Hope: A Biblical Perspective on the Middle East

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

Hope: A Biblical Perspective on the Middle East

The context of God’s promises
July 31st, 2017
Mike Bassous

BIBLE ENGAGER’S BLOG

When you hear the words “Middle East,” what comes to your mind? For many, a slew of negative associations pop up—wars, sectarian killing, religious tension, suicide bombers, kidnappings, trauma. But we forget that this region is the physical context for much of the Bible. It is the rich backdrop for Scripture’s stories—and God’s promises.

The Bible’s Rich Context

Did you know the Garden of Eden was in today’s Yemen? Or Abraham’s hometown in Ur is a city in Iraq? Joseph was taken as a prisoner to Egypt, where he became the Prime Minister to save his family. The cedars of Lebanon, used in metaphor by the psalmist (Psalm 92:12), can still be seen in that country. Jesus walked on the shores of the Sea of Galilee asking Peter to take care of his sheep. Paul was converted on the road to Damascus. And Jesus’s first followers were named in Antioch, today’s Turkey.

Despite the gloomy portrait that the media has painted, I choose to think of the Middle East as the place where God chose to manifest salvation to all people. I think of it as where the majority of the Bible was written, handed down from generation to generation, and preserved. It is the cradle of Christianity, the geographical location where God’s Son was incarnated and will return again.

Maintaining Hope

Yet much of the world, including the global body of Christ, has lost hope in the Middle East—”A cultural genocide of Christians is erasing the presence of faithful from large swathes of the Middle East, the very heartland of the Church” (John Pontifex, Aid to the Church in Need’s UK Head of Press and Information). The region revolves around a displaced population; wounds run deep and turmoil persists.

Read the rest here.

Advertisements

A Dead Branch

2Cor12-9-Hummingbird-Branch2--AMP

A Dead Branch

By Patricia Knight

We are frequently treated to the hummingbirds’ antics as they sip nectar from the feeder suspended between two parallel birch trees. The leaves gently sway in contrast to the desultory movements of the diminutive hummingbirds. The hummingbirds rest on the only dead branch located in direct line with the feeder.

If the dead tree branch had been within my reach, it would have been lopped off by my pruning shears long ago. I ascribe to the theory that most plants flourish with regular pruning of dead or ineffectual branches. Little did I realize that I would have threatened the hummingbird’s favorite rest and look-out spot.  From the hummingbirds’ vantage point on the dead branch, attacks can be averted and their eating station protected, all from an unobstructed view of the world around them.

Joseph was the youngest of Jacob and Rachael’s twelve sons. “Now Israel {Jacob} loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he had been born to him in old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him” (Genesis 37:3). Joseph’s jealous brothers gained opportunity for retribution when Joseph was sent by his father with instructions to check on their welfare in the area they were grazing the family flocks.

The familiarity of the account of the brothers stripping Joseph of his ornamental coat and throwing him into an empty cistern is nonetheless chilling. When the brothers realized they could exploit Joseph’s life for an attractive price, they pulled him out of the well and sold him as a slave to the Midianite traders. “The Midianite merchants sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard”(Genesis 37:36).

Gen39-2-5--AMP

Though his brothers intended only harm toward Joseph, God had a magnificent future in mind for him, orchestrating circumstances and people to accomplish His goal. “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered … Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned” (Genesis 39:2&5).   

Joseph’s experiences in the household of government officials in Egypt were a pattern of victories and defeats. Though he was thrown into jail on a trumped-up charge and apparently forgotten by those in authority, God gave him the ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, his ticket out of jail and into another responsible position. Joseph prophesied through God’s intervention, warning that Egypt would experience seven years of abundance followed by an equal number of years of famine that would ravage the land.  Joseph explained to Pharaoh that God was responsible for interpreting his dream and its message.

Once again, God rewarded Joseph. Pharaoh proclaimed, in the presence of all of his officials: “‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you’”(Genesis 41:39-40).  At age thirty, Joseph was named second-in-command of the whole land of Egypt. He traveled extensively throughout Egypt, collecting from every harvest, storing the abundance for sale and distribution during the years of famine.

During the famine, the humanly unpredictable scenario developed in which Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy food. Joseph, then governor of the land, met with all people requesting grain. He immediately recognized his brothers who had previously betrayed him, though they did not suspect it was Joseph interacting with them. After an involved process Joseph finally admitted to his brothers, “‘But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt’” (Genesis 45:7-8).

Are we so different from Joseph?  During our lifetimes we experience vacillating failures and victories. When we are in the throes of disappointment and defeat, where does our trust lie? Do we moan, groan, and complain about situations that may be less than ideal or beyond our control? Joseph was imprisoned in the king’s dungeon on false charges of making advances toward his master’s wife. Even though God granted Joseph favor in the prison, his environment remained a dark, dingy, odiferous dungeon.

Joseph didn’t know when imprisoned that God would eventually place him in a position of authority so that his family could survive the future widespread famine. What kept Joseph encouraged during his prison term? It is likely Joseph’s faith and trust in God supplied him with daily strength. Joseph’s life story is a marvelous illustration of personal patience and trust in a faithful God, whose perfect plan is always accomplished in His precise timing.

God has not changed His methods throughout the centuries. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow” (Hebrews 13:8). His promises are trustworthy. Like Joseph, even when we can’t see beyond our present circumstances, if we trust in God to develop His unique purposes for us, we shall eventually experience a victory. God created us and maintains a devoted love for each of us. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’”(Jeremiah 29:11) 

Even during those times in our lives when God is silent, He is continually intervening on our behalf. His plans and purposes for each of us are perfectly orchestrated, just as in Joseph’s life. “A righteous man may have troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19).

Perched at attention on the dead branch, the hummingbird remains constantly vulnerable.  Instinct positions the hummer on defense against attacking predators. Vigilance is the only stance the hummer knows. However, we are free to develop trust that God will protect us from harm as we rely upon His deliverance. When adversities assail us as they did Joseph, the energies that would normally be expended on fear are converted into prayer for God’s power and strength. God assured the apostle Paul, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”(2 Corinthians 12:9).

The victory is ours to claim!  

Giants Tower; Grasshoppers Cower

Num13-32-33-GiantManShadow-25--AMP

“ ’The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes and we looked the same to them’ ” (Numbers 13:32-33)

Giants Tower; Grasshoppers Cower

By Patricia Knight

After four centuries living in servitude to the Egyptians, God chose Moses to lead the nation into the Promised Land, where they would be free to own and govern their own land rich in natural resources.

Egypt’s Pharaoh was vehemently opposed to the loss of an entire nation of slave labor. To convince Pharaoh, God targeted the Egyptians with ten ghastly plagues that dreadfully impacted their health and lifestyle. Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened until the ultimate plague, when God slaughtered all firstborn males, both men and beast. The Lord protected Israel from each plague, leading the entire nation out of Egypt during the night of Passover. In his anguish, Pharaoh finally let God’s people go. He could not compete with the power of God, who “was majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders” (Exodus 15:11).

About a million Israelites with droves of livestock marched across the desert until they reached an impasse at the Red Sea. There God divided the waters, driving two walls up each side, creating a path for the Israelites to walk through on the dry sea floor. Pharaoh, who had changed his mind about releasing his slave work force, followed close behind with his massive militia.

God threw the Egyptian army into confusion, causing the wheels to fall off their chariots to slow them during the chase. When the last Israelite crossed the sea, the Lord restored the two columns of water to the sea basin, swallowing the men, chariots, and horses, eliminating the entire Egyptian militia. “That day the Lord saved Israel from the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore” (Exodus 14:30).

The Lord commanded His people to occupy the Promised Land, His generous gift of 300,000 acres. God had already surveyed the land and pronounced it good. Then He promised, “I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you” (Exodus 23:31, KJV). God’s people refused to trust Him, and instead, requested a scouting party. For the team that would secretly research the Promised Land, one man was selected from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

When the twelve spies returned from investigating the Promised Land, there was unanimous agreement concerning the cities, people, and produce available, but there no was consensus as to whether they could seize the land, even though God promised to prepare the way and fight for them to conquer pockets of resistance.

Ten of the twelve spies were fixated on the giants found living in Canaan. “ ’The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes and we looked the same to them’ ” (Numbers 13:32-33). The ten spies instilled fear among the general populace by exaggerating reports about their exploration, convinced they couldn’t defeat the inhabitants of the Promised Land.

Such frightening words of the faithless spies led to mourning by the entire community, which ultimately incited rebellion against God.

They forgot the miracles God performed previously in Egypt, doubting His power. The Israelites preferred death, expressed in their lament: “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us die by the sword?” (Numbers 14:12)

The ten fearful spies seduced the crowd with their personal opinions, espousing the view that it would be impossible to conquer the enemy. Their defeatist attitude arose from depending on their human strength alone. The people displayed fear that suffocates trust. We must never dispute how God will accomplish what He promises; He is always faithful to His Word.

Two other spies, Caleb and Joshua, were convinced that victory was possible by relying on God’s promises. They attempted to encourage the Israelites with positive reports, minimizing any temporary obstacles in the future, and trusting God to lead them  to victory. “ ‘If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them’ ” (Numbers 14:8-9).

As the Israelites soon learned, there is no future in saying no to God. The current generation was assigned to wander in circles in the desert. There they would die as God’s punishment for disobedience and unbelief. No one involved in the rebellion would enter the Promised Land. The ten spies were immediately struck down with a plague and died. Only Caleb and Joshua survived.

How could the presence and power of God vanish from the memory of the Israelite people so quickly after they witnessed the miracles God performed to save them from the Egyptians? The ten spies sabotaged their own people’s hopes and dreams about claiming the Promised Land. They believed tall men and fortified cities were a greater threat than God’s mighty wrath. What shallow thinking, to underestimate the power of God!

Do you have giants that loom large in your vision, deceiving you to think that God’s promises aren’t sufficient? Perhaps illness, family problems, or emotional obstacles dominate your life. God assures you that He is omnipotent and able to subjugate any problem posing as a giant.

Are we far too willing to opt out of a challenge God places in our path? Is it easier to admit a job is impossible with our limited knowledge or ability, than to ask Almighty God for help? The Lord is still parting the waters of improbability to accomplish the miraculous in our lives.

We have the tendency to reduce our faith to the diminutive size of a grasshopper, annoying those around us with the relentless chirping of doubts and complaints. Faith is silenced by the constant cacophony of grasshoppers. Let us focus on the belief that even a small amount of faith creates the occasion for a giant work of God . “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

BlogSL2-smallest

Never Doubt…

GodDarkLight-quote-sm

 

Never doubt in the dark
what God told you in the light. 

—V. Raymond Edman

 

SmileyBlackCoffeeAnna

WHITE SPACE


The advertising which may appear below is not placed by the author and is not to be considered as a part of this post or an expression of my views.

I Choose to Believe [Repost from Teshuva]

I love it when I have the chance to share special posts from other blogs. Today’s offering is by my bloggy friend, Ugochi Jolomi. Her site, Teshuva … Inspirations for a Better Life, is wonderful.  

The other day I read a fantastic post at her site: I Choose to Believe. Ugochi, you must have been in my head when you wrote this! Thank you for allowing me to share it here.

I Choose to Believe

I Choose To BelieveI choose  to refuse fear and doubt as I journey through this world. Too many things are happening to suggest fear and doubt, too really scary incidents. The vicissitudes of life and some peregrine entries are causing the ugly spirit of fear and doubt may be hovering over my head, but by God, I will not let them perch.

Read the rest of this wonderful post here.

…..

…..

 

 

VectorPageDivider

SmileyBlackCoffeeAnna

WHITE SPACE


The advertising which may appear below is not placed by the author and is not to be considered as a part of this post or an expression of my views.