All Right, Where’s This Going?

The Bible provides a true story about God’s ongoing effort to establish communication/communion/interaction with all human beings.

Many of the purportedly “factual” elements incorporated in the story are mistaken; so are many of the human ideas quoted about God.

Many ancient Jews thought this story was about God’s preference for Jews; and many did not.

But they agreed they’d made a deal with God. A very advantageous deal, but one which their ancestors had broken, one which only remained in effect through God’s mercy and patience. His continuing intention– was to let them live in a perfect land set aside for them, under His rule and care. If they followed His commands… that land would provide everything they needed for a free, generous, happy way of life.

What they saw happening instead was too much like the bad parts of Deuteronomy 28:15– “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and statutes which I command you this day, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you….”

They’d been conquered, their Temple destroyed, their rulers taken off to Assyria & Babylon. Allowed to return and rebuild under the Persians, they remained under the Persian Empire until Alexander the Great conquered that.

Judea rebelled successfully against Alexander’s heirs, with heroic efforts– and then the Maccabee leaders of that revolt established a new regime, equally cruel, oppressive & corrupt.

The Romans… invited in to settle the dispute between rival claimants to the Maccabees’ throne– were as pagan as the Greeks, even more cruel in enforcing their “order”, tolerant but often contemptuous toward Jewish religious practice. The weight of Roman tribute, taxes of local rulers like Herod, plus the claims of their religious leaders… could not be borne by the Jewish peasantry, who were losing their land to larger landowners, often having to survive through harsh temporary, seasonal labor– and through begging, when agricultural workers weren’t wanted.

Every year, pilgrims from all over the country, as well as foreign countries where Jews had settled, came to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover– that is, the time when God had liberated their ancestors from slavery in a foreign, pagan land, and guided them to Israel to live happily under God’s rule. For this the Romans would bring the High Priest’s ceremonial robes out of storage, let him officiate, demand the robes back again.

This was not an idyllic country, not the place described by “If you do all these things, you shall have no poor among you.”

“The Kingdom of God”– was to have been the establishment of God’s rule as promised: peace, a prosperity that nourished even the poorest, the ejection of pagan overlords (& in some interpretations, their subsequent conquest.)

If this was “God’s Plan”, it was a confusing one. But there’s a difference between a plan and an intention. The intention remained in effect, and Jesus said he was carrying out that intention.

Which intention?– a paradisical  Jewish state? Or mankind’s reconciliation with God? It’s that reconciliation theme that’s been most popular, that seems to be the point of the whole sad story. A time “when no one will say to his neighbor, ‘Know the Lord’, for the Earth shall be full of the knowledge of God.”

I don’t see us ready for that soon, but if we are, it can be a surprise!


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