And she bore him a son, and he called his name Gershom:
for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
Have you ever traveled to another country where you did not speak the language?
Immediately upon arriving, jet lagged, tired, disoriented, all previous thoughts
of being ok and of easily getting by suddenly evaporate. Overwhelmed, you stare bleary eyed and lost.
You immediately sense your differentness. A rising sense of panic works to consume you as you feel conspicuous and vulnerable. Uneasiness, dread, foreboding race to devour your remaining sense of wellbeing—-all this transpires in the span of the first 30 seconds upon arrival, all before you can slowly breathe, getting your bearings and allowing common sense to quell the rising panic.
As a Christian, I am beginning to feel that same sense of rising of panic, disorientation, and sense of alienation. I feel as though I am no longer welcome in my own country. . .for I am a stranger now in a very strange land. I am ridiculed and scorned for my beliefs, my faith. I choose to believe in the Bible and what I consider to be the true Word of God and yet I am told to get with the program, come to the 21st century. . .I am told not to be so archaic, stop believing in mythology and fairy tales. I am told that I do not have a right to believe what I believe because it is preposterous, unbelievable, not all inclusive–as my beliefs seem to have limits, it appears my beliefs are saying “no” to certain lifestyles and choices.
. .I am reminded that this is not a time for an either or sort belief system for we are now a people who are all about “it’s all good” and “it’s all ok” sort of life. Tolerance, where is my tolerance I am asked.
Where is my love and acceptance of all. . .
Yet my faith, my beliefs, state that I am to believe in the Word God, the One true God—there is no waffling, no balancing act, no grey areas. . .either I believe or I don’t. Not in little demigods, not in things, not in man, not in little parts or snippets of His word while disregarding others. . .but rather I believe in an Omnipotent God. There is to be no rewriting of His word in order to set things as the world would like things to be written.
His word was stated and set eons ago. . .
there is to be no changing, no rewriting,
no updating to modern times. . .no redo. . .
Yet I am told that my thoughts, my beliefs, my faith are all no longer acceptable.
It’s all outdated, passé, cliche, no longer relevant. . .
Change or be changed I am told.
I must no longer adhere to the mumbo jumbo.
The courts will have their say.
They’ll show me.
They will tell me that I can’t believe.
Television tells me I can’t believe.
Their shows will prove I’m wrong.
Movies and music will all show me.
Step aside I am told.
We don’t want you here.
You can’t pray here.
You can’t say “Amen” here.
You can’t talk about Jesus here. . .
You’ll be fired, removed, shut down, sued, or even beheaded if ISIS has any say.
Bad things happen.
Earthquakes, calamities, tidal waves, tornadoes, floods, volcanos, blizzards,
natural as well as man made disasters. . .
I am asked where is my God.
How dare he allow such suffering. . .
Why doesn’t He stop the madness, the chaos?
But wait, I thought I was told He doesn’t exist, we don’t have room for Him, I was wrong for my belief in Him. . .
We rewrote Him, I reply, remember. . .
We made Him smaller.
We made Him our own.
We didn’t want to be transformed into His likeness, we wanted, rather, to transform Him to our likeness, our image, our idea, our ideal. . .
Hear the words of the ancient psalmist. . .
“You have rebuked the insolent;
cursed are they who stray from your commandments!”
And hear now the words written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, while he was a prisoner in a Nazi death camp awaiting execution. . .the writing was to be a manuscript written of his reflection of Psalm 119. . .
God hates the insolent, those who despise the Word of God and the faithful. Pride before God is the root of all disobedience, all violence, all irresponsibility. Pride is the root of all rebellion and destruction. Confronting all pride and insolence, however, is a fearful warning, of which the proud themselves comprehend nothing but the faithful do: it is the gospel. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). The cross of Jesus Christ, which shows that God is with the weak and the humble, is God’s rebuke to the insolent. They may achieve victory over all human beings, but against God they will come to nought.
Whoever believes in the gospel sees the Word of God hanging over the insolent of this earth. The preaching of the Word of God is the only serious rebuke to a humanity grown proud. But along with his Word, God has also given sign of his might. In the midst of history, here and there, God’s rebuke can be seen, and the community of the faithful look with shuddering and amazement at the proud, who even now in their time fall and are destroyed. They are kept from any hypocritical certainty, however, because they see that innocent people are always destroyed along with the proud; and so the visible judgements of God remain hidden and obscure even for the faithful. Only the Word remains incontrovertibly clear when it pronounces its curse on the godless: “Cursed are they who stray from your commandments!” In the laws it says ” Cursed be he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them” (Deut.27:26). Can we speak this word without being convicted by it ourselves? Is it a word only for others and for ourselves? The curse upon the transgressors of the law of God is God’s right and. . .
Bonhoeffer’s words of his manuscript break off at this point. . . he never finished the manuscript. . . on April 9, 1944 he was executed on the direct orders of Adolph Hitler, exactly two weeks before Hitler committed suicide.
The psalm ends. . .Turn from me shame and rebuke,
for I have kept your decrees.
Even though rulers sit and plot against me,
I will meditate on your statutes.
Fro your decrees are my delight,
and they are my counselors.
A stranger in a strange land indeed. . .