Internet giant, Amazon, is famous for its frugality. This means cheap desks cobbled together from wooden doors and scraps of lumber. It also means main cabin air travel, even for senior executives, on long flights. This corporate parsimony didn’t suddenly appear from nowhere. Although he was already a senior vice president at a successful hedge fund, Jeff Bezos and his wife borrowed a car and drove themselves to Seattle to start Amazon in a garage.
Apple products are cool. Even people who don’t know the term ‘cool’ can best grasp its meaning by strolling through an Apple store. Even the Apple store is cool. Mall operators vie with one another to win an Apple store because it generates so much foot traffic. Though he was a far more talented electronic designer, Steve Wozniak left Apple after losing out to the ever-cool Steve Jobs, despite owning most of Apple’s early patents. The corporate cool of Apple didn’t suddenly appear from nowhere. Jobs beamed out cool from the earliest days in Cupertino.
Did Bezos driving an old car cross-country in 1994 or Steve Jobs wearing his black turtleneck sweater in 1976 set the pattern for the future? It is hard to be sure but it certainly seems probable. Whether you are starting a family or a factory it is worthwhile sparing some thought to what ideas will be implanted in the cultural DNA of your venture. Whether you are acquiring a business or a mate, probe early history for hints of the cultural DNA that might have been implanted that will show up years later.
We see this in Scripture. It is all but impossible to grasp fully the purpose, impact, and destiny of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem without knowing anything of its early-stage cultural DNA. When its construction is detailed in the First Book of Kings, we see an incongruous reference. Instead of dating commencement of building to the king’s reign, as would be expected, the first reference is to an apparently unlinked event nearly 500 years earlier:
And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign…he began to build the house of the Lord.
(I Kings 6:1)
Then we find an iconic phrase, Machon LeShivtecha—a place of your dwelling—appearing four times, almost like a recurring motif. (I Kings 8:13, 39, 43, 49) It is impossible to read this special phrase in Kings without being transported back to Exodus when the phrase first makes its appearance in the song that the Children of Israel sing after their triumphant crossing of the Red Sea.
A place of your dwelling…
This wording suggests that the Exodus that occurred a week earlier will only find its ultimate fulfillment in the erection of a place for God to dwell in half a millennium later. This comes as no surprise to us because Moses repeatedly assured Pharaoh that the purpose of Israel’s leaving Egypt was to worship God.
Lest we be left in any doubt that the cultural DNA of Solomon’s Temple is rooted in the Exodus from Egypt 500 years earlier, we find explicit reference to the Exodus no fewer than six times during the detailing of the Temple in the eighth chapter of the Book of Kings.
What is the connection between the Jerusalem Temple and the Egyptian experience? Before you can commit to serving God, you have to viscerally understand that only such service can liberate one from the tyranny of having to serve man. After years of Egyptian slavery, the Israelites comprehended how preferable it is to serve a loving God rather than a human tyrant. Thus, it in order to understand completely the Temple that Solomon built, we need to study the lines linking it to the Egypt experience which was part of its cultural DNA. These lines serve as an excellent reminder of how important it is to explore the cultural DNA of a person or organization’s past in order to understand its present and future.
I am quite certain that this kind of Biblically-based insight can strengthen each of us and make all our undertakings far more effective. For more practical insights from the Exodus, I ask you to go ahead, right now while the thought is still fresh, and order our audio CD, Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt.