Friday, September 26, 2014

Peace in the Middle East- Will it Ever Come

Jewish People are Scattered The history of the Jewish people from the time they entered the Land of Promise to this very day is one of survival and persistence. During the history of the settlement of the promised land the Jewish people display the very human traits of obedience to God and obedience to a corrupt society.

After the death of Kings David and Solomon the Jewish people have all but forgotten their covenant with God. Even though they have forgotten the covenant, God has not. He will use circumstances and human failing as tools to remind the Jewish nation of His place in their life and in the flow of history.

During the time of disobedience and religious corruption a prophet tells of the division of the Land of Promise. Ten tribes will form the Northern Kingdom, called Israel and the two remaining will become known as the Kingdom of Judah. It will not take long until the brothers of Jacob are at such severe odds with each other that hatred against brother is common.

God will have His way in the affairs of mankind and it is He who allows all of this to take place. Soon armies from the land of Arabia and Persia invade and destroy the Land of Promise. The Jewish people are led away as slaves, dispersed into lands far from the Land of the Covenant.

Obedience to God is more relevant than time so He allows the Jewish people to learn some very hard lessons. After years of slavery two men come to the forefront to bring a sense of hope to the dispersed Jews. Nehemiah and Ezra, at two different locations, receive permission from their captors to return to Jerusalem.

Nehemiah returns with permission and access to supplies to rebuild the wall around the holy city. Ezra receives permission and access to supplies to rebuild the city and temple. At the completion of the rebuilding projects a great religious awakening takes place in the lives of the Jewish people.

The Old Testament comes to close with prophets warning the people that they must stay dedicated to God or corrective actions from God will follow.

The New Testament finds the religious life of the Jewish people controlled by corrupt and greedy leadership. The common people suffer under the hand of the Romans and their puppet Jewish leaders. Around forty years after the death of Christ the Jewish Zealots rebel against Roman rule and the city of Jerusalem is destroyed and the Jewish population flees.

More than 1800 years later the United Nations divides Palestine and in 1948 the Jewish people once again find a homeland with their name attached to it.

Now as to the final thoughts on this topic. It is my view that peace will never come to the Middle East, until the hateful character of man comes under the control of the, God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and His Christ. God alone can change the character of man and cure the evil within the human heart.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

God Ordained Meeting

God Ordained Meeting- Donna and I like to take a few hours and travel through the small towns of Northwest Ohio and Northeast Indiana. Today was such a day. She had just finished up at her doctors appointment and the sun was shinning and the temperatures were in the mid sixties. I point the minivan in a southerly direction and soon we were south of a few familiar Ohio towns.

Following US127 we ended up in the quaint town of Bryan Ohio. I always keep an eye out for buildings with striking architecture and the city center building was exceptional. Red brick structures were the norm around here for more than a hundred and fifty years. The building was striking in its lines. The clock tower was simply awesome.

Driving past the city center Donna spotted her favorite building style as well. The sign on the front of the store advertised used clothing as part of a local churches ministry to the city. I drove right past it, which is what I usually do. However, this time I asked her if she would like me to turn the corner and come back. I didn't wait for the answer.

We were sitting in front of the second hand store and I was busy playing(working) on my small electronic magical invisible wave grabbing telephone, email machine, solitaire playing, search engine, fruit phone. About five minutes later, not much time in the world of second hand shops, Donna came out to the van with tears in her eyes.

That usually means she has just connected with someone just like her mom, or she was watching a little baby. Neither was true. She came  out to tell me that a lady in the store lived in Zambia. Her and her husband are missionaries and just happened to stop in the store.

A moment later her husband came out and introduced himself to me. Steve is his name. He is in his mid seventies, tanned and gray. For the next hour we shared stories and the miracle unfolded. He knew many of the same people that we knew and worked with. He was friends with a Zambian man who was our neighbor for close to a year. He experienced many of the same situations. He had malaria, more times than I did. He survived a bite from a Black Mamba.

They are currently raising their funds for their work by visiting supporting churches throughout Northern Ohio and Southern Michigan. His wife is a nurse and her current ministry is with orphans and widows in the Copper belt region of Zambia.

Now what are the chances of all of this happening by accident? We have met many folks from Africa, it is a big place, not many at all from the Texas sized country of Zambia, and never anybody that knew so many of the people we knew and worked with. Certainly it was a God Ordained Meeting.
We will stay in touch, in the real near future in fact. God didn't bring us together just to chat.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Peace in the Middle East/8

Joshua leads the Jewish people into their land of promise. After more than 600 years of waiting, slavery and struggle the People of God are standing at the edge of their inheritance. With the Ark of the Covenant in full view, the entire nation, the Children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob cross the Jordan River on dry ground.

To commemorate the Hand of God and to remind the Jewish people Joshua commands two memorial sites to be erected. The first site is on the freedom side of the river. A representative from each tribe was to carry a stone from the middle of the river over to the freedom side. There the twelve stones were stacked to form a memorial. The purpose, according to Joshua, was to be a reminder of the Hand of God in delivering the Children of Israel to their land of promise.

The second memorial was built by Joshua himself. The memorial was built in the middle of the Jordan River, right where the feet of the priests stood holding the Ark of the Covenant. This unseen memorial was to celebrate all of the miracles, the unseen and the seen, that God showered upon the Jewish Nation.

Settling in the new land was filled with struggles and battles. God promised Joshua that no army would be able to stand against him as long as the Jewish people stayed true to the, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. City after city fell to the leadership of Joshua. His obedience to God still stands as the Warrior Leader of newly liberated Jews.

To the Southeast Joshua faces a battle with a people that have hated the new nation since the days of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael. Four hundred years before the Jews found their freedom Isaac's son, Esau, left his father and made a deal with Ishmael.

The promised land is divided into tribal names and each son of Jacob is honored by the land designation. At this point in the history of the Jewish nation God has kept His promise to the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It will be up to them to keep their part of the covenant, insuring peace and prosperity.

The children of Ishmael and Esau have filled the land of the Arabian Peninsula. Their animosity and hatred towards the Jews is passed down through oral tradition. Generation after generation is taught of the life of Hagar and Ishmael and how Sarah mistreated them.

In the same way, the oral tradition of the Jewish people kept alive their miraculous story. Another aspect of Jewish tradition was the care kept in their worship. The Pentateuch, first five books of Moses, were revered as God inspired. Later writers would record, as did Joshua, the life of the Jewish nation.

The Jews had great times of enjoying the blessings of God. They also had horrific times of abandoning their God and becoming involved in the pagan practices of the people surrounding them. Their stubbornness and rebellion against God led to the Promised Land becoming the Partitioned Land.

Armies from the east conquered the land and took the Jewish people away as slaves. The voice of the prophets would call them to repentance and they would call out for forgiveness and restoration. God kept His covenant and brought them back to their land. The circle of rebellion against God and repentance towards God became common in the Jewish nation.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Peace in the Middle East- Will it Ever Come/7

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the Patriarchs. Moses stands next to the three patriarchs as the greatest men in the history of Israel and the Jewish people. The story of his life being spared from certain death to his encounter with God in the desert sets him apart as one of God's transformed leaders.

The book of Exodus gives us the story of the leadership of Moses. Once he had encountered God in the burning bush he was a servant with a mission. His mission was to be obedient to God by delivering messages to Pharaoh and leading the Jewish people to freedom.

The plagues pronounced upon the land of Egypt was the direct result of the Pharaoh's resistance to God's message through Moses. The plagues end with the awful slaying of all Egyptian first born males.

Four hundred years of slavery and the unfulfilled promise of the covenant are coming to an end. Moses leads the Jewish nation out of Egypt. Some scholars estimate the number of Jews leaving Egypt to be close to three million. A conservative estimate is at least one and one-half million. Now the people of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are close to realizing the dream that survived slavery, hardship and the death of infants.

Standing at the edge of the Red Sea the water must have seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. With an enraged army in pursuit terror must have been stealing the breath out of the people. Moses commands the people to prepare themselves to, "See the Salvation of our God". The Red Sea parts and the Jewish people experience, again, the mighty hand of God.

Every man, woman, child, goat, sheep, camel, dog and cat that left Egypt was now closer to Canaan that at any other time in four hundred years. The promise of the covenant was only a few days away and it was theirs for the taking.

Except, Moses was leading a nation of people that were stubborn, resistant and sinful. What could have been their immediate future, the land of Milk and Honey, would have to wait for forty years. God was always ready to keep His part of the covenant. He would make the Jewish people a blessing to the world, give them their own land and be their God. Their part was to obey and honor Him.

Due to rebellion and an unwillingness to listen to Moses the Jewish nation paid a heavy price. The promise of the land and a great posterity would have to wait until every rebellious man died in the forty years of walking in circles in the wilderness of the Sinai.

The importance of Moses leading the Jewish people out of slavery and bondage is paramount to the people of Israel. They hold to the stories of their rescue, their deliverance, their crossing the Red Sea, as proof of the, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, choosing them as, His Chosen People.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Peace in the Middle East- Will it ever Come/6

Jewish people claim their heritage back to the age of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Jacob is the father of twelve sons. His son Joseph was despised by most of his brothers and their hatred led to his slavery. Proving his wisdom Joseph finds favor and becomes the second in command of all of Egypt. Famine strikes the lands and Jacob sends his sons to find refuge in Egypt. Unbeknownst to the son's of Jacob their evil scheme was to be used by God for the salvation of their entire family.

In a scene of great emotion and reconciliation Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. After hugs and tears Joseph asks of his father. Soon the family finds safety and food to see them through the seven years of famine. The family of Jacob finds a welcome place in Egypt due to the power and popularity of Joseph. Due to their good standing the Son's of Jacob stay in Egypt past the time of the famine.

When the Pharaoh who has promoted Joseph dies the new leader does not recognize the Son's of Jacob. They are enslaved and given heavy and burdensome jobs. The enslavement of the Twelve Son's of Jacob lasts for close to four hundred years. In all of their trouble God has been preparing them for deliverance. Even in the midst of slavery and non-stop labor their numbers increase.

Alarmed at the growth of the Hebrew people Pharaoh demands the murder of all Hebrew male newborns. Again, God intervenes and a specific male child is saved. His name would be Moses and he would be raised in the house of Pharaoh. As a young man Moses kills an Egyptian who is mistreating a Hebrew and he flees from Egypt into the wilderness.

Exodus 3  - We find the remarkable story of God's plan of deliverance coming to life. Through the passionate act of Moses he finds himself standing in front of a bush that appears to be on fire. The Lord appears to Moses from within the bush. To state that Moses was afraid would be an understatement. Waiting, with bare feet, Moses hears the voice of God. He clearly, and in unmistakable words identifies himself as, The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Moses resists the commands of God in representing Him before the Hebrews and Pharaoh. After making excuses, God commands him to identify him as, The Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the presence of the Hebrew leaders Moses tells of his encounter and how God identified Himself.

Moses and Aaron present themselves to Pharaoh and demand the release of the Hebrew people. The Pharaoh is incensed at the request and demands that the workload of the Hebrews be increased. Under God's directive Moses pronounces plagues upon the Egyptian people. Each plague is resisted until the final plague claims the life of every firstborn male Egyptian child.

At this point a few things to remember. For more than four hundred years the oral tradition has kept alive the hatred between Ishmael, Esau and Isaac and Jacobs descendants. Springing from the posterity of Ishmael and Esau the twelve princes of Arabia become a great nation, just as God promised. Their land encompasses the entire lands east of the Sinai to modern Yemen.

God promised that the entire world would be blessed through the descendants of Jacob. The separation of the families and the animosity will ultimately lead to bloodshed and a continual hatred.