Making Sense of the Mess

Making Sense of the Mess

Friends, I invite you to share your comments on these Afterthoughts at the bottom of this web page. I would love hear what you think! brad+

Sometimes the readings from the lectionary are straightforward.

Sometimes they are not.

Sometimes they are related to one another.

Sometimes they are not.

Sometimes there are things found within them that are hidden gems,

lost because of the stories being rooted in a different time, culture and context.

And sometimes, what we see helps illuminate the world we live in

and the current geo-political climate. 

This is true of the Old Testament reading from Sunday,

that shows us when the Children of Israel entered into the Promised Land.

The scene is set and Moses,

the great leader of Israel,

The reluctant go-between for God with His people,

The mouthpiece of God with a speech impediment,

Is getting a glimpse of the Promised Land.

This is as close as he would get though.

Because of his disobedience, he would not be able to enter.

He was the last of his generation.

All the others had died wandering in the wilderness because of their disobedience.

(Which was different than Moses’ by the way).

And what a view Moses and the Children of Israel must have had.

From the plains of Moab looking westward

into the land that God had promised to their forefathers.

Joshua, Moses successor,

and the Children entered into the Promised Land from the Trans Jordon area

(east of modern day Israel) into a land they would establish as their homeland.

To you and I and to Christians in general, this story has meaning because it describes a major transition in the story of God’s people. It is the fulfillment of a promise by the God of Creation to make Abram into a nation and take him and his family to a place that they did not know, a land flowing with milk and honey. It is the completion of a major narrative arc within the larger story of God’s people.

But it is so much more than that for modern readers.

It establishes Israel in this land in the 1400s BC. Some 3400+ years ago.

This makes a difference in the current conversation about the legitimacy of Israel being in that land at this time in history. They are, without a doubt, the indigenous people of that land whose continuous presence in that land predates any other people groups.

(read further for the implications of this statement as it is not intended to support any “side” in this current conflict)

But why all the trouble?

Why is there so much hostility between Israel

and much of the Arab world around that region?

It goes back to Abraham.

If you remember the story of Abram and Sarai

(later to become Abraham and Sarah),

they had no children.

The man who God promised to make into a great nation had no children.

At 85, Abraham had no children.

No sons as heirs to the promise.

And he and his wife became impatient.

So much so that Sarai gave her maidservant, Hagar, to her husband to give him a child. And Hagar became pregnant. This did not settle well with Sarai and she became jealous and treated Hagar poorly. Hagar fled and an angel of the Lord greeted her as she fled.

The angel bids her to return back to Sarai and submit to her.

And the angel also speaks about this son soon to be born,

“You are now pregnant
    and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
    for the Lord has heard of your misery.
He will be a wild donkey of a man;
    his hand will be against everyone
    and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
    toward all his brothers.”

Genesis 16:11-12

And further it is written about Ishmael,

“And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.”

Genesis 17:20

And so why is all of this important and how does this relate to the current situation in the Middle East and Israel in particular?

As I stated earlier, the Israelites are the indigenous people who have lived in that land the longest (3400+ years).

And this addresses a geo-political reality of possession to a certain extent.

But a much deeper issue is uncovered when we think about Isaac and Ishmael.

Isaac was the son of the promise.

Ishmael was the son of the slave woman.

Both were blessed by God and made into a great nation.

But, there would trouble forever.

Jealousy.

Bitterness.

Coveting.

Deception.

Hostility.

Sound familiar?

It is a theological reality from some 3400+ years ago playing out in front of us.

In real time.

All because of the sin of Abram and Sarai.

Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Choices matter.

Our choices matter.

To tie it back into Sunday’s sermon about loving God and others,

The act of being unloving can have lasting negative consequences.

A major impact.

Hatfield and McCoy stuff.

Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.

The conquest of the Americas by Western Europeans, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and the resultant race tensions between (now) Blacks and Whites.

The British Mandates and UN Mandates after both WWI and WWII.

And on and on.

And the choices that are made daily by you and by me.

By those we love and care for.

And although the impact of this sin is not on the grand geo-political scale of the current conflict in the Middle East, it is every bit as destructive.

It destroys families.

(Look into the ACE studies on the CDC website and the impact of sin)

Puts people at odds with one another.

Gets us away from loving one another.

And loving God.

And seeing the bigger picture.

That there is a God Who loves us,

Who has loved us

And Who continues to love us.

In spite of ourselves.

So that we might be “the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

May we love God with everything we have.

May we love our neighbor in a way that reflects our love for God.

May we live into the promise as the Bride of Christ.

The Church.

The People of God.

Blessings,

brad+

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