Greg Laswell – Around the Bend
So a couple nights ago, I’m reading through some of the latter chapters of Joshua in which the land is being divided up among the Israelites. As I’m wrapping up, I state the obvious to Alison, “Man, this stuff is boring.” To which she mutters some words of general agreement. Of course, my attitude towards this section of the Scriptures reveals more about me than it does about the text. And as best as I can tell, there are at least three things about my approach to these passages that keeps me from being able to appreciate them as the words of God.
1) Our need to see “me” in every passage. I talked about this some in church a little bit ago, but we tend to approach the Bible like a self-absorbed conversation partner. As long as the conversation is about me, my accomplishments, my hopes, my concerns, everything is good. As soon as we start talking about something else, our mind wanders. Things seem dull. We are bored. So all this talk about the Israelites sinking roots in the Promised Land begins to sound like the adults’ voices in a Peanuts cartoon largely because we fail to see what it has to do with me. But can you imagine a group of people who had been wandering in the wilderness for 40 YEARS finally having a place to call home? Or a race that had had been slaves in another nation for centuries, finally liberated, and finally in a (promised) land in which they can sink roots?
2) Our culture of mobility. No question that modern advancements in transportation have increasingly made moving places something that can happen with little effort. However, this ability to move with relative ease from one place to the other has also heightened a sense in which we are dis-placed. Disconnected. Severed from a connection to land and place, we simply can’t identify with more agrarian people who didn’t see land exclusively as a commodity, but as a gift.
3) Our tendency to separate spiritual and physical. This is clearly related to the previous issue, but it runs a bit deeper. We have a hard time understanding why people would have gotten all worked up over a plot of land. Why don’t these people know (as we do) that one’s spiritual life isn’t determined by where they are physically? We worship God in spirit and in truth. Right? And yet, the biblical witness is clear. The separation between physical and spiritual simply doesn’t exist. There is no getting around the very earthy understanding that God’s people had at that time… God’s presence and his blessing are organically linked to the land. In fact, judging from the continued turf wars happening in the Middle East, not much has changed for some.
Maybe that helps. Maybe it muddies the water even more. Happy reading.