Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Rehoboam and the Palestinians

"Rehoboam. Fragment of Wall Painting from Basel Town Hall Council Chamber, by Hans Holbein the Younger."
Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’"
1 Kings 12:10-11

These days the feeling is even stronger than before that political leaders and IDF have chosen the way of Rehoboam while dealing with the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, the decision of King Rehoboam to follow the advise of young men against the political wisdom of the elderly led to disastrous results and the division of the Kingdom into two states. Israel and Judea.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Three Republics of modern Israel

First Republic 1948 - 1967
Young Israel signified the rise of Jewish people like Fenix bird from the ashes of Auschwitz. Established by one of the early decisions of the United Nations it consisted of a narrow strip of land west of Jordan river and provided homeland to refugees and survivals from war torn Europe among the Zionist Jews who had earlier settled to Mandate Period Palestine.

The First Republic was strongly influenced by social-democratic and Marxist ideals, the value of working together in building the land.  Religious Zionism was in the sidelines and not considered particularly important and religious Jews adopted to the situation making the best of it. It is interesting that in those Cold War years socialist Israel stood by West while Muslim countries in Levant and North-Africa tied close relations with the Soviet Union.

The towering and charismatic personality of David Ben Gurion characterizes the First Republic other political leaders trying to emulate him. The counter-shock of Egyptian victories in the October War 1973 was a cold shower of reality for the political and military leadership with wide/ranging consequences.

Second Republic 1967 - 1995
The amazing military victory over all the Arab countries involved in the Six Day War in June 1967 profoundly changed the State of Israel. With the conquest of land in all directions the borders of the country reached from Golan and Jordan River in the East to the Sinai Peninsula and Suez Canal in the South.

In a short time Israel gained military rule over the Biblical sites of her origins as told in the Bible and the city of Abraham in Khalil/Hebron, as well as the tomb of Josef in Nablus/Shechem and the tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem became accessible. Not to speak of the Western Wall, the remains of the Herodian built platform under the Temple of Jerusalem.

But this religiously enormously significant military expansion was not "land without people to people without land" but rather conquest and rule over millions of Palestinian Arabs who had previously been under Ottoman, Mandatory, Jordanian (West Bank) and Egyptian (Gazza strip) rule.

The time of the Second Republic is very complicated with great changes in international politics, powers after the collapse of Soviet Union and so on. The simplicity of old socialist approach to economy was now over and complexities of modern global business, marketing and manufacturing led to totally new situations where the former political power of workers evaporated.

The arrival of over a million Russian immigrants profoundly changed the demography and also the spirit of Israel.

From the Messianic point of view the reconquesta of big parts of the Promised Land (East Jordan and Southern Syria still missing) had a deep impact on the ideological views of the citizens. There was a marked rise in the national-religious camp that had been so much suppressed by the Socialist rulers. With the demise of socialism in the West and the faith in the power of states to provide for the well-being of citizens echoed also in Israel and pure capitalism was in vogue.

When Second Republic old horse and respected military leader, national hero Yithaq Rabin, tried to lead the country to negotiated peace with the Palestinians on the basis of Oslo agreement by giving up parts of Holy Land, the religious-nationalistic camp put a final and fatal end to the attempt in 1995.

When another war hero of the old, Ariel Sharon, withdrew Jewish settlers from the Gazza strip and handed it to the Palestinians, he was fatally damaged by brain hemorrhage and laid for some years in comatose condition before his death. News circulated that the rabbis of Israel had cursed him and even this was officially denied people widely believed the story. Consequently, there was a feeling that God of Israel Himself punished the ruler who wanted to give up Land.

Third Republic 1995 -
With the most "right wing" government ever elected by the citizens of Israel the Messianic trend that naturally belongs to Judaism has become more clear. In order for the Great King to arrive a number of things must be done. Reconquesta of the Promised Land is one thing, rebuilding of the Temple another sine non qua. This is very powerful stuff that finds expression in political decision making and even in the actions of the Israel Defense Forces where the percentage of old Israel leftist staff is slowly but surely diminishing. Times are achanging...

Third Republic was created by the forceful removal of a prime minister that did not follow the new national-religious stream but rather adhered to the ancient socialist model speaking of the possibility of peace a la Oslo. It is characterized by Strong Man rule, a way to run a country without all the finesses of sophisticated and often cumbersome democracy. Mussolini got the trains of Italy to run in time which was not a small achievement in that country.

Strong Man rule is the rule rather than exception in the Middle East and also the strong Russian segment of population comes from that type of background with no real knowledge of democracy and allergic to state intervention to private matters. We can say that with this emphasis on the power and ability to lead of a single person Israel is coming closer to its true rules, the historic Kingdoms of Judea and Israel in the Iron Age and king Herod and his dynasty in the Roman period.

For the coming Messiah is not a democratic ruler but an absolute Monarch.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Christian's choices gave Islam victory in Near East

Not by sword alone
When one looks at Near Eastern history one of the amazing things is the rapid victory of invading Muslims and their religion over Christian Byzantine empire. In only a few hundred years the dominant religion, Christianity, had all but been wiped out and not only the invading Arab population from the East but also majority of the natives in Levant and North Africa became followers of Islam.

Contrary to popular belief, Muslims did not forcefully convert the Christians living in the occupied lands. Christians had prevailed through the most horrific physical persecution under Roman Empire and only got stronger from the martyrdom of thousands and thousands. Islamic sword was not the one that brought victory to the new religion.

Benevolent rulers
In fact, there are many memories of just Muslim rulers who protected Christian shrines and people during the times of the Four Caliphs, especially Omar, and under the Umayyad Caliphate under which Islamic armies swept towards East and West with little resistance. It was only later, during the Abbasids and Fatimids, that the oppression of Christian population became widespread in the Islamic Empire.

Christians' deep hatred of each other
So if not really by force of the sword how followers of Muhammad took over the cradle of Christianity where the religion was born and spread during six centuries?

Well, in the beginning it was largely the decision of the Christians themselves to adopt the new religion. There were two major factors pushing people from churches to mosques.

First, the extremely bitter infighting between various Christian denominations and churches. In the East it culminated on the battles between groups that used different terminology to describe who Christ is. The Chalcedonians had power and more often support of the Byzantine emperors then the pre-Chalcedonians often called Monophysites. For example in Egypt, these quarrels led to expulsions, outright killings and such a harsh Constantinople's rule over local Christians that Coptic Christians gladly opened the doors of Alexandria to the invading Islamic army greeting them as saviours from Byzantine terror.

Another example was the quarrel between native North-African Christians, mostly berbers, and the Latin church. It was all about a schism, dispute of the right of lapsed Christians to hold high positions in the church hierarchy after the Roman persecution was over. This continued for centuries and created the Donatist church persecuted by Rome. Islam found many converts from this church which disappears when the men of East occupied North-Africa on their way to Spain.

Money money, money
Secondly, money. This seems to have been the major factor during the glory days of the Umayyad Caliphate stretching from Atlantic to Hindus. Islamic rulers set special taxes to Christians from which Muslims were free. As a consequence of this simple policy long lines of citizens were seeking to convert to the new religion in order to get the tax relief and other material benefits the Islamic Empire gave to its Muslim citizens.

So also today
Accordingly, as Christians we should not blame only Muslims for the loss of Levant and North Africa to Islam. Rather, with certain sadness and willingness to learn from past mistakes we should consider the same factors today when secularism offers freedom from Church taxes and payments, Christian quarrels alienate many good people and Islam arrives to Europe with rock solid faith in their teachings and divine justice in their manners and traditions.

Friday, October 9, 2015

God's cosmic words about Israel

  כֹּ֣ה׀ אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֗ה נֹתֵ֥ן שֶׁ֙מֶשׁ֙ לְא֣וֹר יוֹמָ֔ם חֻקֹּ֛ת יָרֵ֥חַ וְכוֹכָבִ֖ים לְא֣וֹר לָ֑יְלָה רֹגַ֤ע הַיָּם֙ וַיֶּהֱמ֣וּ גַלָּ֔יו יְהוָ֥ה צְבָא֖וֹת שְׁמֽוֹ׃
 אִם־יָמֻ֜שׁוּ הַחֻקִּ֥ים הָאֵ֛לֶּה מִלְּפָנַ֖י נְאֻם־יְהוָ֑ה גַּם֩ זֶ֨רַע יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל יִשְׁבְּת֗וּ מִֽהְי֥וֹת גּ֛וֹי לְפָנַ֖י כָּל־הַיָּמִֽים׃  
 כֹּ֣ה׀ אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֗ה אִם־יִמַּ֤דּוּ שָׁמַ֙יִם֙ מִלְמַ֔עְלָה וְיֵחָקְר֥וּ מֽוֹסְדֵי־אֶ֖רֶץ לְמָ֑טָּה גַּם־אֲנִ֞י אֶמְאַ֨ס בְּכָל־זֶ֧רַע יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל עַֽל־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשׂ֖וּ נְאֻם־יְהוָֽה׃ 
Jer 31:35-37 WLC

This is what the Lord says,
he who appoints the sun
    to shine by day,
who decrees the moon and stars
    to shine by night,
who stirs up the sea
    so that its waves roar—
    the Lord Almighty is his name:
“Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,”
    declares the Lord,
“will Israel ever cease
    being a nation before me.”

This is what the Lord says:
“Only if the heavens above can be measured
    and the foundations of the earth below be searched out
will I reject all the descendants of Israel
    because of all they have done,”
declares the Lord.
Jer 31:35-37 NIV

The Chosen People are busily rebuilding Jerusalem and ancient prophesies influence both believers and non-believers, the politics of modern State of Israel and major military powers of today.

God's cosmic words in Jeremiah 31 are assuring but also extremely threatening, as today astronomers and cosmologists are able to measure the heavens above and geologists study the foundations of the earth deep below.

Divine promises by God of Israel are not a blank check.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mt 28:18 Lord Jesus and human diseases

In the Gospel of Matthew the Man of Galilee makes an extraordinary claim:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
Matthew 28:18

However, risen Lord Jesus having all authority in heaven and on earth has not wiped out human diseases nor has He prevented illness among other living organisms. The dictionaries of various types of illnesses are thick and detailed concerning all parts of the human body and mind. Hospitals, big or small, are built everywhere human live and medical research and profession flourish. 

"The deadliest disease in humans is ischemic heart disease (blood flow obstruction), followed by cerebrovascular disease and lower respiratory infections respectively" (WHO 2012). Fearsome pandemics have wiped out large human populations in the past and threaten to do so in the future, as well. 

In fact, Lord Jesus - almighty Christos Pantocrator - did not promise in the final words of the Gospel of Matthew to wipe out human diseases. His focus in those words was on something else altogether. 

Divine will and illness
In our judgment omnipotent God could have created a bit more perfect world without diseases. His work looks deficient as so many details can go wrong from birth to childhood, adult life and old age causing suffering, pain and often early death. 

Again, as in the case of wars, the easy solution is to deny God and all wondering of His plans and good will towards humanity so praised by the angels in first Christmas in the shepherds field. For if God is capable of creating a human that does not become sick under any conditions why did He not do so? The responsibility of the faults in the system lies ultimately on the Maker. 

In same breath we could then ask why diseases, why suffering, why death? Why God did not create immortal humans? Why we all have to die?

Biblical realism
Holy Scriptures are not Utopian nor do they describe human world in sugary words and beautiful but untruthful words. The life of the Chosen People is filled with suffering and the Torah contains so many references to sickness and how the community must deal with specific cases such as leprosy. Job is hit by all kinds of diseases to test his love of God and sacrifices of thanks are offered in the Temple after recovery from illness. 

Human diseases are integral part of Scriptures and the role of Jesus of Nazareth as a healer among the people of Galilee, Judea and Samaria is pronounced in the Gospels. His disciples continue the healing service in specific cases. The resurrection and the authority given to Jesus did not bring a fundamental change in this world.  

The focus of Jesus' words at the end of the Gospel of Matthew is in something else altogether.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Mt 28:18 Lord Jesus, Fuehrer and Father Stalin

In the Gospel of Matthew the Man of Galilee makes an extraordinary claim:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
Matthew 28:18

Considering the history of humanity after this pronouncement in about 34 - 35 AD many think that the words are null an void. What kind of ruler is Lord Jesus Christ allowing all this to happen to the people created by God, His Father? Where can we see Christos Pantocrator carrying all the authority in heaven and earth?

The discrepancy between Jesus' words and the history of the world is such that with a few exceptions the Jewish people are convinced that the man of Galilee was not the promised Messiah King, the Prince of Peace as prophet Isaiah calls Him.

The focus of His words is on something else altogether.

History is what it is
The Nature God of Israel has created is savage. Yet we must confess that in the fight for survival, in ecosystems and environments there is power and deep wisdom way beyond our pride, the scientific understanding of natural phenomena and consequently, our ability to solve problems and face challenges with the help of technological advances.

Human history is savage and marked by warfare apparently from the very beginning of homo sapiens sapiens. Not just hunting but fighting our own species, other humans, for a reason or other. The Biblical view on this is surprising - God of Israel is Lord of the Hosts, Adonai Zebaot, and according to Apocalypse of John there has even been a war in heaven! The coming of Christ is depicted there as a massive war against the nations that have gathered at Armageddon.

One Lord and two lords
Let us look at one example on the way Lord Jesus Christ uses the authority and power of Pantocrator, almighty God, given to him by His Father.

World War One happened. Millions of soldiers and civilians perished in the worst war humanity has seen during its existence. It is a fact that it happened so Lord Jesus allowed it to happen.

Second World War was preceded by the rise to absolute power of two humans, two men of humble origins - Adolf Hitler in Germany and Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union. They were given power to do what they wanted with nobody in their home countries or among other political and military powers able to force them to anything.

These two lords, dictators and tyrants, turned quickly into dangerous enemies of Christ. In Germany the target was first the People of God to whom the Man of Galilee belongs, and soon the aim was on the Christian church, as well. Many people followed the Beast and joined its version of Christianity mixing nationalism and religion into a poisonous soup. In Soviet Union, the man from Georgia targeted the People of God although Jews had had such a role in the birth and evolution of Communism. His atheistic onslaught on Russian Orthodox Church was devastating.

So this happened and it is the sole responsibility of the one having all authority in heaven and earth that it was allowed to happen.

The end
Lord Jesus did not stand idle during World War Two and His angels had a particularly busy time on all fronts from Europe to Pacific.

On the decisive level Lord Jesus made a remarkable move - the two lords were in many ways friends and it has been said that Hitler was the only world leader he fully trusted.

Fuehrer attacked Father Stalin's empire with great ferocity with the aim of conquering what Napoleon had failed to conquer in the East.

The two most dangerous enemies of Lord Christ and His people fought each other to death causing unimaginable misery to each other, to the Germans and its allies as well as to the Soviets and its allies.

Hitler's 1000 year kingdom lasted less than 10 years. Unlike Hitler, Stalin survived the war but was quietly put into sleep 5th of March, 1953 by his own trusted friends. "American historian Jonathan Brent and Russia's Presidential Commission for the Rehabilitation of Repressed Persons executive secretary Vladimir Naumov published a book proposing that Beria, with the complicity of Khrushchev, slipped warfarin into Stalin's wine on the night of his death" (wikipedia)

2015 refugee crisis
Ths is history. Today Levant is in fire and refugees drown on boats trying to reach safety. Where is Lord Jesus?

Yes. That is a good question, look for Him.