Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rome Swooned

Rome swooned.
The reason why I couldn't sleep,
The reason why I couldn't eat
Was standing there in front of me.
He was having a jovial conversation,
Then he raised one brow,
And I took refuge beneath this umbrella
As though my life had been spent standing in the rain.
His eyes said to me, “Come; have a seat.”
He laughed a little chuckle,
And I heard my name being echoed through the mountains
Causing a flock of birds to lift at once from their nests
And take flight across the sky.
As they did, they shook the trees
And their wings sounded the percussion of a melody of love.
And so I laughed to release the joy that had bubbled up inside of me.
As though I had inhaled the aroma of fresh baked bread,
My appetite was whet.

Galilee

Matt. 4:12 “Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee”.

In the third chapter we see John in the wilderness of Judea (praise).  There Jesus went to Jordon to be baptized.  There the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and a voice from heaven declared, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17)  Afterwards Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  There he was tried and tested.  He was now ready for ministry.

Was his first step to go leave the wilderness and go immediately to the temple in the city of Jerusalem (peace) in the providence of Judea and take his place as the high priest? No.  Yet so many of us, once we are saved believe that we are to take refuge in the four walls of the church.  There we find a way to minister within the church or warm our favorite seat.  But this is not the example of Jesus. To begin his ministry, He left the wilderness of Judea and departed to Galilee.  But why to Galilee?

When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, they were all given a portion to occupy by their tribe.  The northernmost area, was given to Naphtali (struggle, wrestling) and to Zebulon (habitation).  
Judges 1:33 states that Naphtali could not drive out the former inhabitants.  This tribe lived among the Canaanites. This providence was referred to as the “land of Galilee.”  In 1 Ki 9:11, we learn that King Solomon gave twenty cities in the land of Galilee to King Hiram, king of Tyre, as payment for bringing timber from Lebanon to Jerusalem.  King Hiram was displeased with this gift, and called the land, “Cabul”.  This name is taken to mean, place of displeasure, or good for nothing.  This land and its people held little value to both the giver and receiver.

Giving these cities to the King of Tyre opened this territory up to the transit of the peoples to and from Tyre.  This allows for more settlements of gentiles in the providence.

After the reign of King Solomon, Israel became divided into a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom. Ten tribes to the north retained the name, Israel. This northern kingdom was divided into two providences, Galilee to the north and Samaria to the south. While the southern kingdom was one providence, named Judea, the home of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

Judea is where the holy city Jerusalem lie and therein where the temple of Solomon had been built.  The northern kingdom then built its own temple in Mt Gerizim in the providence of Samaria to keep its inhabitants from making pilgrimages to Judea to worship. The providence of Galilee had no temple. The Galileans took the attitude that they had a direct connection to God and didn’t need a high priest or temple.

The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom.  Many Israelites were killed or deported (2 Kings 17:6; 18:9-12).  Assyrians were brought to Israel (2 Kings 17:24), and an idolatrous mixture of paganism and worship of the Lord was introduced (2 Kings 17:26-33).  Isaiah referred to the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, known as Galilee, as the land of the nations, due to its large population of gentiles and heavy gentile influence. (Is 9:1)

After the Assyrians, these people were again conquered by the Babylonians, then by the Persians, then by the Greeks and now during the time of Christ, also by the Romans.  During these times of conquest, the remaining Israelites intermarried.  Over time, they developed a different dialect and different customs in the way they handled business, family and religion.  The Galileans were furthest away from Judea than the Samaritans in distance, in culture and religion.  The Jews in Judea had disdain for the Samaritans but even more so for the Galileans.

The name Galilee means turning, or revolt.  Certainly rulership of the area had turned hands again and again.  These people were oppressed and vexed. They found rulership by foreigners difficult.  This area became the hot bed of political activity.  It was known for violent attacks by radicals.  The people were oppressed by taxation and bandits were commonplace. There was violent resistance against the status quo.

Acceptance of status quo is sinful.  It denies the power of God. When we read concerning the works of Christ, we see how he saw the condition of men and was moved with compassion to change that condition for the better.  He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the captive were set free.   Even the dead were brought again to life.  He established peace in the midst of strife.  We are called to revolt, to turn and to shift, to be the force of opposition to evil, disease and death.

In Galilee, leaders would rise up and gather a mob to cause an uprising.  Gatherings were seen by the Romans as a threat.  The people did not have the right of a peaceful assembly as we know today.  If a crowd gathered, the Roman soldiers would quickly come and slaughter these people as rebellious insurrectionist. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/galilee.html)  These people hungered for a messiah to lead them in revolt against the reigning nation.  They wanted to overthrow the Roman authority.

The Galileans were not only found contemptible by Judeans but also by the Roman authorities.  To be called a “Galilean” was spoken as an insult.  This is why in later scriptures Jesus was being questioned, he was asked, “Art thou also of Galilee? Out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” (Jo. 7:45)  Their disdain for Galileans caused them to forget history, because Jonah, and Elijah were from Galilee, perhaps Nahum and Hosea as well.

But Jesus went straightway to Galilee to start his ministry. He went to a place where people were dissatisfied with the way things were: to a people who were ready to turn the world upside down.  There he found his apostles.  He went to where it was darkest to shine light: to a people distant, castaway, devalued, oppressed, diluted, weakened, and disdained; yet seeking, yearning, and ready for the gospel.

Similarly, we are called to take the gospel outside of the church and into the highways and byways, even to the end of the earth.  We are sent to call sinners to repentance, to the sick to bring healing, to the captive to bring freedom, to the poor to bring relief and to the dead to bring life.

Feed the Hungry

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