In one of the scenes in his 1930’s classic, Good Bye, Mr. Chips, James Hilton describes the terror of the boys at a boarding school during one of the German aerial bombings of England during the First World War. He has Mr. Chips quieten the boys by having them read and translate a section about the Roman Legion fighting a Germanic army from the classic Gallic Wars by Julius Ceasar. One of the boys says something to the effect that only Mr. Chips could find “the Hun” in a Latin lesson as bombs are raining down near the school.
I think of this because of what has happened in Israel and the Middle East this past week. I am not one to apply Biblical “prophesy” and references to events in today’s world. But I find parallels between various passages in the Old Testament and events in today’s world. In Joshua, Judges, and the double Books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, we have the account of Israel fighting for nationhood in a land they understand to be promised to them but at the time occupied by other peoples. There are accounts of regular outbreaks of raiding, violence, and warfare. And sometimes it would seem that Israel was not going to survive. As a nation, there were times when Israel had to pay tribute to its neighbours, times
when the land was occupied, and the people of Israel were little better than slaves.
But the great theme in the flow of these stories of the history of Israel is the theme of hope and confidence that God will work it out and Israel will continue as a nation worshipping the Lord God Almighty. We are horrified by the incidents of this past week. We are afraid of what could come next. We are angry at the aggression and the brutality that is taking place in that area. And we are aware that the statistics of the dead, kidnapped and injured, are made up of individuals who are loved and mourned by family members.
One of my partly remembered readings from my ethics studies comes from those post holocaust Jewish philosophers who debated the possibility of there being the potential of poetry, art, and colour after the Nazi death camps. They debate the question, “where was (is) God in the horrors of the camps?” The answer given by one lone voice, “ God was there, suffering with us.”
The ability to see and experience the presence of God in the midst of crisis is the sign, the power, the meaning of Hope. Reading Scripture helps me to see God in the difficult situation in the past and experience Him in the present.
Canon Donald J Lawton