“When we walk across a bridge, we may enjoy every confidence that the engineers have done a good job and the span will not collapse. And yet, who does not feel hints of terror when looking over the edge into the depths of the chasm below. This is all the truer of our salvation in Christ. He is our trustworthy mediator, our bridge to eternal life in God, and our confidence in his saving death is entirely consistent with a fearful sense of the depths into which he went on our behalf, depths from which we turn away in shuddering, instinctive horror.” (Reno, Genesis, p. 204)
R. R. Reno, in his Genesis commentary, calls attention to the “scandal of particularity” that is the call of Abraham. Up to this point, the text deals with a broad look of humanity. The curse of Adam and Eve spreads out to their children, encompassing the entire race.
We have the very first murder, then the founding of the first city by the guilty. The descendants of Cain then forge the first instruments, both musical and of bronze and iron. The narrative sweeps us in the global flood, and after the children of Noah spread out on the new earth, the story of Babel tells us of the origin of all languages and cultures.
These have the feel of legend. The stuff myths are made of. We are reading history from a cosmic perspective.
Since the fall, the story has given us several false starts. How is God ever going to put things to rights? But whatever we think, we expect that whatever God does to begin the reversal of the Fall will retain the same epic, universal feel.
And then suddenly we get to Abraham. One man. One family. And God tells him to just start wandering in the the land of Canaan. Abraham is special only because God says he is, declared with the same voice that brought the cosmos into existence. Why Abraham and no one else? Because God declared it. The theme of election, which is a major theme of the rest of the book, is introduced, and this shift is important.
Because the divine plan, of course, is still universal in scope. Through this one man, the whole world will be saved and the nations blessed. God instills the promise of the future in flesh and blood. And what does this prepare us for?
In other words, Genesis 12:1 is the beginning of the gospel itself, both in form and method.
As will happen time and time again in Scripture, God is the God of the unexpected. He will continuously surprise us.
The gongs of celebration resonating throughout the realm of social media and the crowds frantically waving American flags all proclaimed the good news. Osama bin Laden, the supposed mastermind behind the attacks on 9/11 is dead (I say “supposed” because the FBI has yet to admit the fact. Strange). Some of the scenes looked like a patriotic orgy that might put Mardi Gras to shame. Through it all, the talking heads in the media did what they do best: repeat a bunch of words over and over again, combining them into vague phrases, telling us that this was a great moment for the United States. Terrorists, watch out. The United States can reach out and kill an old man who is dependent on dialysis.
Granted, you probably have about 10 years until we can actually find you. But seriously. Watch out.
Finding the Lever of Justice
Anyone who reacts to this news with anything other than a simple, solemn nod in recognition of justice should take a step back. Because it was justice. Deserved justice. And that’s all it was.
But it certainly wasn’t swift justice. And it certainly wasn’t isolated justice.
The US bumbled around for almost 10 years, trying to find the lever to turn on the electric chair. Along the way, they managed to pick the pockets of everyone in the viewing gallery to the tune of trillions of dollars.
Thousands of live were lost on 9/11. But over 5,000 soldiers have been lost since then. The blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, shed by US weapons, cry out as we try to ignore them in our faux-victory march. Barely any traces exist of the Christian communities in Iraq that existed before the war, a beachhead of the Christian mission gone.
And we have now finally killed this one man. Who, by the way, was hiding in a country whose dictator we give billions and billions of dollars in aid (bribe) money.
And we’re proud of this? We’re celebrating this? This means the US is awesome?
Justice. A solemn nod in it’s direction. God is not mocked. Men will reap what they sow.
But everyone deserves justice of some kind. And what seeds has the US really been sowing?
Will we celebrate when justice finally comes our way?
The Fall of Enemies
We didn’t win anything. There is no strategic victory. Nothing much has changed, other than Obama’s re-election prospects. It’s just a poor excuse to thump our chests and pretend we won some victory. A nice emotional high that we will come down from quickly, and then demand something else we can shoot up so we don’t go into withdrawal. Perhaps a renewed enthusiasm for two futile wars will do the trick.
Like a junkie, we think this is good news. And those who don’t join in with the ecstatic quivering of nationalistic joy will be demonized in the public squire. Like clockwork, demonization of the “other” will commence.
But what do the Scriptures say?
Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.
Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?
But what about the imprecatory psalms, the great prayers of rejoicing that thanked God for saving Israel and destroying her enemies? The rejoicing did not come from the deaths and destruction themselves, but from the salvation that came through it. Israel was right to rejoice and thank God after being led out of Egypt. But if they had turned around and then laughed and gave the collective finger to all the Egyptians who had lost their firstborn children, how would God have reacted?
The death of Osama bin Laden brings no salvation or deliverance to the United States of America. It was a simple act of justice, poorly executed. There is nothing to rejoice about in this. Show solemn approval? Of course. It is appropriate to approve of the execution of a serial killer. It is not appropriate to heckle the mother of the condemned after the execution.
President Obama said:
We are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history.
If this is really the story of our nation, may God have mercy on us all.