Thursday, August 19, 2010

What are we missing as we read the Bible?

This past Sunday, the pastor of the church we were visiting spoke on Proverbs 23. I like this church, and I like the pastor, but I was struck on this occasion by something he missed. Proverbs 23 verses 10 and 11 state:

"Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you."

What was noticeably missing in the pastor's comments on these verses, to one who has spent time in the West Bank and knows the situation of the Palestinians, was any reference to the many ways that the Israeli government is continually "moving ancient boundary stones" and "encroaching on the fields of the fatherless," i.e., moving boundaries and taking land that belongs to Palestinians.

On a recent trip to the West Bank, I was struck again, in Bethlehem and surroundings, East Jerusalem, and elsewhere, the extent to which the Wall, rather than being about "security" (which the Israeli government maintains), is about land grabbing. Over and over again, the Wall runs a circuitous route, weaving back and forth in a path designed, not to separate Palestinians from Israelis (and settlers, at that, who are living on stole land), but to separate Palestinians from large segments of their land. Then, once Palestinians have not been able to access or work the land for a certain period of time, Israel uses the "law" (if you can call it that, when it is being used as an instrument of evil) to claim the "unused" land. This is well documented, and if you don't believe it, you should visit the West Bank and see for yourself.

Meanwhile, we sit comfortably in our churches in America, and listen to nice sermons that fail to make the most basic of connections, i.e., between the Biblical text and the reality on the ground in the very area, to the very people, that it was originally spoken to.

May the Defender that the verse refers to, the Just and Righteous Creator of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, indeed come to the defense of those who are having their land (and their freedom and many basic human rights) stolen. And may those of us who claim faith in God, and who claim to believe and revere the Bible, read it deeply and act upon it.

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