are Buddhists) believe that the feet are the dirtiest part of the human body and that the head is the highest place of honor. With that in mind, if you put your foot on money you are essentially showing extreme disrespect to the King by stepping on the image of his head. This was an offense punishable by law at the time.
A few days later we were traveling on a bus through Bangkok. The bus jerked and jolted us about. As the bus came to a stop, one of the girls on our team was consequently thrown from the back of the bus as she attempted to disembark. Her fall was broken by a young Buddhist monk waiting on the sidewalk. Her umbrella had become entangled in the antaravasaka, the interior part of the distinctive saffron colored robe that the monk wore. As she desperately tugged to retrieve her umbrella, he furiously called to his companions for aide. Our dear guide stepped in between them both, begging pardon in the monk’s native tongue while at the same time motioning to the shaken girl to turn and leave. Her knowledge and grace helped us out of a very dangerous situation. Apparently, the consequence of touching a woman for a Buddhist monk shamefully involved a month long ceremonial cleansing.
During this trip, we went to many meetings in nearby homes. She explained to us that we must never allow our heads to be higher than those who were older than us within a room. By keeping our heads lower than our elders, we would be showing them the proper customary respect. She also reminded us that we must not point the soles of our feet towards anyone. When we entered any home, we would have to remember all of the important things our precious guide had instructed us to do. We were treated with love and respect for honoring the customs of those we came to serve and bless.
Just as the knowledge of their customs helped us while we lived in Thailand, a proper understanding of cultural context will help us navigate through the Word of God. As a matter of fact, unless we endeavor to understand the complete context in which the Bible was written, we will fail to grasp the true meaning of what the Lord is trying to say to us through it. How grateful we can be not only for our Ever-Present Guide, but also for the availability of the resource tools we need to help us to understand the rich meaning within each passage.
As we continue our study of Read the Bible For Life, endeavor to find quality resource tools to help in your personal study of the Word of God. Such tools may include a good study Bible, a Bible dictionary or handbook, and a commentary. Keep in mind that the Bible was written over a period of approximately 1600 years by over 40 authors. There is no reason for us to stumble about with uncertainty if we come into our study times fully prepared for a rich time of learning. Finally, always pray and meditate over each passage as you study it.
“Context is the circumstances that form the setting for a passage of Scripture by which that passage of Scripture can be rightly understood.” George H Guthrie
To read more articles about the work we are doing in the missionary field please visit www.StasiaNielsen.com
Assignment For The Week
- Read WEEK TWO in your Read the Bible For Life workbook
- Download the Answers to the Viewer Guide when you click here
- Optional: Listen to the Read The Bible For Life podcasts or watch the video for week three
- If you are still waiting for your book to arrive, download week one from the workbook when you click here
Small Group Questions from page 28 in the Read the Bible For Life workbook (Post your answers here or share them in a small group this week)
- Describe someone you know who is passionate about God’s Word. What observable evidence expresses their delight in the Bible?
- What are the life space and heart space issues in your life now (see page 15 ). What adjustments would it take for you to give consistent, daily time (at least 15 to 20 minutes a day) to God’s Word?
- What translation of the Bible do you prefer? Why?
- Describe a situation where you applied a specific scripture verse to your life. How did God’s truth affect the outcome of the situation?