"The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived for one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days.
This passage from Job is found at the end of the book, after he has survived his time of trial and tribulation. And we see that God continues to commend Job for being a righteous man. Job is commended by God for his faith. And God blesses him with more children, and here we see Job naming them. A tradition in the Jewish faith that continues today. A ceremony carried out in Jewish synagogues all over the world.
I was not going to originally preach on this passage, but early this past Sunday morning, I got up and heard about a third hate crime that occurred the week before, and I felt called to speak out about these events. The headlines on the news websites all over the world were about the three hate crimes that happened in our country. First were the stories about all those pipe bonds sent to prominent Democrats all over the country by someone who hated Democrats. Then the horrific shooting in the synagogue last Saturday morning where a man went in and killed 11 people during services simply because they were Jewish.
The Jewish people had gathered for a naming service for a little baby or babies and so a time of great joy was met with great evil and horror. And finally there was the man in Kentucky who tried to get into a predominantly black church and was unsuccessful, so he went to a nearby Kroger and shot two black people, presumably because of the color of their skin. One who was merely shopping with his 12-year-old grandson for poster board for a school project, a grandfather shot right in front of his grandson. Pure hate. Pure evil. None of this is scriptural. None of this is Biblical. None of this is Christian. And none of this was ever advocated for by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Jesus saved people, loved people and healed people of all sorts and conditions. He healed Gentiles. He healed Jews.
The daughter of a Roman soldier;
The daughter of a leader of a synagogue;
He touched lepers.
He ate with tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, rich people, poor people, and everyone in-between.
He walked with fishermen, lawyers, and women.
He healed people filled with demons.
He held the children and blessed the babies.
Anti-Semitism, particularly the brand taught by Hitler and his German church, and today’s neo-Nazi’s is wrong, and is not of God or the Bible. It is proof-texting, which means twisting the Scripture to support your agenda, at its worst.
We have seen this twisting of scripture against the Jews. We have seen it against slaves and in civil rights issues. And we have seen it used in politics on both sides. If your reading of scripture enforces your desire to hate someone, then your reading of scripture is wrong.
Let’s take persecution of the Jews. Some Christian leaders and their mis-guided flocks believe God replaced Jews with Christians, and that all Jews are therefore condemned to Hell or eternal death. And so Hitler took this bad theology and turned it into a platform of hate. But this bad theology ignores clear teaching in other parts of the New Testament, not to mention the Old Testament.
For example, Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (Chapters 9-11) that the Jewish people were God’s chosen people and somehow God was working out that salvation, in ways Paul could not know or understand, but you can tell he felt certain it was happening. Then the Gospel writer John, the author also of the Book of Revelation, states multiple times in Revelation that he saw a vision of 24 thrones in heaven. 24 thrones. Those thrones were the 12 thrones of the sons of Israel, the twelve tribes of the Hebrews. And the 12 thrones of the Apostles.
The foundation of the New Jerusalem bore the names of the 12 Apostles, but the pearly gates had the names of the 12 sons of Jacob. That means that John saw that the rulers in heaven were both Jews and Gentiles. And he also saw people of every nation, every color, every people there before the throne of God, praising God.
Jesus said that to be angry with someone in your heart, to hate them in your heart is equivalent to murder. He knew the great danger that if you allowed that hate to burn and grow, it could eventually lead to murder. And so the key is to stop it in the first place.
CS Lewis gave a series of talks during WWII that are collected in a book entitled Mere Christianity. He would go on the radio once a week and talk about the basics of Christianity. And one night he talked about Christian Charity.
Now when he is speaking about charity, he is not talking about charity how we mean it today, giving money or goods to a good cause. No, he is talking about Christian Charity in the old-fashioned sense, meaning loving someone with the very love of God. Loving people with agape love. Loving not only the people we like, but also loving the people we do not like because we recognize them as fellow creations of God, also made just like us, in the image of God. And so in speaking on this type of Christian Charity, loving others, this is was Lewis had to say:
Christian charity . . . is quite distinct from affection, yet it leads to affection. The difference between a Christian and a worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affections or ‘likings’ and the Christian has only ‘charity’. The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: [In contrast] the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on—including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning.
[Lewis goes on to note that] this same spiritual law works terribly in the opposite direction. The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them: afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become — and so on in a vicious circle forever.
Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.
[On the other hand] an apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.
In other words, the little acts and decisions and ways we treat one another today are leading us either closer to God, or they are leading us further away. And the acts we do tomorrow build upon the ones we do today. And so do the ones next week, next month, next year and throughout our lives.
And so the question is which way are you heading? John the Baptist called us to repent, and turn back. Jesus called us to turn and follow him. My hope is that we will keep him in our sight. Keep our faces toward him, and live always into his very simple summary of the law, to love God with all our hearts and mind and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.