After we returned from our first trip to Israel, I was talking with a friend, describing the paradox of worship and tension that exists in the country. He said, “Honestly, I don’t see what the big deal is about the place. It’s just like anywhere else in the world, right?”
The short answer is “no”.
Israel never was, and never will be just like anywhere else in the world. Historians, archaelogists, anthropologists, linguists and academics from a variety of other disciplines may have helpful descriptive insights as to why this is so, but at the heart of the issue is the story found in the Bible. Three major Abrahamic religions each point to Scripture’s story (in various forms) to underscore their unique relationship to the land.
Pastor Bryant Wright has written a book designed to answer my friend’s question. “Seeds Of Turmoil: The Biblical Roots Of The Inevitable Crisis In The Middle East” (Nelson, 2010) surveys Scripture in order to serve as a primer for Christians who are unfamiliar with the modern implications of the events described in the Torah. Wright is pro-Israel, and writes with a pastor’s heart. As well as unpacking the Biblical accounts, he also seeks to make application where appropriate to his readers’ lives. For example, in discussing the wife-swap (Leah instead of Rachel) Laban did to Jacob, described in Genesis 29, Wright notes:
Those of us who hear a story like this probably laugh at the fact that Jacob got what he deserved from Laban. No doubt he did. But God was using all the experiences of Jacob’s life to shape him into the man He wanted him to be. The Bible says, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7)…Watch out how we treat others. God is not mocked. He’ll see to it that in time we will reap what we sow. God is just, and he wants us to learn that the way we treat others is the way we are likely to be treated as well. Jacob was learning a hard lesson but a good lesson – for God has great plans for his life.
This 223 page hardcover would be a helpful starting place for Christians who find themselves befuddled by events in the Middle East. Though it sometimes drifts into a sermon-like tone (as in the quote above), it offers an overview of the Bible’s story about the land, as well as a look at how those events have shaped (and will continue to determine) the interactions of the Jewish people, Muslims and Christians until the end of days.
*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.