Blog & Pastor Letters

Lost Sheep of the House of Israel

08-16-2020Weekly ReflectionRev. Victor C. Yakubu, Parochial Administrator

After listening to different news media reports onthe endless skirmishes between Israel and thePalestinians in Gaza, I decided to find out formyself what history could offer me about thiscontroversial subject. I found a book of greatinterest, The Middle East by Bernard Lewis,a historian of great repute and versed on thesubject. From the first to the last page, I read indetail the rise and fall of different empires,sultanates or caliphates, or khanates in what wenow call the Middle East.

While those great warriors whoconquered the land are gone, each ofthem left a mark in history that cannotbe forgotten when we view the generalsituation in the Middle East. Throughthis book, I can understand that thoughlands are conquered, and people aredisplaced. We cannot continue to livein the past since the age of theenlightenment is here. Nations of theworld embrace literacy and scientificdevelopments to their problems. Mytake on Lewis’ rendition of Middle Eastern history,is that, people have to learn to live together inmodern times because no amount of intimidationfrom one group on another can yield anymeaningful result for the future. Jews and Arabscan all claim affinity to Jerusalem from historicalconquests, but the question is what can bring to thetable in the general picture of Middle Easterndevelopment.

At the time of Jesus, the Romans oversaw Judea, asIsrael was called, which they renamed Palestine todestroy the rebellious identity of the Jews, as theytagged them. From 63 BC when they laid siege onJerusalem, the Romans continued to subjugate theJews until the final destruction of the temple in 70AD. Within that period Jesus did his ministryamong an oppressed people seeking nationalidentity and self-rule. The Canaanite woman intoday’s gospel sought help from a Jew when shesaid, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! Mydaughter is tormented by a demon.” Tyre andSidon, in modern day Lebanon, were locations ofimmense interest in the ministry of Jesus, formingpart of the Decapolis. The disciples of Jesus wereworried when this Canaanite woman keptpersisting on getting the attention of Jesus.

Jews did not consider women of equal status, andforeigners by far, could not get equality with the“chosen people”, yet this Canaanite wantedsomething previous from a Jew.

In the narrative, we see how her faith healed herdaughter and she went home happy. And Jesus had toacknowledge this woman, “O woman, great is yourfaith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Can youimagine a Middle East with Jews and Arabs sharingapples and grapes instead of bombs and rockets?

St. Paul after his conversion toChristianity became a warrior not withthe sword but with the gospel inillumining the lands of the Gentiles. Hesays, “I am an apostle to the Gentiles, Iglory in my ministry in order to makemy race jealous and thus save some ofthem. For if their rejection is thereconciliation of the world, what willtheir acceptance be but life from thedead?” In the Christian era in Jerusalemfrom 33 AD, it was not war that was primary butreconciliation of peoples and seeking the lost sheep ofthe house of Israel; the Gentiles and displaced Jews, ofcourse. The Psalmist sang the command, “O God, letall the nations praise you!” And when all the nationspraise the Lord, we can unite against things that keepus perpetually in the past where pain and miseryabound.

The gift of God to every person is freedom to choosethe kind of life they live. We can choose to be at warall our days and not enjoy the opportunities given to usby God. Additionally, we can choose to unite the lostsheep of the house of Israel by abandoning ghosts ofancient conquests of a land that we refuse to respect.Our message should be clear; that though empirescome and go, or khanates come and go, what remains isthe land which, great men have fought to acquire. Now,when I watch the news on Hamas hitting at Israel, Iknow where each is coming from and probably going.By the way, I began to read another book, A History ofByzantium by Timothy E. Gregory to get an insight ofthe over 1,000 years of Christianity in the East until thefall of Constantinople in 1453AD. Now you know whyI read these books this summer. Keep Smiling!