December 2015

I will walk among you . . . ye shall be my peo ple

[Leviticus 26.12]

It is a daunting thought that the whole of the Bible is written within the context of the institution of slavery. Yet within that context, when it was possible for one human being to be quite litera lly the possession of another, great spiritual truths came to light. One of these was the idea of people being and becoming God's possession. 


I suppose that slavery in its most benign aspect meant that owners were morally responsible for the slaves and deeply aware of them as human bein gs, with an obligation for their total well-being as if they were members of their own family. In this sense, then, arises the image of God being in an abs olutely benign possessive relationship with human beings who are themselves totally reliant on him - MY people. 

This image becomes mo re urgently powerful in the writings of the prophet of the exile (Isaiah 40-55, see especially chapter 43). This was a time when the people of faith felt l ost and God-forsaken. They (and we sometimes) needed to be forcefully reminded that human beings, in particular those who are of "the household of faith" , are still God's possession."I have called thee by name, thou art MINE" (43.1). It used to irritate me as a child when grown-ups who couldn't be bothe red to ask me my name used to call me "sonny Jim": even more as an adult when they called me "Jack". I felt instinctively that they didn't care much a bout me.

Christians, especially at Christmas time, rejoice in the Biblical truths that God is very much "with us" (the meaning of Emmanue l) and that he cares enough to know our names. The promise is stated in Leviticus "I will walk among you". That made the God of Israel a very different b eing, and infinitely more interesting, than the gods of Babylon which could only move if they were dragged around on trolleys. And as we know, the promise was dramatically fulfilled in the human birth of Christ in Jesus of Nazareth, and in the holy life which followed this quietly stunning event. The One whos e dear possession we are, went about among us to draw us even more closely to Himself.

(This month's commentary is from the book "Within Thy Silence" by Martin Tunnicliffe (O-Books 2010). Copies should be available, or may be ordered, from any bookshop or the Internet.)

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