Archives for April 2015

Psalm 45:1–9; Job 9; Romans 14:1–12

Psalm 45:1–9: Alter informs us that this is the only psalm with the superscription, “a song of love.” Which, after a brief introduction with he memorable image, “my tongue is the pen of a rapid scribe,”  becomes obvious in verse 3: “You are the loveliest of the sons of man,/ grace flows form your lips.”

The poet does intermixes the king’s physical beauty with his martial prowess: “Gird your sword on your thigh, O warrior,/ Your glory and grandeur.” (4) But with the warrior’s sword is balanced by the highest quality of kingship as he rides a metaphorical horse of the essential qualities of leadership: “And in your grandeur pass onward,/ mount on a word of truth, humility and justice, and let your right hand shoot forth terrors.” (5)

He will conquer the nation’s enemies as “peoples fall beneath you,” (6) but again justly, as he is holding “a scepter of right, your kingship’s scepter.” (7) Above all is that “You loved justice and hated evil.” It is for this reason that “did God your God anoint you with oil of joy over your fellows.” (8)

While it’s tempting to draw parallels here with Jesus as King Jesus riding triumphantly onto Jerusalem, I think the wiser course is to simply enjoy these verses for their magisterial beauty and underlying joy that a king who loves justice and hates evil has come to lead Israel.

Job 9: Job responds to Bildad’s deuteronomic theology that Job must have sinned to cause these woes. He agrees with his interlocutor that what he has said is true, but there is the fundamental problem of the disparity be tween God and man: “Indeed I know that this is so; /but how can a mortal be just before God? /If one wished to contend with him,/ one could not answer him once in a thousand.” (2,3). We humans are simply too puny to contend with God.

He goes on to describe a God who controls all creation, “who shakes the earth out of its place,…who commands the sun,” (7) that is simply beyond our understanding, much less our communion with God: “Look, he passes by me, and I do not see him;/ he moves on, but I do not perceive him.” (11) God is so great, so enormous, he is beyond being visible, much less understandable. Job is drawing the obvious conclusion that we therefore have no power whatsoever over God; we are simply the pawns in God’s cosmic chess game: “He snatches away; who can stop him?/ Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’” (12)

And therefore there cannot be justice, much less reconciliation with God: “ If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?” (19) We cannot come into court before God, and even if we did, “Though I am innocent, my own mouth would condemn me;/ though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse.” (20)

Job raises the issue of theodicy; how there can be evil in the world with a just God? Job’s view is simple, depressing and modern: “he destroys both the blameless and the wicked” (22) with equal abandon. In fact, Job sees God as vindictive and cruel (which is understandable!): “ he mocks at the calamity of the innocent./The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;/ he covers the eyes of its judges.” (24) God will always win as “there is no umpire between us.” (33)

When we feel abandoned by God and despair reigns in our lives, there is nothing we can say or think that Job has not already said. To feel abandoned and worse, to feel God has unjustly punished us is the darkest of all feelings. Yet as Job proves, it is an all too common human condition. We see no light; there is only darkness.

Romans 14:1–12: Paul turns from high theology to addressing common human behavior: our ability to judge others quickly and harshly. (I’d love to know the backstory to this chapter!) How many times have I done exactly what Paul condemns here: “Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.” (1) We welcome new Christians and then immediately go about the project of instilling “correct theology” into them or worse, as Paul intimates here, telling them that their views are uninformed, naive, or simply wrong. When our only duty is to welcome them into the fellowship.

We also need to learn to deal with differences of all kinds within the church and avoid judging those who do not do or say as we do: “Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.” (3) We each are responsible for one thing: our own faith and “It is before [our] own lord that [we] stand or fall.” (4). And it is God who dispenses grace not judgement: “And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” (4b). The question is, what are we doing? Are we helping our brothers and sisters to stand before the Lord–or are we cutting them off at the knees?

Paul also asserts the truth that we will each practice our faith differently: “Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.” (6) So, the simple question remains, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister?” And the simple answer: “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (10)

How many church splits would have been avoided or “worship wars” been settled peacefully if we had simply heeded Paul’s advice here?  Paul’s message is simplicity itself: We are not the ones qualified to render judgement–even on those who accuse us unjustly. Our sole duty is to respond in love and patience. And for those in positions of leadership, their responsibility not to render arbitrary judgement is even greater.

Psalm 44:17–26; Job 8; Romans 13

Psalm 44:17–26: At this final section of this psalm, the psalmist is figuratively shaking his fist at God, reminding God that even though so many bad things have happened–explicitly or implicitly caused by God–they have remained faithful: “All this befell us, yet we did not forget You.” (18a) Not only did they not forget, but “Our heart has not failed,/ nor have our footsteps strayed form Your path.” (19) even though God has dealt harshly with them even “though You thrust us down to the sea monster’s place/ and with death’s darkness covered us over.” (20)

Then the psalmist  turns to logic, noting that “Had we forgotten the name of God/ and spread our palms to an alien God” (21) God, being God, would surely have noticed: “would not God have fathomed it?” (21a). And then, more harshly, telling God that they have been suffering for him: “For Your sake we are killed all day long,/ we are counted as sheep for slaughter.” (23)

Wake up, god! “Awake, why sleep, O master!/ Rouse up, neglect not forever.” (24) Then questioning again, why has God simply disappeared in this desperate hour of need: “Why do You hide Your face,/ forget our affliction, our oppression?” (25). Unlike many other psalms of supplication, which end on a note of assurance that God will indeed respond, this psalm ends on one last desperate plea, “Rise as a help to us/ and redeem us for the sake of Your kindness.” (27)

When we think God has utterly abandoned us, this psalm stands a s a stark reminder that we are not the first ones who have felt this way. No matter what our arguments to God–passion, logic, desperation–this psalm has been there ahead of us. And there is no darker feeling than to feel, even believe, that God has abandoned us at our darkest hour of need. But like the psalmist, our pleas end on the note of remembering that God loves us despite his seeming absence. A difficult prayer indeed.

Job 8: Job’s second friend, Bildad the Shuhite, elucidates the deuteronomic theology that is still pervasive today. The logic is simple as Bildad asks rhetorically, “Does God pervert justice?/ Or does the Almighty[a] pervert the right?” (3) Surely, he argues, your children must have “sinned against him,” and therefore God “delivered them into the power of their transgression.” (4)  All you have to do, Job, Bildad argues, is “make supplication to the Almighty.” (5) But then the “killer” qualifier: “if you are pure and upright,/ surely then he will rouse himself for you.” (6) But as the psalmist above has already reminded us, God is not a quid pro quo God. Even when our hearts are pure, God won’t necessarily be there.

But the idea that God could disappear or that bad things could happen to people who still love God is simply outside the scope of Bildad’s theology. Surely, his friend argues, Job must have forgotten or offended God somewhere along the line because what has happened to him, happens to everyone who offends God: “Such are the paths of all who forget God;/ the hope of the godless shall perish.” (13)

Bidad’s words, “See, God will not reject a blameless person,/ nor take the hand of evildoers.”  (20) echo down through the centuries to the present moment, and have left in their wake innumerable people, racked with guilt because they believe that they are not good enough to be acceptable to God. This cause-effect God is what our minds imagine to be true. But Job is the proof that the reality of God is far more complicated than that.

Romans 13: Having completed his long theological disquisition on the relationship of Jews and Gentiles with his marvelous advice on how to live the Christian life at the end of chapter 12, Paul turns to address what seems to be a list of questions that have been presented to him.

The first (and contentious) item is the Christian’s relationship with the authorities and the secular state, here Rome. Paul makes it clear: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.” (1) He has an optimistic view of rulers, as well, asserting that at heart they are concerned with justice: “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval.” (3). And finally, appropriate to the this time of year, “Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.” (7).

This is one of those places where I don’t think Paul is completely right. His view of rulers is too optimistic, I think. Had the Founders hewed strictly to Paul’s statement there would not have been an American revolution. And I’m guessing that the German Christians of the 1930s and 1940s justified their acceptance of Hitler’s tyranny based on these verses, and all the world paid a heavy price. Rome was full of tyrants, and later when Christians were persecuted they defied Paul’s advice here when they willingly died for Christ’s cause.

I think the key to understanding Paul’s attitude here lies at the end of the chapter when he writes urgently, “the night is far gone, the day is near.” (11) Jesus’ return was imminent, perhaps in his own lifetime, Paul believed, and therefore the injustices of the present world could be endured for a short while. Don’t start your own revolution, he seems to be saying, because soon all the world will experience the revolution of Christ’s public return to earth.

Although Jesus did not return in Paul’s lifetime, his advice at the end of the chapter still stands as highly relevant to us as we still wait: “let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.” (13). Two thousand years later, our aim must always be to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (14)

Romans 12:9–21

Today is Easter. I am not writing about all of yesterday’s readings, but this all-important pasage in Romans cannot escape comment.

Paul tells us what living a Christian life as if we actually really believe Christ has risen is all about. Paul is all about lists, many of them outlining sins and bad deeds. But here and in Philippians he outlines the qualities of the Christian life. That it’s our responsibility to take our faith seriously and act accordingly.

He begins with love: “Let love be genuine.” None of that ersatz insincere stuff, but genuine love that comes from Jesus Christ and that we demonstrate to those around us. The world abound in fake love to the point that the word is just short of being hopelessly corrupted. This is the love that stands beside those who are suffering; the love willing to take the risks involved in treating ebola patients; the love of a caretaking spouse for a dying wife or husband. It is far away from the celebrity “love” one sees on People magazine covers.

To make the contrast all the stronger, Paul juxtaposes love with hate in his very next breath: “hate what is evil.” He doesn’t say “hate people who are evil.” Our “civilized” society attempts to pretend there is no such thing as evil. That deliberately ramming a plane full or passengers into a mountainside or killing a roomful of first-graders or beheading people of other faiths can be explained solely as a psychological phenomenon or a chemical imbalance in the offender’s brain. Those may be the means, but I remain convinced that evil is afoot–just as it always has been. It cannot be wished away. I have come to believe that Paul is right: there are principalities and powers at work of which we know nothing.

As for actually living the Christian life we begin with”lov[ing] one another with mutual affection and out[doing] one another in honor.” We may despair for the world, but we are to find joy in community. How sad when that does not happen. Yet, as Paul makes clear, the responsibility comes back to each member of the body.

Above all–and particularly appropriate in the ever-escalating culture wars that seem to beset America, we are to respond in love. Paul realizes this is not easy: “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (18) But even when our tempers are running hot we must remember that “it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (19). Indeed, rather than the vengeance that our minds so ache for, our hearts are to respond: “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” (20). And above all, resist evil: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (21)

A tall order, but if we are to truly follow Christ, then it’s an order that must always be on our minds in whatever we say or do.

Psalm 44:1–8; Job 4,5,6; Romans 11:19–12:8

Psalm 44:1–8: Today being Good Friday, the opening verse of this psalm speaks to today, even though the events the psalmist describes are far from the events of the day of Jesus’ crucifixion: “God with our own ear we have heard, / our fathers recounted to us/ a deed that You did in their days,/ in days of yore.” (2) We have indeed heard, and unlike the soldiers to whom this psalm is addressed, we also have the incomparable story recoded in all four Gospels.

But as for the real theme of this psalm, it recounts how Israel’s past victories–probably referring specifically to the conquest of Canaan– were accomplished: not just by the military prowess of soldiers, but by God himself: “For not by sword they took hold of the land,…but Your right hand and Your arm,/ and the light of Your face when You favored them.” (4) Acknowledging God as their king, the soldiers ask, “Ordain the victories of Jacob” (5) and give them victory in battle once again.

The martial flavor of this psalm turns gruesome as God becomes the agent of conquest: “Through You we gore our foes,/ through Your name we trample those against us.” (6) This is more than just “God is on our side,” rather it is God is accomplishing his purpose through their actions. It is God who will bring victory: “my sword will not make me victorious. For You rescued us form our foes.” (8)

While we may find the military details of the psalm disturbing, the underlying sense of complete trust in God is what we take away from these verses. Complete trust in God is what brings victory. Our strivings without that faith are ultimately meaningless.

Job 4,5,6: In Job’s despair, his friend Eliphaz makes the deuteronomic argument that because Job has sinned, he is being punished. After all, he asks, “who that was innocent ever perished?/  Or where were the upright cut off?” (4:7) But then, the logical consequence is, “ those who plow iniquity / and sow trouble reap the same.” (4:8).  Not terribly encouraging words to tell a friend who is suffering. But then again, we are all Eliphaz at some time or another, offering reproof and correction when mercy is what’s needed.

Elihaz continues, “As for me, I would seek God,/ and to God I would commit my cause.” (5:8) He is content with letting God be inscrutable. One does does not whine, “Why me, God?” Job merely states, “He does great things and unsearchable, / marvelous things without number.” (5:9) And then goes on to list God’s marvels. Perhaps most pointedly (and apparently without self-irony) he notes that God “saves the needy from the sword of their mouth.” (5:15).  In fact, Elihaz goes so far as to assert, “How happy is the one whom God reproves;/ therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” (5:17) Really? What we the reader know that Elihaz does not, is that it is not God who has caused Job’s woes. Yet, we are just as quick as Elihaz to blame bad stuff on God and then, just like Elihaz, make a moral calculus out of it.

Jobe is unpressed with Elihaz’ theology as he replies that his straits are not a question of justice vs. injustice: “O that my vexation were weighed,/ and all my calamity laid in the balances!” (6:2) All he wants at this point is death to be granted by God: “O that I might have my request,/ and that God would grant my desire;/ that it would please God to crush me,” (6:8,9). And Job is angry at his friend’s wrong-headed morality: “My companions are treacherous like a torrent-bed,” (6:15) More than anything, he feels abandoned by his friends: “Do you think that you can reprove words,/ as if the speech of the desperate were wind?” and simply asks for proof of his wrongdoing, knowing there is none: “Turn, I pray, let no wrong be done./ Turn now, my vindication is at stake./ Is there any wrong on my tongue?” (6:29,30). 

The brilliance of Job is that it exposes our seemingly good intentions of bringing comfort as a poorly disguised effort to preach rather than listening. No wonder Job feels so modern. Everyone is talking and preaching but few are listening to what God or the Job in their lives is saying.

Romans 11:19–12:8: Paul reminds his Gentile listeners not to feel superior to the Jews who have not accepted Christ as Messiah. We “stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe.” (11:20). Which I take as stepping back and appreciating the enormity of the grace that has been granted to us through the work of Christ–specifically the work we are remembering this Good Friday into Easter Sunday.

The other thing Paul wants to make clear is that everything that has happened and how God has worked remains at its heart a mystery and that Israel will be saved at the end. Our requirement is to remember that “as regards the gospel they are enemies of God[d] for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors ” (11:28). Too bad the church didn’t remember this wise admonition of Paul’s but chose to focus instead on the execrations of the Good Friday Jewish crowd–all resulting in centuries of shameful oppression of the Jews.

We come to Chapter 12 and Paul’s words of incredible wisdom, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (12:2). Our hearts are transformed by grace and faith, but to discern the will of God requires the discipline of our minds. It is the heart / head balance that I think is so essential to the Christian journey. If’s it’s all feelings, then we tend to oscillate all over the place. It’s it’s all pure intellectual energy then we miss experiencing the true love of God. Notice that Paul is not asking us to understand God. That’s impossible. But it’s our responsibility to use our brains to understand the will of God, and specifically, to understand what is “good and acceptable and perfect.” Yet, we waste so much time trying to understand God himself rather than what he would have us be and do right here and right now

 

Psalm 43; Job 3

NOTE: The Moravian Daily Text email did not arrive today, so I’m guessing these are the passages… Will combine the NT passages in tomorrow’s Musings.

Psalm 43: Alter notes that Psalms 42 and 43 were probably a single psalm and was broken into two psalms for unknown reasons.  This makes sense because the previous psalm ends fairly abruptly on hope: “Hope in God, for yet will I acclaim Him,” (42: 12) while 43 begins abruptly as supplication: “Grant me justice, O God.” It appears now that the enemies described in the previous psalm have taken our psalmist to court: “take up my case against a faithless nation,/ from a man of deceit and free me.” (43:1) The “faithless nation” suggests that the poet is a man of political power. Or perhaps, just as today, he feels he is being tried by the press and public opinion.

After a passing gloomy moment–“For You, O God, my stronghold/ why should You neglect me” (2)–He returns to poetic form with the metaphor that God’s light and truth “will guide me. / They will bring me to Your holy mountain/ And to Your dwelling place.” (3). In fact this ascent in the light of God leads to a place that could be both metaphor or an actual geographic location: “And let me come to God’s altar.” (4)

The sense of ascending to God’s altar is strengthened as gloom evolves to joy and then to worship: “Go, my keenest joy. Let me acclaim You with the lyre” (4b) The more tentative hope of Psalm 42 becomes the hope of assurance: “Hope in God, for yet will I acclaim Him./ His rescuing presence and my God.” (5).

Like so many psalms this one describes an interior emotional journey expressed as a journey of ascent: from despair and anger created by what appears to be unfair persecution, ascending ultimately to assurance in God’s faithfulness. This is exactly our journey so often. It’s worth noting that it is reflecting on God and realizing that the psalmist has not been abandoned by God, who is so often silent, that enables his ascent to the place of worship. So, when we feel God is silent, we too should reflect on God’s faithfulness. God may still not speak, but hope becomes assurance nonetheless.

Job 3: Everything has been taken for Job and this chapter is Job’s lament. Job may still worship God, but that does not lessen his anger and depression. The stark opening line–“Let the day perish in which I was born,”–to wish to never have been born is followed by “gloom and deep darkness.” (5) And something even darker: “let the blackness of the day terrify it.” (5) All creation becomes simply a place of darkness and terror. Light has been taken away: “Let the stars of its dawn be dark; / let it hope for light, but have none;” (9)

Since the day on which Job was born cannot be expunged in darkness, Job turns to the wish he’d died at birth: “Why did I not die at birth, / come forth from the womb and expire?” (11) In beautiful poetry Job expresses unfathomable anguish: “Why is light given to one in misery, / and life to the bitter in soul, /who long for death, but it does not come,” (20, 21a).

Were  more honest words ever written? “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; / I have no rest; but trouble comes.” Like many psalms, Job teaches us that misery and despair must be expressed aloud or in writing. They do not need to be hidden behind an falsely happy face.  I’m pretty sure that had some asked Job how he felt he would not have responded with the anodyne “fine” as so many in our culture respond. Emotions expressed out loud are far healthier than emotions bottled up.

 

 

Psalm 42; Job 1,2; Romans 11:7–18

Psalm 42: This psalm plumbs the depths of the poets soul as he reflects on his desire to be restored to a relationship with God. [Alter notes that for this section of the Psalms that begins here at 42, the poets refer to God as “Elohim” rather than Lord (YHWH).]

From the famous opening line, “As a deer yearns for streams of water,/ so I year for God.” the psalm uses the senses and emotions to evoke how it feels to be seeking a God, who seems to be hiding. There is thirst for the absent God [“My whole being thirsts for God” (3)] to sight [“when shall I come and see / the presence of God?” (3b)] And then tears that “became bread day and night” and “I recall and pour out my heart.” (5) There is yearning to “march into the house of God” and always hope: “Hope in God, for yet will I acclaim Him / for His rescuing presence.” (6)

In the next section, He reflects on God’s presence in nature, which seems to echo far off with God’s voice: “Deep unto deep calls out/ at the sound of Your channels.” (8) And he feels the presence of God through water, evoking a powerful sense of baptism: “All Your breakers and waves have surged over me.” (8b) Even though God has not spoken, he knows God is there: “By day the Lord ordains His kindness/ and by night His song is with me.” (9) Day and night become the “prayer to the God of my life.” (9)

But even so, there is anxiety: “I would say to the God my Rock, /’Why have You forgotten me?” (10) And the poet’s thoughts turn even darker in the shocking phrase, “With murder in my bones, my enemies revile me.” But even though God has not shown himself or spoken, hope still remains: “Hope in God, for yet I will acclaim Him,/ His rescuing presence and my God.” (12)

The lesson for us is that hope will triumph over despair. Even when God does not speak to us, the evidence of his being is all around us: in nature, in our feelings and ultimately, in our hope. God seems very far away on this Holy Week as the world seems to careen toward hysteria and increased danger. This psalm brings real comfort in the realization that that God is indeed our “rescuing presence.”

Job 1,2: I’m pretty sure that it’s no coincidence that the Hebrew editors of Scripture placed this book Job–virtually synonymous with despair–  immediately following the triumph that suffuses the book of Esther. Where that book never mentions God once, God is everywhere in Job. And it is not the God of “rescuing presence” that is celebrated in today’s psalm.

In the very first verse we learn without equivocation that Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” He is wealthy in children and worldly goods. And he offers burnt sacrifice to God just in case “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” (1:5).

In one of the rarest settings in the Bible, the scene shifts to heaven where God and Satan joust. Satan accuses God of putting “a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?” (1:10) So, of course, Job is faithful to God. Nothing bad has ever happens to him. And God agrees that Satan (not God!) can put Job to the test, “only do not stretch out your hand against him!” (12)

Satan loses no time in bringing disaster into Job’s life. His sheep, his oxen, his camels, his servants, and worst of all, his children are taken from him. But Job is stll faithful, reminding himself–and us–“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (1:20) Job does not shake his fist at God.

Satan intensifies Job’s trials by attacking his health. Even Job’s wife thinks her husband’s faith is foolish, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” (2:9) But Job persists, noting that “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (2:10)

Job’s three friends arrive “to go and console and comfort him.” Job is in such bad shape they do not recognize him, but sit in silence on the ground for a week.

Whether or not Job was a real person, he is a metaphor for what faith in God is about. I once thought I’d make it all the way through my life without any particular trials or disease. What stands out to me is that God does not create these trials; Satan does. We can never accuse God of doing bad things to us.

Romans 11:7–18: Paul continues to deal with the Jewish track separately form the Gentile track. He pretty much concludes that by ignoring Christ’s salvific power, “Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking.” and he quotes back-up Scripture that “God gave them a sluggish spirit,/ eyes that would not see / and ears that would not hear.”  (8) However, it is the failure of the Jews to realize what God has done for them that becomes the catalyst of salvation of the Gentiles: “But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles,” (11).  But as a Jew, Paul is still wistful about the enormity of the missed opportunity, “if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (12).

He then turns his attention to Gentile attitudes, lest they feel superior to the Jews who have rejected Christ, reminding them that they derive their own holiness from the Jewish root, “and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.” (16). In fact, Gentiles have been grafted through Christ to the Jewish root; but they are mere branches. He warns them (us), “do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.” (18).

At 2000 years out, I think the egregious anti-Semitic actions of Christians against the Jews in defiance of Paul’s warning here is one of the great tragedies of history. And even today, anti-Semitism persists–and perhaps is blossoming in some places. Of course we need to be careful not to conflate the state of Israel with the Jewish religion. They are not the same. But in our collective political antipathy to the only democracy in the Middle East, I think it would be difficult to deny that in some ways we Christians are forgetting that the root–the Jewish people–are indeed just as holy as we.