An Easter Journey
The stars of heaven
“Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
Genesis 15 : 5
There are many, many stories in the Old Testament but there is one story which runs through the Old and New Testaments - the story of God taking a childless, homeless man and promising that his children will be as numerous as the stars and one day have a land of their own to call home; and that through these children he, God, will bless all the peoples of the earth.
Now the Lord said to Abram, ....."I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.....by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.
Genesis 12 : 1 - 3
About half the Old Testament tells the story of how the descendants of Abraham, a wandering nomadic tribesman, conquer the land of Canaan, a land 'flowing with milk and honey'. This was the PROMISED LAND given to them by YAHWEH the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
It was a troubled journey. Jacob's children ended up in Egpyt where their children became slave labour until rescued by Moses. When Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments he found the Israelites worshipping a golden idol.
Generations later under David and Solomon Israel became a great nation and Jerusalem a great city but greed and selfishness lingered. The weak were sold to pay their debts; the rich lived in houses decorated with ivory; idols were worshipped. God's commandments and demands of justice for the poor were forsaken and in 587 B.C. the Babylonian armies destroyed Jerusalem. The king, his family, the leading people of the city were taken as slaves to Babylon. Abraham's children were slaves again.
Prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah declared that one day God would return and give his people a new heart and restore them to their Promised Land and that he, their God, would reign again in his Kingdom. The centuries passed by and although Jerusalem was rebuilt with a new Temple even in Jesus' day many believed that God's Spirit had still not returned.
When Jesus set his heart to visit Jerusalem the Jews were a deeply divided nation. The rich and powerful wanted peace with Rome; suffering villagers prayed for God's Spirit to renew the land; others were prepared to take up arms; rebellion was in the air.
Jesus attracted large crowds wherever he went; he taught that God's Kingdom was returning; it was a dangerous message that brought hope, misunderstanding and suspicion. Before reaching Jerusalem Jesus made his way to Jericho where he would meet two men - one who was oppressed and the other an oppressor.