Monday, December 17, 2012

The Mothers and Fathers of Bethlehem

 This is an extra blog beyond my regular Sunday offering, from an alternate blog site I write to once a month. The theme for that site this month was our favourite Christmas story Character. but I thought what follows was most appropriate

As I reflect on the events of the past week, my heart is drawn to the parents of Bethlehem, who are such a tragic part of the Christmas story.

Herod adopted Pharaoh’s tactic, killing boys in a ruthless bid to maintain his status. Fearing Jesus might be a contender to his throne, Herod ordered the slaying of all boys two and younger in Bethlehem, hoping to ensure the end of Jesus the Messiah.

Al Assad of Syria has killed forty thousand of his own people in a similar bid to retain power. Thousands of them were children. We can also recall Congo, Sudan, Serbia, and places of other atrocities; part of the continued slaughter of children.

Nor have the girls escaped. Across India and China, millions of girls are killed simply because the parents want boys to support them in old age. In addition, two million children worldwide now live and die in squalid conditions of sexual trafficking.

The west, that trumpets it compassion for the world, is not innocent either. Canada slaughters a hundred thousand living children in the womb every year, mostly for convenience. Proportionately, the United States kills a million a year of its population; that’s still a fraction of the world’s total.

The tragic events of Newtown CN are a symptom of the insatiable search for personal recognition. When legitimate means fail, killing is the ultimate assertion of power; whether by kings or the young killer of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Matthew describes the aftermath of Herod’s rampage: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more,” Matthew 2:18. But it’s also the lament of many millions; before and since—and now.

But Matthew’s quote is from Jeremiah 31, a great chapter of God’s final reign of peace and justice. Then, He says, "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people,” Jeremiah 31:33.

The children will be safe. “The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” Isaiah 11:8–9

And as Jesus called the little ones to Him, so he gathers the children who have gone before. They have not ceased to exist. Bethlehem’s mothers and fathers are already reunited with their children. The joy of Christmas is the glorious hope that those we have lost here, children or adults, will be waiting for us.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why Israel?

 If I was not a Christian, Israel would bother me. Well, of course, Israel bothers most people who are not Christians. Ishmael derided Isaac, and to this day despises Jacob. Shoehorned into a sliver of Palestine by the United Nations, the Arabs have never forgiven Israel for her intrusion.

But that’s not exactly what would bother me. What would make me uneasy is that Israel still exists. After all, hundreds of tin pot nations Israel’s size and larger, with their plasticine gods, have flowered briefly like a desert rose, and vanished.

As Sennacherib’s commander said to Hezekiah, “Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim?” (Is. 36:19). Where indeed! Where are those nations that worshiped them? Gone forever, like a myriad of insignificant nations and major empires of the last four thousand years.

Israel has existed for all that time; despite its genesis in slavery, occupied by foreign forces most of her time in the land, and scattered throughout the world for half of her existence. How could a nation under such privation survive?

So, if I was not a Christian, two questions would bother me. First, how did the Bible foresee Israel—a small insignificant people—as a nation that would exist until today? Second, How did the Bible predict Israel would eventually become the focus of world affairs?

To answer the first: There seems to be no option to a Bible inspired by One who knew the end from the beginning. Second, the attempted destruction of Israel, that has continued throughout her history to the present time—remember the holocaust?—is necessary to prove God a liar and the Bible untrustworthy.

The battle against Israel may be fought by human combatants, but it is spiritually orchestrated by the desperate one who was defeated at the cross. Now, as earth’s history builds to a climax, Israel is surrounded by aggressive nations and an increasingly hostile world.

We may be witnessing the preparation for that final battle for supremacy of the earth. Israel may yet have worse calamities to undergo, but Jerusalem will survive to become the world’s capital, for “He has desired it for his dwelling” (Ps. 132:13).