Friday, January 6, 2012

God of the Hills

Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. So begins the famous the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4. It is the definition of the Jew’s relationship with God 3000 year ago and today. Throughout the Bible you find this theme: that God is one and he rules the whole world, that all powers are beneath Him, that nothing can separate us from Him. Moses knew this. Paul knew this.

Yet, for the people of Israel it is a difficult commandment to fully comply with. Throughout most of their history the Israelites live in the hill country of Judea. Their neighbors control the lush plain and the coast. The hills are too often barren, good only for sheep and goats. The Israelites see the ease of their neighbors and wonder about their gods. See, in this ancient world the gods are particular to space in time. Too many, Yahweh is just a god of the hills—one of many. His way is hard and difficult. His way depends upon the fickle rain. The gods of the valley give abundant grain to the cities.

The Israelites see their neighbors and in their jealously cannot resist their neighbors’ gods. It is not so much that Yahweh stinks, but that He isn’t enough. So they hedge, setting up sacred poles, buying a few idols in the market. Maybe, they think, if this god works for the Amorites then it will work for me. And so the Israelites fall in their weakness and envy. They, like us, cannot trust enough in God. They, like us, hedge their bets.

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