Havre Daily News - News you can use

Out Our Way: Along the Covenant Trail with Goliath

"Exile" Psalm 137


November 17, 2017

Out our way, we often marvel at the resilience of creation. A few years ago I rode with some fellow pastors through a portion of "The Bob" - Bob Marshall Wilderness - a year after a terrible forest fire had destroyed a large section of it. Even a year later we could smell the smoke as we rode through miles of dead trees and soot. It was a terrible sight and a vast wasteland - or so I thought until someone spotted green growth in the midst of the ashes.

Folks familiar with the ways of the forests tell me forest fires are part of the process - that some pine cones only open and spread their new seed when there has been a fire. The old and decaying forest is replaced with new and lively growth, and new health and vitality come to the land.

Perhaps that is what happened to Israel - for as we have seen, the old established kingdoms had become corrupt, decayed and weak. Even in the temple itself, for all its magnificence, the worship of God had become mundane and largely empty.

As we saw, the nation lost its way when it replaced God with kings - and eventually 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel were lost - absorbed into the secular and pagan world, never to be restored. Eventually the southern kingdom - made up primarily of the tribe of Judah, from which we get the designation " Jews" - also collapsed. Decaying within, the nation was destroyed and eliminated by the Empire of Babylon - modern day Iraq.

The holy city of Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed and the people taken into exile far from the Promised Land. For 70 years, there was no Jewish nation. But there was still the Jewish faith. Not all Jews abandoned the faith even when taken out of the land. Indeed, like those seedlings that can only burst out of their pine cone shelter in the intense heat of a forest fire, a new generation of faithful were born.

There was no temple and no central place of worship for the Jews in Babylon. But while they had no holy temple they still had each other - and they had their faith and history handed own from generation to generation. So worship began to take on a new form. Small gathering places where they could come together and remember their history were formed called "synagogues" or the gathering place.

Instead of priests offering sacrifices at the altars of the temple, the people listened to the rabbis - "teachers." It was during this period whole schools began to be formed and what we today call the Holy Scriptures began to be written down, studied, read and followed. The words of the prophets as well as the Laws of Moses were proclaimed and studied and preached. And the lessons of history were taught and remembered.

Jerusalem was gone, the temple was gone, the promised land was gone. But God was not and neither were His people. From the terrible horrors of the exile, new seed came forth that would not only maintain the people for thousands of years to come - but allow the knowledge of God to begin to spread across the face of the earth. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was no longer confined to a few people in the Middle East - but with no homeland, the people began to spread as well so that Jewish settlement outside of Palestine no longer meant the Jews would be absorbed into pagan cultures but indeed, bit by bit, begin to bring pagans into the faith. When the new temple would be built by Herod many years later, the largest section would be the "Court of the Gentiles" in which non-Jews were to be welcomed to worship the Lord.

With the sacred scriptures, the gathering places and the teachers in their midst, no matter where the Jews might end up, Israel was still alive and in many ways, greater than ever.


John Bruington, a teaching elder for the Presbyterian Church, and old "Doc" Goliath, a "Professor of Horse Sense Theology," serve in Havre, Montana.


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2017

Rendered 03/19/2018 08:14