Villains or Heroes of Faith
My family has recently had some involvement with the settlements in the heart of the Land (that is, Samaria). What has proved to be most fascinating is the insight gained into the heart of the Orthodox Jewish Zionist settlers. In coming to know them and their way of life more intimately, I believe I have seen the faith of Abraham manifested on a level quite different from what I have observed in other circles of the faith community. The present progeny of Abraham, the watchmen living on the hills of Ephraim, are displaying some of the same characteristics as their great forefather. In these settlers I detect what may be defined as the Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego faith.
Let us pause, and recall the story of Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego. They were three young Jews living in Babylon during the days of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar. These three friends were not willing to compromise Torah, nor to bow down to foreign G-ds. Their faith lifestyle was not just based on tradition but rather on a genuine walk, in obedience to the Word of G-d. Their trust in the G-d of Israel, the G-d of their forefathers and in His Torah was total, involving all their hearts, minds and strength. They knew the sovereignty of their G-d, and the limit of man’s authority and control. Listen to their straightforward conversation with the king of Babylon: “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my G-ds or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the G-d who will deliver you from my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our G-d whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your G-ds, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:14–18).
The three Hebrews did not deliver to the king a theological treatise, did not charge him with injustice; neither did they make claims to human rights, or try to finagle their way out by calling on some religious or political leader. Their unequivocal answer was simple and direct: “We have no need to answer you in this matter, our G-d is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and from your hand. But…” Please note this next statement. “But if not…!” Many would say, “Well that’s not faith! Keeping that positive confession that G-d will deliver is what will do the job.” However, as far as Daniel’s friends were concerned, that little “but if not,” was a recognition of G-d’s absolute sovereignty in all of life’s circumstances. They were safeguarding their faith, regardless of the outcome. This fact rendered them confident and able to address the king with bold faith, entrusting their very lives to the unseen G-d of Israel. “Let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your G-ds, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” In other words, “You may put us into the furnace.”
The Covenant Stands!
Now back to the settlers. Recently I was given a map of the latest land allocations in Samaria, following the Sharm el Sheik agreements. What I saw was shocking, to say the least. The heart of our country, except for “trails” that lead to a few settlements, is being turned over to the – Palestinian Authority. I spoke over the phone with a couple from one of the settlements, and asked them a straightforward question about the decisions that were being made by our political leaders, along with the United States and the United Nations. Their answer astounded me: “Have you not read the Word of G-d? We see our lives here in accordance with G-d’s covenant! This land is ours and we do not recognize any other plan. We must trust, even with our lives, the G-d of Israel.” I began to realize that they are not cleaving to a “mere” Zionistic ideal. These people are genuinely drawing life out of their sustaining faith, even to the point of trusting the sovereign unseen G-d of Israel with their lives and the lives of their children.
One of the Torah portions we had just read was the story of Noah, who too was a man of faith. He did not have to walk through fire, but through water. Later YHWH comforts Zion by assuring her that just as He promised Noah, that He would not flood the earth again, so would He not remove His loving kindness from Israel, nor would His covenant of peace and compassion be shaken. He did not promise ease, nevertheless His faithfulness to His bride was and is unalterable. The Haftarah reading (to parashat Noach) from Isaiah 54, speaks volumes about the Holy One of Israel as a husband, redeemer, and maker of Israel. Thus the promise pronounced in Isaiah 54:17 still stands: “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants (Israel) of YHWH.” Let those of us who are out in the Golah (diaspora), return to your inheritance; not by lip service, but by seeking the Lord on how we can walk with our brother Judah in the land! For YHWH said in Ezekiel 37 that He would make us one IN THE LAND.
“But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendants of Abraham My friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its farthest regions, and said to you, “You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your G-d. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 40:8–10).
FFOZ (First Fruits of Zion)
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