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Whose Promised Land?

The Continuing Crisis over Israel and Palestine

By  Colin Chapman. Baker Books (2003)

Library Catalogue: LC 956.94 CHA

  Review by Mrs Pauline Koe

Recently the world's attention has been focused on the extraordinary proceedings in Israel where an interesting event has come to pass. Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip have been dismantled and land returned to its people who have lived under occupation for  over 40 years. You might have wondered how to make sense of this political milestone in Israel's relationship with the Palestinians. As Christians our interest in Israel is natural because of its inextricable connection with our faith. It is almost instinctive for us to support the Jewish claim to the land on the basis of popularly held interpretations of biblical prophecy. At the same time we cannot deny the injustice to the Palestinians caused by the creation of the modern state of Israel. We are troubled that a land called 'holy' is so marked by violence through the centuries, claimed by victims of violence who in turn wreak violence on other victims.

 

In attempting to answer the question, 'whose promised land?' Chapman leads us to see that looking at the historical facts will yield sight of only a small part of the whole picture. There is, for the Christian, the need to clarify what the Bible really says about the land: whether Old Testament treatment of the theme is redefined by New Testament teachings to yield very different meanings. Chapman also extends his biblical worldview of the conflict by considering other pertinent issues of moral and spiritual significance. Continuing his analysis, he points to some major forces at work in the situation that may have a determining effect on the outcome of the conflict today. Finally he says a personal word and poignantly reminds the reader that the land in question is God's land, a truth that all three religious groups, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, can easily recognize and that the working out of the tragedy that has been played out among all the actors requires  redemptive faith and action.

 

Perhaps the best thing about the book is its readability. It would seem that Chapman bends backwards in delivering his material in as simple and straightforward a format as he possibly can. Thus arguments and counter-arguments are placed in sequence, questions are phrased and answered succinctly, conclusions after each section are clearly made. He resolves the tricky question of steering an objective path through partisan rhetoric by allowing voices of all camps of the conflict to be heard in their own right. This allows the reader have a historical perspective as well as see the problem from all angles and so maintain a balanced picture of the conflict and its effect on all involved.

 

At the heart of the book is an extensive treatment of biblical passages from both testaments pertaining to the land, written out in full length. Reading them against the interpretations that Chapman offers is simply illuminating. He examines the covenantal relationship that Israel had with God in which the land was promised and given based on the Israel's faithfulness to the Law of God, the prophecies about the return of the Jews to the land after exile and the subsequent development of popular ideas in Judaism connecting the people to the land for all time. He shows in no uncertain terms how this covenantal concept of the land was completely transformed by the redemptive work of Christ in the New Testament who has now restored the 'true Israel' which includes the whole world. He also deals briefly with the teaching of the millennium and offers a corrective to the widely held evangelical position that requires a belief in the restoration of the land to the Jews.

 

Perhaps as important as resolving our understanding about the land is recognizing biblical themes that are pertinent to the conflict situation in Israel. Some of the issues are: a passion for the truth (what actually happened in the past and what is happening at present?), the problem of prejudice (do we take sides?), the demands of God's law (are Jews observing them?), the concern for justice (have a certain people been victimized?), God's judgment (can there be repentance?), suffering injustice (is forgiveness and overcoming evil with good possible?).

 

The drama of Israel as we know it in the Bible has metamorphosed into a real-time play of tragic proportions. Its resolution may depend largely on external political forces but there is place for internal personal efforts on an individual level too. Chapman's book is big enough to show us how these factors can work together and simple enough for us to get the picture.

 

Editor's note: Pauline Koe completed her Dip CS in 1995, and is currently registered as an M Div candidate.

CHAPEL NOTES

NEWS BITS

Chapel last week (31 August) was taken by Peter Lim, an MCS student at BGST.  Peter had just returned from a mission trip from Indonesia, and gave a message he had earlier shared with an Indonesian Bible school where he preached.

 

The message was centred on Psalm 46.  The speaker felt Psalm 46 to be an assuring word for difficult times.  Two contrasting images came to the fore.

 

The first had to do with the idea of the raging sea (verse 3).  Peter reminisced about a rough sea voyage which took him by surprise.  Having always travelled over calm waters within Singapore's boundaries, he feared for his life as he was being tossed about during that particular storm at sea.

 

The other and contrasting image is that of the river (4).  The river had been the source of sustenance and mode of transport for most civilizations from time immemorial. In Psalm 46, it became a picture of God's sovereign and gracious provision for his people.

 

Peter concluded his sermon with inviting his listeners to put their trust in almighty God, no matter what each our personal crisis might be.  He drew attention to the threefold occurrence of the word, "refuge" (verse 1, 7 and 11), and testified to his own sense of peace upon encountering this word, despite his own troubles and personal problems.

 

Summary by Ng Seng Chuan.

1.      More news from Mr Song Cheng Hock. His platelet count has gone down further and quite near to the "danger" mark. His wife, Nellie, suffers a cornea tear and will be receiving her blood test soon. She is also showing symptoms of dengue fever.  Let us continue to pray for them. Cheng Hock is in Changi Hospital (ward 44, bed 18).

2.      Staff News. Kok Wee is away on a mission trip from 1 - 9 September

3.      BGST Lunchtime Talks. Dr Quek Swee Hwa will be speaking on ‘Why Study Theology’ on September 9, 12.45-1.30 pm, 31 Tanjong Pagar Rd, 2nd floor. All are welcome.

4.      We have often been asked if any of our courses are available for sale. In response to this request we have selected some courses and prepared them as self-enrichment courses on VCD format. These are sold with a hard copy course manual. BGST is pleased to announce that a new self-enrichment course is available for purchase entitled, Ministering to Men: Healing of the Masculine Soul. These are 8 lectures given by Dr Quek Swee Hwa and they deal with issues faced by Christian men. This course also includes an evaluation of the Promise Keepers. Those interested may call BGST at tel. 6227 6815. We are happy to note that currently in Singapore there is a seminar dealing with men’s ministry entitled, “Man in the Mirror” and this is held on September 7 and 8 at the Orchard Road Presbyterian Church. 

  A Blessed Birthday to ...


 

 

 

Mrs Jennifer Loh  12/9

Mr Joseph Lim  12/9

A/P David Chew  12/9

Mrs Catherine Tcheau  13/9

Mrs Susie Yong  14/9

Mr Toh Beng Guan  14/9

Ms Ng Lay Kwan  15/9

Mr Anthony Tay 16/9

Mr Samuel Kim  16/9


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