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God, architecture, and culture

My thoughts were still lingering on architecture and culture this morning. In Cairo Museum, we saw a lot of coffins. Each of them has painting of some guardian creatures with wings covering a large amount of surface to symbolize protection. Our tour guide pointed out that the Ark of covenant employed the same kind of symbolism. In 1 King:

Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. (1 King 8:6)
Between these wings, the Lord met and spoke with Moses (Num. 7:89; Ex. 25:22), and between these wings was the mercy seats where God promised to appear (Leviticus 16:2). These symbols would mean nothing if the receiving end doesn’t click. But of course the Israelites understood these Egyptian symbols for living in Egypt for generations and being assimilated into their culture. God could and was willing to use pagan symbols to get His message across.

The ten plague teaches a similar lesson. Each of them is targeted to take down a pagan god of the Egyptians, like the cobra and the sun. By “speaking” their language, God showed them He is not some new god, but He is the God that is bigger than all of their deities since day one. No one compares to Yahweh.

The Gospel of John tells us that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh (John 1). Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law because He is the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Misunderstood by the Pharisees, Jesus used the analogy of the temple, knowing its significance in Jewish culture. But Jesus was referring to Himself - the Jews missed the boat. This is good example of getting the form right but the heart wrong.

Today, we could worship our earthly deities in these black box concert hall, theatre, and auditorium; nonetheless, God could use any of these to get His message across. Everything belongs to the Lord and He could reclaim and renew everything. Throughout history, the unchanging God never fails to lower Himself to our level and to speak our language in order to reach us lowly beings. Who are we to say to others that they have to raise up to our standard and/or culture in order to be reached by God and to worship God?


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