Monday, September 19, 2005

By faith he sojourned in the land of promise (Gen 13)

Another short post today, as the SAB has little to say about chapter 13, and neither do I.

In verse 13, we see the first mention of the wickedness of Sodom. The SAB marks this passage with the "homosexuality" icon, and while indeed the stories of the destruction of Sodom are often used as a case study in the evils of homosexuality, no understanding of the story of Sodom is complete without a reading of Ezekiel 16:49-50:
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
Note that while homosexuality may indeed be the unspecified "abomination" at the end of this list, like so many other lists, it's fairly safe to assume that this is organized by importance. If sexual sin was an issue (and it certainly seems that way by any standard), God seems to consider it of less importance than selfishness and failure to be kind to those that are needy among us. Anyway, Sodom had a lot of problems, and their sexual ones were just a small part of the whole. Maybe the SAB can add a thumbs-up icon to Ezekiel 16:49; I'd like to think we can all agree that looking unfavorably on lazy gluttons who refuse to help those less fortunate is an acceptable attitude

Now after Lot has parted ways with Abram, God speaks to him again. I think this is a bit significant, as this is the first point in time, many years after his initial call, that God is clearly speaking to Abram, and it's the first time that he's fully followed the orders that God gave him back in Ur. God doesn't tend to give people the whole plan all at once, He tends to tell people what the next step is, and then waits for them to get around to taking that step.

God tells Abram that He's going to give the whole region where Abram is to his descendants one day. There's definitely some difficulty in the understanding of this passage, as it has been the basis for a number of Holy wars over the years. Muslims believe that the land belongs to them, since after all, they are descended from Abram's first son, Ishmael. There may even be some justification for it in the Quran, but I haven't read it, so I don't know. Some Christian sects have taken the position that this promise was to be fulfilled in the far future through the followers of Abram's descendant Jesus, and that somehow the Church is the true Israel. Most Christians I know (especially those that are well-educated and have read and studied the Bible thoroughly) consider this a bunch of bull. Everything that God promised the Jews is going to be fulfilled, and while gentile Christians get certain blessings as well, it's a different set of blessings. The ancient Jews probably thought they were seeing the fulfillment of that promise in their time, but God promised it "for ever", and they clearly only had it for a few hundred years before losing it partially to the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and then completely losing it under the Romans. Modern Jews probably expect that the modern state of Israel is the fulfillment, but only time will tell.

My opinion is that the Jews are eventually going to get the land. In fact, forget about the issues of Gaza and the West Bank, I believe they're eventually going to get a huge chunk of the Middle East, far bigger than the nation of Israel has ever been. In the end, it's not going to be about who has the biggest guns, or who has the backing of the U.S. or the U.N.; when the time is right, God's just going to give it to them, and all this warring over the land is from an eternal standpoint of no consequence.

The SAB apparently considers this an injustice, but I think that the real reason for giving the land to the nation of Israel has to do with the righteousness of them as a nation vs. the unrighteousness of the Canaanite nations that held the land before the time of Joshua. A violent, cruel and immoral people, God just decided to take it away from them. And Abram, who was the person to first hear the promise, never owned any of that land, except a small burial plot.


Anonymous said...

I’ve added a reference to Ezekiel 16:49 to the note for 13:13.

But I can’t mark Ezekiel 16:49 as good. I agree that we should take care of poor, but entire cities shouldn't be destroyed for failing to do so. However badly the Sodomites might have behaved, it couldn’t have been as bad as God. Mass murder is as bad as it gets.

Brucker said...

Hm, can't condone bad for a good cause? I'll buy that, even though I'd have to disagree theologically, of course.