By: Hannah Wright Osborn
Readings: 1 Samuel 7:23-29 John 3:31-36 Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
I struggle with today’s reading from 2 Samuel about God making one nation for the people of Israel and how this passage is interpreted so widely by people today. Before learning about present day Israel and Palestine and having any understanding about the conflict, I would have looked at this passage as any other testament from God promising me as a Christian and Lutheran God’s love, grace, and a house for free—no strings attached. I would’ve thought this was so cool, that the gifts of God were so great, and all I had to do was have faith and to remember to serve others the way God serves me.
Now after having been to current day Israel and Palestine, I can’t help but look at this passage with sadness and frustration. Though I think it is valuable to know that my Christian roots began in biblical Israel and was promised to God’s people who were faithful and humble people, I don’t think for one second that my faith and relationship with God is any less vibrant and valuable than someone living in the same geographic area as biblical Israel. However, visiting the Holy Land in person, 2 Samuel becomes a lot more exclusive than I ever could have imagined.
The land of Israel that God promised his devout believers back in the day is now crudely divided into three parts. As far as I know, these divisions were not part of God’s early promise to the people. How do I know this? The present-day divisions of the land are indicated by 26 ft high walls that are 10 ft wide with a little bit of barbed wire décor to top it off. These divisions cut off different groups of people, who both equally have vibrant and valuable relationships with God. Though both groups of people are equally closer to biblical Israel than I’ll ever be in my life, one group is significantly treated lesser than the other. One group views the cement walls as the house that God built for them as promised in 2 Samuel, whereas the other group wonders why they must live outside these massive barriers on the margins of the land and the world. This was not part of God’s promise—not for a second.
As I reflect on this passage and during this time of Advent, a season of hope, watchfulness, and longing, I think of my Palestinian host family who live in biblical Israel right now and are the devout believers who God promised all these amazing things to in 2 Samuel and longing and preparing for when that promise will be fulfilled.
Dear God, as I sit here and reflect on 2 Samuel and the meaning of Advent which I know is “to come” I hope that you sit with my Palestinian host family in Palestine and show them your presence and comfort as they wait in anticipation and longing for the day that your promise is fulfilled. Amen.