August 10, 2014: Broken Promised Land

Posted on : Aug 7th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

http://www.bible-history.com/geography/maps/Map-Canaan-Twelve-Tribes.gif

Look closely at the map above. Does it look familiar? It’s been in the news just about every day for the last two weeks and you can bet it will continue to be in the news for a long time to come.

The “boundary lines” on this map show a time in Israel’s history in which there were twelve tribes. The tribes are each represented by one of Jacob’s sons. Jacob had these twelve children with two wives and two “handmaidens” of his wives. Busy little fella, but that was acceptable in the ancient BIBLICAL WORLD. (So much for traditional family values!).

Before those lines were drawn for the twelve tribes of Israel, we are told in Genesis 12 that “God gave that land of Canaan to Abram. If you take out the border lines that region might look more like this:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/teachers/activities/images/3516-bible-map-l.jpg

One of the neat things about this map is that the “borders” of Canaan and Mesopotamia are blurred, which is the way it was in the ancient world. Borders were blurred and those who lived within them changed, which gets to the heart of this Sunday’s scriptures.

The 12th chapter of Genesis tries to explain the dislocation of Abram and the giving to Abram and his descendants “the land of Canaan,” also known as “the Promised Land.” BTW, “Abram” and “Sarai” are their birth names. God later changes their names to “Abraham” and “Sarah.” The name change is a play on Hebrew words. In the ancient Hebrew world, your name gives meaning to who you are and your path in life. In Hebrew, “Abram” means “exalted father.” “Abraham” means “father of a multitude.” “Sarai” means “Argumentative.” “Sarah” means “princess or Noble Woman.” More on these names in a few weeks.

The story for this Sunday unfolds like this:

God said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people, and the home of your parents, and go to a place I will show you. I will make of you a great people…

Abram, who was 75 years old when he left Haran, began the journey as God had instructed, and his nephew Lot went with them.   Abram took Sarai his spouse, Lot, all their possessions, and all the dependents they acquired in Haran, and set out for Canaan.

When they arrived in Canaan, Abram and his family traveled through the land until they arrived at the sacred place at Shechem and came to the oak grove of Moreh. The Canaanites occupied the land at that time.

Seems pretty dull, doesn’t it. You’re probably saying, “So what?” That last line “the Canaanites occupied the land at that time” is literally like a bomb going off in the war between Israel and Palestine. The Canaanites were Arab and the area the Bible calls “Canaan” we now call Palestine. That Arab land is occupied today primarily by Muslims and a few Orthodox (Eastern Rite) Christians.

So here is where things get really messy – and complex – and volatile. Did Abram’s God really give Palestine (Canaan) to Abram’s Jewish offspring? Today, many Muslims and Arabs would counter, “No! God gave it to us first!”

And so today, we are in the midst of a Holy War over “the broken promised land.”

Oddly, the intensity of the religious difference today between Christians, Evangelical Christians, Jews, Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Ultra conservative Muslim sects is far out of proportion to the Biblical Story found in Genesis. That’s because, as we will hear on Sunday, the two sons of Abram – one by each of his two wives – become the ancestors of the Muslim and Jewish faiths. The two wives cause more discord than the two boys, but they do grow up to resent each other. But the difference in the bible between Arab and Hebrew and Muslim and Jew is nothing compared with the difference today.

This Sunday we’re going to explore this ancient story of the broken promised land, looking at what those promises meant some 3,000 years ago; and what they mean for us today.

And here’s the tease: Is “the Promised Land” geographical or is it like “the kindom of God” that speaks of all humanity living at peace, with justice, with each other?

Blessings,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Genesis 12: 1-6

God gives Abram the land of Canaan

God said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people, and the home of your parents, and go to a place I will show you. I will make of you a great people. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you. And all people on the face of the earth will be blessed through you.”

Abram, who was 75 years old when he left Haran, began the journey as God had instructed, and his nephew Lot went with them.   Abram took Sarai his spouse, Lot, all their possessions, and all the dependents they acquired in Haran, and set out for Canaan.

When they arrived in Canaan, Abram and his family traveled through the land until they arrived at the sacred place at Shechem and came to the oak grove of Moreh. The Canaanites occupied the land at that time.

 

 Genesis 16

The Birth of Ishmael

Now Sarai and Abram were childless. However, Sarai had an Egyptian attendant named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “Since God has made me childless, go to Hagar. Perhaps I will get children through her.”

Abram agreed to Sarai’s suggestion, and so Sarai took Hagar and gave her to Abram as a concubine. Sarai and Abram had been living in the land of Canaan for ten years by this time. Abram had sex with Hagar, and she became pregnant.

Once Hagar became pregnant, she looked with distain on Sarai. So Sarai said to Abram, “this wrong being done to me is your fault! It was I who put Hagar into your arms, but now that she has conceived, you allow me to count for nothing in her eyes! Let God judge between you and me!” [Note: I told you “Sarai” means “Argumentative!”]

Abram told Sarai, “She is your attendant. Treat her as you will.” Sarai then treated Hagar so badly that she ran away.

An Angel of God found Hagar in the desert near a spring, the spring on the road to Shur. The angel asked, “Hagar, attendant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I am running away from Sarai,” she replied.

The angel said to her, “Go back to Sarai and submit to her. I will make your descendants too numerous to count….”

Hagar bore Abram a child, and Abram named it Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael.

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