Middle East Update: June

This is an attempt at providing some Biblical insight into the complex situations in the Middle East.

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run into it and are saved. Proverbs 18:10

     I was reading BBC News this week in conjunction with the prayer updates from our team in Lebanon, when this memory verse from Sunday school returned to my brain like a bolt of lightning. Three things struck me (pun intended):
1.) ANALYSIS: Syrian refugees in Lebanon have now topped 500,000. Half a million people have left or been driven from the place that their families may have lived for centuries. This statistic plus the 500,000 Palestinians that occupy encampments throughout the country since 1948 have made Lebanon the home to a million people seeking refuge (this is not taking into account the Armenians who fled during the genocide in Turkey).
2.) CATHARSIS: I never learned this verse from Proverbs when I was growing up. I wasn’t told that it was important to memorize scripture until confirmation class. I memorized this verse when I was teaching Sunday school.
3.) SYNTHESIS: First a question or three: Is God aware of this? Does He know about the massive Diaspora in the wake of the Arab Spring? Can he make any beauty from these ashes (Isa 61:3)? The answer to these questions rings out from the top of a great fortified tower. A people with the same population as all of Tucson is displaced from their homes, ravaged by war, and at a critical point of reformation potential. So God what is your plan for this lost and broken people? Robert Frost wrote this poignant stanza: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/ And sorry I could not travel both/ And be one traveler, long I stood/ To where is bent in the undergrowth.
The local church in Lebanon has two paths set before them at this turning point in history (Matt 7:13-14). To follow the broad path is that of rejection or ambivalence to the sojourners in their land. This is the journey that the local church largely chose to take when Palestinians began to move in mass into the country. So now the body of Christ can but only turn to face down a rarely ventured narrow highway. This is a roadway that has been dimmed by the overgrowth of cultural maligning and mired with the moss of past injustices. The only illumination that is capable of helping navigate this nebulous boulevard is the light of Christ (Psa 119:105). The end of the road is filled with a treasure of lives turned from the darkness that will shine the radiance of Jesus. A room full of children sitting in a Lebanese church on Sunday morning all declaring with loud and jubilant voices, “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; we ran into it and were saved!”
Frost concludes: Somewhere ages and ages hence/ Two roads diverged in a wood, and I/ I took the one less traveled by/ And that has made all the difference.

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