Thursday, February 18 Read Genesis 17
(God said) “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. … And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.” Genesis 17:4,8
I can’t read the ancient covenant between God and Abraham without hearing an echo of the theme song from the 1960 movie Exodus: “This land is mine; God gave this land to me. … If I must fight, I’ll fight to make this land our own. Until I die, this land is mine.”
It’s a story set in the 1940s after the United Nations had partitioned Palestine into separate territories for Jews and Arabs. The movie recreates fierce battles between Jews and Arabs as they resisted the partition and vied for control of the land. Almost 70 years later, Jews and Arabs are still fighting about who controls which land in that small corner of the world.
I find it beyond interesting that the primary combatants in Middle East confrontations – Jews, Christians and Muslims – all claim a direct ancestral link to Abraham. Abraham, father of nations and, through his descendants, titular “owner” of Canaan. Abraham’s many descendants do have control over the land. Trouble is, the cousins don’t get along.
Imagine Abraham, a very old man and a stranger in a strange land, hearing the voice of God telling him that he would become the patriarch of many nations and that these descendants would possess all the land then known as Canaan. He and his old wife were childless. And they were to become parents of a son and ancestors of a multitude of nations? Really, God? Is this some sort of divine joke? It was only slightly less of a stretch for Abraham to imagine himself and his descendants as possessors of Canaan. Abraham was an immigrant, a nomad who owned no land, who moved his flocks and tents from place to place. Owner of Canaan? Preposterous!
Given the seeming implausibility of it all, it was hard for Abraham to keep the faith as years went by with no descendants and no inheritance of Canaan in sight. But despite moments of doubt, he remembered God’s promises and looked to the future with hope.
I wonder what Abraham would think if he could see us now. His descendants are too numerous to mention. They do control the land of Canaan, although they can’t agree on how to divide the estate. Centuries of invasions, crusades, occupations, murder, mayhem and summit talks provide proof, if any is needed, that there are no easy solutions to the Middle East conflicts.
If we could bring Abraham back to advise us, what would he say? Most likely he’d give thanks for the blessings of generations and pray for peace among them.
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