Monday, 21 July 2014

Israel - Palestine: A test from God?

Let's begin by making the pro-Israel folk smile as I say that those who fire rockets into Israel from Palestinian territory should stop their actions - they are surely wrong!

And now let's upset the pro-Israel folk by saying that the shelling of a hospital by a tank (this is not artillery errors - but determined and despicable aggression) and the fact that those killed by Israeli action now exceeds 500 - of which something around 170 of them were militants (against Israeli losses of 18).

The bottom line is this: It's time to stop!

Even UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has criticised the Israelis for their engagement in the densely populated area of Shejaiya last Sunday. Something he calls, 'An atrocious action!'

So here we are - two peoples, One previously displaced and another currently displaced acting in the classic force and immovable object scenario; something Cliff Fenn, our mechanics lecturer when I was an apprentice, broke his hand demonstrating (fist and blackboard - blackboard wins!!!). Once again, with the same scenario, played out differently, there is only pain to be found).

Here we are in the situation that 'God's people' and 'not God's people' are lined up against each other. One supported by the West and the other by the Arab nations.

The Jews have it as their historic homeland - the others are one of two groups:

i. Those who settled during the mid seventh century Arab conquests, or
ii. Those who were there before the conquests began alongside the Jews and remained after they left

Those in 'i'. are 'modern' settlers (after all they've only been there for some 1,350 years) but those in 'ii' have a much longer claim to be there. But it's not about who was holding the ball when the whistle blew or who dropped it. It's not about whose ball it is!

So some questions:

As the inhabitants of a land who have been moved off to facilitate the creation of the nation of Israel do the Palestinians (hereafter called 'arabs') have any claim to the land?

Does Israel's claim that a promise from God that the land would be theirs forever mean that the issue is cut and dried?

A radio interview with someone who was historian and expert on this subject presented the idea that Palestine and Philistine are synonymous and this people group (who date back to Abram's times) having married other non-Jewish (for which we can read Muslim) people are the descendants of the Palestinians and this being parallel occupants with the Jews gives them a valid claim for the territory (what they had until the West acted to remove them)!

So those who support the 'God's promise' route turn to their Bible and the Patriarchal Narratives (Genesis 12 to 50) - their point of interest being God's promise to Abram (Genesis 15.18-21):

'On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” '

Before you can ask a question (and without missing a beat)  they continue with another passage. This time it's Joshua 13.1-6 that interests them:

'Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the Lord said to him, 
“You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess. This is the land that yet remains: all the regions of the Philistines, and all those of the Geshurites (from the Shihor, which is east of Egypt, northward to the boundary of Ekron, it is counted as Canaanite; there are five rulers of the Philistines, those of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron), and those of the Avvim, in the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians, to Aphek, to the boundary of the Amorites, and the land of the Gebalites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrise, from Baal-gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo-hamath, all the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon to Misrephoth-maim, even all the Sidonians. 
I myself will drive them out from before the people of Israel.'

'How's that then?' they ask - feeling they have made their point and welcoming any challenge that comes from their place of God-appointed possession having been confirmed.

Great! God has promised them a land and the way forward is to turf out all the tribes who get in the way as the move forward and possess the land. So they've gone and the land is clearly the rightful possession of the Jews.

But what's that Sooty? Sweep says that the Philistines didn't go and were still there when we open the book of Judges. Let's have a butcher's at chapter three:

'Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. 
These are the nations: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. 
They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.'

Blimey - could it be that they (the Philistines) were there before the promised land was promised and after it was possessed too?

I am struggling with the clause:

'They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.'

Struggling because if the Palestinians are a test to see how God's people respond and seek to keep His commandments and live as He would have them live - I have to say I think they've failed the test badly. In fact I think they're on a 'U' grade at the moment!

I keep coming back to Leviticus chapter thirteen (verse thirty-four):

'When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.'



Now I believe that Jerusalem has an important part to play in the life of Jew and Christian alike.
I believe that it will be the centre of things that herald the coming of Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah.
I pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the spiritual entity that is Israel.

But it seems to me that the modern nation state and the spiritual nation, who keep God's word, are two very different animals. One I can bless - the other I can but despair over.

Of course, I'm happy to be proved wrong - and happier still to find the BBC reporting of what is a contravention of all conventions of wars and Laws of Armed Conflict

A postscript
I was going to use this in my next post but think it might be of assistance within this blog post - it's Leviticus 19.17-18:
'You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbour, lest you incur sin because of him.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.'

Beggars the question someone else asked jesus regarding this: 'Who is my neighbour/"

8 comments:

Simon Nicholls said...

An interesting take, Vic.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Merely trying to bless what I ought but also trying (knowing both sides are acting wrongly) to understand how Israel can act so badly against civilians.

Just seemed to fall into place today as I prayed for the situation and although I know it's probably weird (can't find it in this form elsewhere) I have to dialogue internally and pray that someone what knows this stuff (because I probably don't being 'average') can shed some light or engage in some constructive dialogue.

Pax

Anonymous said...

As a Christian this is a wrong take

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Merely trying to bless what I ought but also trying (knowing both sides are acting wrongly) to understand how Israel can act so badly against civilians.

Just seemed to fall into place today as I prayed for the situation and although I know it's probably weird (can't find it in this form elsewhere) I have to dialogue internally and pray that someone what knows this stuff (because I probably don't being 'average') can shed some light or engage in some constructive dialogue.

So - if I'm wrong then I guess you will be able to tell me why and where and point me towards a right response and understanding (or was that it - just 'wrong'?).

Pax

Anonymous said...

I am a different anonymous to the one above. You can call me Anon B

You write:
I keep coming back to Leviticus chapter thirteen (verse thirty-four):

'When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.'

I have looked up the definition of SOJOURNS and found the following: http://goo.gl/DRUw70

Are you taking the position that the Philistines, or Palestinian Arabs are 'temporary guests'? If so, what definition of sojourn do you offer to support your current view?

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Great question - here's a couple of thoughts relating to your question:

I - the teaching I have had portrayed a sojourner as one who did not originate from a place residing in it. More than a few of those who support Israel's position hold the views that the Palestinians are not native to Israel but are merely 'Johnny come latelys' residing in the land until expansion pushes them across the river! This makes them (in their own words) a stranger and sojourner in the land.

II - if we decided to agree that the Palestinians are not sojourners then we move to consider the fact that the Bible calls for those who are to be treated as native to that land. Don't think God was thinking of treating them the way Israel is treating the Palestinians. God appears to be assuming something a little better that that which we see at the moment.

More later - thanks again,

V

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

To continue with my thinking I have popped back and added a bit more Leviticus 19 as a postscript because there are two considerations to be added to the mis:

The way that natives are treated - because it has to be good or else why would God tell His people to treat others as such

AND

The question of who is our neighbour. A real question of great import - can tanks firing on a hospital be portrayed in any was as 'loving a neighbour?" And if the Palestinians are not sojourners (and doesn't the word say we are all sojourners for our sty is brief?) then surely they are neighbours.

I still happen to think that the idea of coming into the land that God has given and the temporary nature of any stay still makes that a legitimate thought - but am happy to consider moving to dialogue regarding the way we treat natives (and that they surely are) and a subsequent thought (now brought forward into this entry) regarding neighbours.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hamas are firing rockets into Israel

20 Israelis are dead from their action

Are you suggesting Israel does nothing?