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Need for reconciliation

By Jim Killebrew

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[June 16, 2014]  In the last few days we have been hearing about the crisis unfolding in the Middle East. We are hearing names like Mosul, Baiji, Tikrit, Ramadi, Falluja and Baghdad. Iraq is being overrun by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). There are somewhere between three and five thousand fighters from this organization which is a component of al-Qaeda in Iraq. With the rapid movement of ISIS sweeping down from Syria taking over these cities the Iraqi government is again asking for help from the Americans to rescue their country.

At the same time we are now hearing of those cities in Iraq that are rapidly falling at the hands of sectarian Muslims, we also need to remember the other names that have become so familiar from that part of the world. Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Amman, Syria and Lebanon. This group of countries, along with the cities and countries mentioned above have something very much in common.

Although the Palestinians do not constitute a religion per se, they do view themselves as another Arab nationality. The religions of the area are of course Islamic and Jewish. The Muslims follow the Koran and the Jews follow the Tanach a sacred book of Judaism consisting of the Torah, Prophets and Hagiographa. The commonality they all share is their relationship to Abraham, which renders them Abrahamic religions, or Semitic religions. They are monotheistic faiths of West Asian origin, emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham, the patriach.

When one views a map of the area now under siege, it is clearly seen how closely grouped all of these countries and cities are. As the sects of the Islamic religion war with each other in the Iraq arena, the Palestinians and Israelis continue their struggle mere blocks away from each other. The result of this bitterness that has lasted for thousands of years, is it any wonder the world is in peril as the powder keg in that region presents itself as the most dangerous situation in the world today. If arguments continue and brothers do not build bridges the consequences are world changing.

As mentioned, in today’s world the ancestors of Abraham are both the Israelis and the Palestinians. From Abraham came Isaac and Ishmael; Isaac through Sarah and Ishmael through Hagar. From these two sons came animosity and hatred, bloodshed and violence. The generations living today continue to fight each other and keep conflict alive with the Palestinians vowing to eradicate the Israelis from the face of the earth and the Israelis through force trying to prevent that from happening.

Even while living Isaac and Ishmael opposed each other. Isaac being the son of promise from Sarah and Ishmael being the product of Sarah’s and Abraham’s impatience, Ishmael was scorned and driven from the family of Abraham. Because of the strife the family was separated and began fighting with itself.

Through the centuries the ancestry has fought countless battles that has resulted in tens of thousands or more killed and injured. Peace has not been possible for hundreds, even thousands of years. The sons of Abraham have been enemies all that time. There was one time, however, that Isaac and Ishmael did build a bridge to join each other to come together as brothers.

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We are given that account in Genesis 25:

“Abraham lived a total of 175 years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man who had lived a full life. He joined his ancestors. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar, the Hethite.” (Genesis 25:7-9)

Isaac and Ishmael had been enemies even during the time Abraham was alive; but when Abraham died these two brothers who had fought for so many years laid down their weapons to join together in peace to bury their father. The original heads of two nations, Israelis and Palestinians, joined as one to accomplish a peaceful task. The common bond was their father who had given them life and name and identity. Their respect for him allowed them to forget their differences for a season to build a bridge between themselves to join a common cause and carry out a task of unification centered in their father.

As the 21st century world watches the Middle East conflict between this ancient family, extending to even what we are witnessing currently, God is watching as well. As Kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers have tried and continue to try to negotiate peace between this fighting family, bringing brother back to brother, as Isaac and Ishmael once did, the watching world knows that it is unlikely. The only way this will happen is the way God has intended in the first place.

The Carpenter who builds bridges has already come. He has built that bridge and millions have accepted that reconciliation and have discovered the saving grace and peace the Carpenter offers. One day when God says it is time the Carpenter will appear in clouds and establish a peace between a fighting family, and I wonder if somewhere in the background men will see a scene of Abraham standing with Isaac and Ishmael shaking hands or perhaps embracing with tears streaming down their faces.


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