Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Israel, Day 4, Oct 29 Two Hospitals and Efrat Soldiers

First stop today was at the Lowenstein Hospital, Israel's largest and leading rehabilitation hospital for all ages, in Ra'anana (which is north of Tel Aviv and Herzliya).  Here are a couple of pictures:

By the way, photo credits for these shots in today's post go to our team leader, Dr. Barri Cae Seif.
Many of the patients at Loewenstein are there because of traumatic brain injury or because of a brain-related illness.  One of those is the husband of the woman in the light green shirt, pictured with Jeff and Barri on the left.  Her husband was for many years an outspoken Messianic voice in Israel.  A very vigorous man, he contracted a powerful virus which has caused him extensive health problems.  At present he is in sort of a comatose state.  Our entire team prayed with E., his wife.  We had no idea they would be there.  It was a divine appointment!  A young Jewish man overheard us praying and asked us to come to his wife's room and pray over her.  We do not believe this young man knows the Lord, but that he was desperate to "cover all the bases" as far as his wife's healing is concerned.  She was involved in a car accident which left her comatose for an extended period of time.  So very sad.  But, we were able to share the love of Yeshua with him as well.  Planting seeds.

From there, we went on to the town of Efrat, which is in the West Bank, the section of it that is south of Jerusalem.  It is a Jewish settlement that was established in 1983, but because it is in the West Bank, non-Jews (I am mainly referring to Muslims here) are also allowed to be there.  The area has seen its share of unrest over the years, and it is heavily patrolled by the Israeli Defense Force, both conscripted and reservists.

We had gone to Efrat to visit with IDF soldiers at a volunteer-run canteen called Pina Chana (which means "Warm Corner").  It is a place where the soldiers can come in for a warm beverage and a sweet - - a piece of cake, or a brownie, or another baked good.  The canteen's volunteers are called "The Aunts" by the soldiers, because they treated the soldiers like a loving aunt would.  The baked goods are also baked by Jewish volunteer bakers in the area.  At Pina Chana, we interacted with soldiers who stopped by and also gave them "goodie bags" of donated items.  We thanked them for their hard work, protecting Israel and keeping the peace.

Pina Chana is located adjacent to a small shopping center.  We walked up there to use "the facilities".
Some of my readers will remember when I posted on Facebook recently about the cold-blooded murder of Zionist Ari Fuld.  His family and friends are continuing his work, and you can learn more about that on "Ari Fuld's Israel Defense Page" on Facebook.
The mini-mall is pretty modern, not a place you would expect such a murder to have occurred.  But, so it did.  At the time I learned about this horrific killing, I had no earthly idea I'd be standing in the place where the murder occurred.  Yet, there we stood, and prayed for the peace of Israel, and for God's continuing comfort on the Fuld family.  I am still so heartbroken...

Upon leaving Efrat, we went to the Herzog hospital in Jerusalem.  We were given a tour of Herzog by Jerry Solomon, who did a fantastic job telling us about this wonderful hospital.  It is over 120 years old, and was named after the wife of Rabbi Herzog.  His wife was the head of the hospital for something like....40 years?  Anyway, the patients here mainly have either severe respiratory ailments, or some sort of psychiatric disorders.  We visited a women's ward and gave them new pairs of socks.  We also visited a children's respiratory ward.  Both were incredibly heartbreaking scenarios.  Here are some of us at Herzog.  Mr. Solomon is on the right.

Let me share from my heart:  this trip is hard.  My trip to Israel in January of this year was all about fun and history and relaxation.  This trip breaks the heart, and it's all about witnessing and loving the hard-to-love, and heartbreak and woundedness.  It takes a lot out of each of us.

Moving on....After Herzog, we were pretty exhausted.  We came into Jerusalem's Jewish "downtown" and checked into our hotel here, the Montefiori.  Then, we walked up to the corner restaurant and had a bite of dinner.  (I tried a dish called shakshuka, with a juice drink, containing beet juice, ginger, carrot juice and apple juice.)  It is in a wonderful, lively area, filled with character.
So funny....tonight, in the room adjacent to ours, the occupants were having what sounded like the equivalent of a Jewish disco party!  Loud music, singing, etc.  Fortunately, they piped down by 9:30 or so, lol!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Israel, Day 3, Oct. 28 - - Schneider Children's Hospital and Ledek Food Bank Farm

I was extremely tired, because jet lag was hitting me hard.  I woke up this morning at 12:30 a.m., and could not go back to sleep.  No lie.  On the up-side, down to the lobby I went, for some stimulating cappuccino and conversation.  Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, I got a total of around 15 hours of sleep.  Something needed to give next time my head hit the pillow!  Today, we had two items on our service agenda...and I was basically fighting zombie-dom.  Perhaps that explains my facial expression in the bus pic.  All that stuff in the back will be given away in our various service projects.

The first stop was at Schneider Children's Hospital, just outside Tel Aviv.  There, we donned our Dr. Seuss "Cat in the Hat" hats, and handed out stuffed animals to the children there.  It was a joy and delight to see their faces light up with pleasure, when it is plain they suffer so much physically.  Here's what you don't hear about in the US news media.  At these hospitals we are visiting, elbow-to-elbow are Jewish families, Muslim families and religion-unknown families, all getting along.  Same goes for the hospital staff.  The fact is that most people in Israel get along pretty well.  It's a rather awesome country.
Ok, so, you can see from our ridiculous picture that we enjoyed being goodwill ambassadors for the Lord at Schneider's, although all those sick children were hard on our hearts.

Next, we had lunch in Rehovot, an agricultural area, at a restaurant where I had a fabulous mushroom dish.  The food here is just glorious, and I will come home weighing less, because it is so doggone healthy.  After lunch, we went to the Ledek Farm, which is in essence Israel's food bank.  The produce grown there is on the tables of impoverished families within 48 hours.  Our task for today was picking radishes.  We picked radishes for over about 90 minutes.   (Some of you are laughing at me, because you can just "see" this...)
We picked alongside a group of orthodox teenage Jewish girls, who were at the farm on a school trip.  They were delightful to talk with and work alongside.

I must tell you that the biblical references to "the desert shall rejoice and blossom as a rose" (Isaiah 35:1) and "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 3:17) really rang in my heart while harvesting.  I have never seen such radishes.  They looked more like beets!  They were so large and numerous that I could stand, bent over and ripping out of the ground approximately 20 of them, without moving my feet.  It was amazing.  Furthermore, I did not see many pests on the radishes or on the foliage. 
One final point, at the risk of over-Christianizing a simple harvest experience....
The farmers allowed the weeds to grow up with the plants.  Unless we had known what the plants' foliage looked like, we would not have been able to locate or identify them, because of the proliferation of weeds.  I don't know anything about gardening, but I guess it is possible the other plants (weeds) were strategically planted along with the radishes for some reason.  There were an awful lot of them; I can tell you that.

After the "radishing" experience, we headed back to our Tel Aviv hotel.  Most of the group went to dinner, but I had eaten such a large lunch and was so dusty and tired (sleep-deprived), I went straight to the room for clean-up, praying I would sleep a good 8 hours.

To Shabbat or Not?

I had not met Barri before this trip, although we had talked via Facebook and over the phone.  She was born into a Jewish family, and began her walk with Jesus as a young woman in the 1980s.  Today, she is in her sixties, a resplendent fireball of faith!  Here was my question, one that has a diversity of answers, depending on whom you ask in the messianic community.  Can you guess my question?

"Exactly how observant of Torah (the Old Testament Law) should we, as believers in Yeshua, be?"

Here was her answer:  "As observant as you want to be."  I was amazed to learn she wrote her doctoral dissertation on this topic!  Essentially, her point was that salvation is obtained through grace, through faith in the finished work of Yeshua Maschiach (Jesus Messiah) alone.  Obedience, holy living, means walking by faith in obedience to the dictates of the new covenant Jesus gave us.  They are found in both the gospels of Matthew (The Greatest Commandment) and John (The New Commandment).

34Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ c 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ d 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

I'm so glad God gave us, through Matthew, this exchange!  Now, note: the questioner was "an expert in the Law", ok?  At that time, there were over 600 Old Testament laws being put forward by the Pharisees.  Read that again: over 600.  (No wonder the man wanted to know which was greatest!  How to discern?!)
The first commandment Jesus quoted comes from Deuteronomy 6:5.  The second is found in Leviticus 19:18.
The entire Old Testament depends on these two commandments.  Unless these two are embraced and made part of one's "spiritual DNA", none of the others are of any consequence.

34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35 (ESV)

Within those commandments fit all of the Law and the Prophets as well as the teachings of Jesus, the disciples and of Paul, James, etc.

Some followers of Jesus are deepened in their resplendent walk (their walk in relationship with their Savior) by observing some of the rules given in Torah.  For some, that means "keeping kosher" (a set of dietary rules).  Other believers are fulfilled by celebrating God's "holy convocations" as revealed in the Old Testament.  Others worship on Saturday, Shabbat.

Here's what distresses me.  I have a friend whose brother is Torah observant.  In addition, this Messianic believer argues with and ridicules any believer who is not.  When this is the attitude, families are divided; congregations are fractured; etc.
This behavior is not what Jesus meant by "loving one another"...
This phenomenon is not peculiar to the Messianic community.  It has gone on since the days of the early Church.  I've blogged about it before - - legalism, fueled by pride.  Most of us believers struggle with the pitfall of spiritual pride, which lies at the root of legalism.  This can be found wrapped around other scriptural debates....the deep waters of the doctrine of predestination, the role and extent of spiritual gifts, premillennialism vs. post-, and so forth.

I have several friends who are Messianic believers, others who are charismatic believers, others who are ardent Calvinists, others who follow Jesus yet express their worship through the Catholic hierarchy...  Some, as they have grown in grace, have moved from one Christian denomination to another or changed their beliefs on particular issues.

Beyond the settled doctrines of the Christian faith, believers must love each other, embracing the truth of John 8:36, while allowing the Holy Spirit to convict each believer as He sees fit.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Free indeed.  Hallelujah!
Now, let me get started on the next post, which will be a more tourist-y one.  ;)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Israel, Day One, Travel and Arrival

For those who don't know, I am back in Israel, the navel of the Earth, once again.  This time around I am here with a mission group, a 501c3 called Sar Shalom Israel, as opposed to the last trip, which focused on touristing.  There are 13 in our group, and we will be focusing primarily on service projects to the people of this wonderful land.  I'm due to return on November 4th.

Of the 13, three other ladies are from my home county, although we did not know one another before meeting at Logan airport in Boston.  In fact, one of them attends church within walking distance of my Canton home.  Crazy, right?

The plane rides here are no joke, y'all.  I left home on Thursday morning a little after 8:00 and "traveled" (including layovers) for the next 22 hours.  Not for the faint of heart!
Then, there was the security aspect.  Oh mercy!  So, the ATL to Logan leg was a piece of cake.  I got designated TSA Pre-check, which meant I breezed through security check without even taking off a shoe.  At Logan, I was already in the secure area, but I needed to mail some cards.  This meant I had to leave the secure area, mail the cards, and be subjected to the security line again (which this time included shoe removal AND a pat-down).  But, I was chill.
After that delightful experience, I rejoined my fellow travelers at our gate to learn that El Al (the Israeli airline whisking us to Tel Aviv) was requiring to go outside security (yep, not kidding) and submit to El Al's particular brand of security check.  This was unplowed ground, I'll just tell ya.

So, our little group trekked to the designated location whereupon we were asked questions about our trip.  Two of the ladies got the usual amount of scrutiny.  One of our party and I got the N-th degree!
First, they ask you many questions in quick succession, some of them in slightly different forms, to see if they catch you in a lie.  So, you'd better tell the truth, Pilgrim! After many more than the usual number of questions, I was informed my carry-on bags would be checked.  I must have posed quite the threat in my black Guess jeans and black poncho; but, I digress.  Anyhoo, they went through my stuff, asking me questions about essential oils, my laptop and my Beautycounter make-up.  (Seriously, folks, could I make this stuff up?  No.) . At long last, I was cleared and walked over (slightly in a daze) to meet the other three ladies who were looking at me like I was in the CIA....
We returned to the gate, relieved.  We were all, apparently, going to Israel.  But, the fun was not over yet!  When we began to board, the other lady who was more thoroughly examined, was pulled aside and taken to another area; the rest of our party was prevented from boarding in the interim, while she was asked more questions.  Seems a background check had been run on her and the Mossad had discovered she was a former law enforcement officer.  But, after about 10 minutes we boarded the 767.  Thank you, El Al.  The group of us that flew Delta could have boarded wearing scuba gear and I don't think an eyebrow would have been raised.  Whatev....  I ate my little airline meal and went to sleep for about 4-5 hours.  I was exhausted!

Arriving in Tel Aviv, I changed some money from "dollas" to shekels, having an interesting conversation with a sweet elderly couple from Mass, who asked me to talk just so they could continue to enjoy my Southern accent, lol.  Then, I caught a taxi to the Old Jaffa section of the city, ate at The Old Man and the Sea restaurant, walked around the Wishing Bridge, made a wish, and eventually ended up at Hotel Ultra, our abode for the next 3 nights.

It was great to meet the rest of our group of 13, who are from places as various as Kansas, Texas, South Carolina, Delaware, and Georgia, of course.  As soon as possible, I was in bed.
Oh, but there were more fun and games surrounding that, lol.  So, I had never met my roommate, Veronica.  She's a delightful lady, but we found out upon arrival our room configuration was two twin beds pushed together.  The hotel management said we'd only have to bear with this arrangement for one night, because they'd have a room with two actual twin beds available the next night.  Truly, I was so tired at that point, I think I'd have bedded down with an iguana.  While Veronica grabbed a bit of dinner, I crawled into the bed and, by the time she turned out the light, I was "gone".  That was around 9:00 p.m. local time, I imagine.

You are going to think I'm lying, but around 2 a.m., Veronica was up and rummaging around the room which woke me up.  I thought she was just up briefly, but no.  So, in the course of 2 a.m. conversation, I mentioned that it was 2 a.m.  Veronica's phone had not changed to the local time; so, she thought it was nearly 7 a.m.!  I mean, she was putting on her make-up and such by this point.  I thought she was crazy and she thought I was lazy, because we were supposed to go down to breakfast at 7.  After nearly collapsing with laughter over the misunderstanding neither of us could go back to sleep.  So, in our provided hotel bathrobes over our PJs, we trotted to the lobby for coffee.  Now, understand that the Hotel Ultra is "ultra small".  The catchy phrase is a "boutique hotel".  That means tiny, ok?  We think the hotel is only one floor, with a small dining area and kitchen underneath it.
Other than the desk attendant, there was only one other person in the lobby at such an hour, a man who, no doubt, thought we were complete loons.  However, we made ourselves more than one cappuccino and got acquainted.  It was delightful, no really!  Around 5 a.m. our trip's organizer (the founder of Sar Shalom) joined us, and the party rolled on.

After a fabulous breakfast, if you enjoy all types of veggie salads for breakfast, which I absolutely do (oh, for heaven's sake, there were also delectable pastries and eggs), several of us went for a walk along the beach, amid bikers, joggers, dogs, gulls, etc.  We probably walked for a mile or so, and then returned to the hotel (which happens to be right across the street from the former US Embassy!)  What a delightful walk!  The Mediterranean is so very beautiful!

We arrived late yesterday afternoon, just in time for Shabbat, the Hebrew word for the Sabbath.  Sabbath (except for High Sabbaths, which are features of certain feast days) begins at sundown on Friday, and ends at sundown on Saturday.  Accordingly, after our walk, we headed out to a Shabbat service with the believers of the AdonaiRoi congregation, in Tel Aviv.  The group meets within walking distance of our hotel.  There were approximately 50 people in attendance in the small room.  In fact, there was not enough room for everyone.  Some were seated and listening out in the hall.  We sang familiar worship songs in Hebrew and some not so familiar, accompanied by a praise band.  The Torah passage for the week was read, in Hebrew.  In fact, the entire spoken service was delivered in Hebrew.  For those of us who do not speak the language, headsets were provided.  An English speaker translated.

The sermon was centered around how to be righteous in the eyes of God.  Several Old Testament verses were shared, as well as verses from the New Testament.  The central point was that Jesus (Yeshua) is our righteousness, that apart from Him we have no righteousness, nor can we ever hope to gain it.  I loved how the rabbi wove the Scriptures from both Testaments together to convey this essential doctrine.  At the end of the service, he gave the benediction from Numbers 6, in Hebrew.

I did not record or make pictures during the worship service.  I hope you will forgive me.  I simply wanted to worship.

As for the people, most of the attendees were young people in their 20s, but there were also middle-aged folk.  I was one of the oldest present.  All colors/races were represented.  There was a young adult man who was obviously mentally impaired; he was accompanied by his middle-aged mother who lovingly cared for him.  There were no young children present today, for some reason, although there are young children who are part of the congregation.

I spoke at length to Julia, who sat behind me in the service.  She is 27 and made aliyah about 3 years ago, if I remember correctly.  "Making aliyah" is the phrase indicating a person of Jewish descent has come to live/reside in Jerusalem, after having been born in another country.  This is usually done in the young adult years, but can also be used to refer to Jews of any age to relocate to Israel.

The rest of Julia's family is in New York City.  I got the impression they are not believers.  Her eyes began to tear up as she spoke of them.  She was obviously very burdened for them as the service began.  She supports herself by teaching English here in Tel Aviv.  Veronica and I did our best to encourage her in her spiritual journey.  After the service, she found us and said that she felt her burden had been lifted.  Such is so often the blessing of the fellowship of the saints.  It was a great day in the house of the LORD.

This was funny.  I have never made a tourist's picture in a public restroom!  However, the restroom there on the church premises had an extraordinary view of the Mediterranean. So, I snapped a shot.  It is at the top of this post.  After Shabbat services, our group either did more walking or tried to shake our jet lag.  I was in the latter group, but could not sleep.  So, I began this blog post.

Dinner was at a seaside restaurant called La Mer.  We had walked past it earlier in the day.  Our waitress was a delightful young woman.  I ordered the Quinoa Salad, also pictured above.  Some beneficent person paid for every person's dinner (12 of us!).  Our trip leader was fading fast and wanted to walk back to the hotel; so, I volunteered to walk with her.  Partly, that was to keep her from walking back alone, but also I wanted to ask her something.  I will share that with you in tomorrow's post.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Two Fascinating Lamechs

One of my college roommates has four strapping sons.  She and her husband named them all "L" names.  The youngest is named Lamech.  What an interesting choice!

The name Lamech appears twice in recorded Scripture.  Prior to studying Genesis, I did not know that.  (I just love to learn something new from studying the Word!) These two very different men were cousins.

The first Lamech recorded was the great-great-great grandson of the infamous "first-murderer", Cain.  And, like his progenitor, Lamech was a murderer also.  In fact, he boasted about getting away with the murder of a young man who had (seemingly) committed some minor offense against Lamech.  He was also the first polygamist mentioned in Scripture.  I blogged about this awful dude in a recent post.

The second Lamech was a descendant of Seth, the son of promise born to Adam and Eve.  This Lamech was the father of Noah (yes, THAT Noah).  He was also the son of Methusaleh, the longest-living human, and the grandson of Enoch, the man who was apparently so godly that never died.  (More about Enoch in another post) . Meanwhile, Genesis 5:21-32 (ESV)

21When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22Enoch walked with Godb after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24Enoch walked with God, and he was not,c for God took him.
25When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.
28When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us reliefd from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters.31Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.
32After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Two more different men you could hardly find.  They present a juxtaposition of good vs. evil. 
We don't know much about "the good Lamech" except that he named his son "Noah".  The name means "comfort" or "rest".  We see, at the very end of Genesis 4 (vs. 26b) that "people began to call upon the name of the Lord".  Why do you think this was recorded?

The line of Cain had veered off into depravity.  But, by the grace of God, the line of Seth (and perhaps others of Adam and Eve's descendants) had remembered The Promise (Genesis 3:15, the Protoevangelium.)  Even then, names had great significance.  As a man of 182 years, Lamech had seen much - - - the evil works of most men, the ever-encroaching evil influence of fallen angels (Genesis 6), the corruption of the human blood line, etc.  It seems no accident then, that in naming his son "Noah", Lamech longed for spiritual comfort and rest in the Promise made nearly 1000 years earlier, a rest from a condemned, wasting, dying life that was the legacy of Adam to his offspring.

The prophet Isaiah expressed this same longing throughout his book - - Isaiah 40:1, 49:13, 51:3, 51:12, 61:2, 66:13.  This heart-piercing longing was not solved by the Great Flood associated with Noah who, along with the Ark he built, are "types", foreshadows of Jesus Christ.  The fulfillment of The Promise, that gut-wrenching thirst in the heart of faithful worshippers for true relationship with God Himself, was only assuaged by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the ultimate Son of Promise.  Paul speaks of how God the Father ultimately provided the final solution through Jesus, in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV)

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Praise be, indeed.....

On a side note, can you EVEN imagine living hundreds of years?  I cannot.  Obviously, the aging process before the Great Flood was extremely slow.  Couples were fertile for a much longer period than today, possibly siring scores of offspring.  Families were huge.  Great-great-great grandparents lived to see their descendants.  For example, in this fascinating chapter of Genesis 5, we see (if I did the math right) that Adam lived long enough to know the godly Lamech, but died before the birth of Noah.  Knowledge proliferated as well, because people lived long enough to accumulate vast stores of knowledge in the course of a lifetime, presumably teaching it to their many offspring.  In this way, the earth was populated quickly.

One more comment on the lives of Adam and Eve....Every parent similarly bequeaths to his/her children the same depravity with which every person is born.  At least we can bemoan our fate but blame it on the first two parents, Adam and Eve, whose deadly disobedience in the Garden of Eden brought it all about.  But, can you imagine seeing your horrific mistake, your ghastly choice, played out in the lives of your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., over hundreds of years?!  I grieve when I see sin at work in the lives of my sons, because I see myself in them.  (Families tend to have predispositions to certain sins, if you have not noticed that yet, lol!)  Can you imagine being Adam and Eve, and knowing that your own tragic sin brought about the extreme "fall from Eden" they lived to witness?  It is a wonder they lived as long as they did.  I think I would have grieved myself to death.

Unfortunately, along with the "advances" mankind made in the antediluvian period, aided by the influence of fallen angels, mankind slipped into extreme depravity, sort of like the bad Lamech "on steroids", to use a popular phrase.  Genesis 6 is one of the most mind-blowing chapters in all the Bible.  That's our next destination.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Brothers, Blood and Robbers

Aren't you, like me, fascinated by these modern stories of siblings, through these DNA test kits, finding long-lost brothers and sisters?  I watched one the other day.  It was astounding how much the two brothers looked alike.  One lived in France, and the other in Greenville, SC, America.  A mother's deathbed confession led to the beginning of a search which, through the DNA kit, yielded a successful, heart-warming outcome.  Now, the brothers are making up for lost decades.  Lives forever changed - - how wonderful!

I think it would be an interesting sermon series to focus on questions asked in the Bible.  For example, a few posts ago, near the beginning of this Genesis series, we examined "Did God really say...?"  Here, in Genesis 4:9-10, we have another question asked, this one by Cain, after he had murdered his brother, Abel.  Closely following Cain's question is a rhetorical question (because He already knew the answer, of course) from God.

Here's the scripture text:

9Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 
Genesis 4:9-10 (ESV)

What a truly astounding, horrific moment!  The Bible does a bang-up job of showing us just how depraved sinful mankind is, apart from the only salvation God offers us through Jesus Christ. 

So, let's first examine this concept of Abel's blood crying to God from the ground.  That's totally beyond human comprehension, in my book.  Here, Abel's blood is described by God as having a "voice".  The Bible records no spoken words of Abel's.  Yet, his blood speaks....

Think of the implications.  Not one thing in this universe escapes God's notice.  All the devastating losses we experience in life, even the sudden death of a loved one by evil means, are seen by our all-knowing, all-powerful God, who promises to avenge innocent blood, whether we "live to see it" or not. 

Think of all the murders, committed throughout time.  The blood of each of those victims "cries to God from the ground".  All the aborted babies, excused by their mothers as "my body, my right" (one of Satan's most potent, destructive lies) . . . their blood cries out to God.

Numbers 35:33 (AMP) says that such violently-spilled blood "pollutes and defiles the land".

In Gen. 4:10, the word "blood" is actually plural - - "bloods".1  When a plural is used in this fashion, it connotes intensity, or more specifically, a violent shedding of blood.  We see this similar plural usage in Isaiah 4:4, 26:21 and Hosea 1:4.  The Hebrew word for "crying" is "tsa-aq", which means "a most desperate, extreme need."

The Amplified Bible puts this verse (4:10) as follows:

The voice of your brother’s [innocent] blood is crying out to Me from the ground [for justice].

What does God do, then, in response?  He puts a severe curse on Cain.  Murder became Cain's legacy and his curse; this heinous act against his brother followed him the rest of his life.  Even more - - we see the curse in the lives of his descendants.  In Genesis 4:23-24 we see that Cain's great-great-great-grandson, Lamech, was also a violent person, who murdered a young man for striking and wounding him and then dared others to hold him accountable for his murderous actions.  The "apple did not fall far from the tree..."

The Bible tells how violence began to fill the land (Gen. 6:11), as Cain's curse began to play out and expand, until the earth became so violent and the ground so polluted by blood, as well as the human line so polluted by angel-intermarriage, God had to send the Great Flood to cleanse the earth - - effectively, a re-boot.

Now, let's consider Cain's response to God asking him what he had done...."Am I my brother's keeper?"

The Bible is replete with stories about brothers who cannot get along with each other.  They share the same bloodlines, but cannot live in peace with or respect for one another.  Many of us have witnessed such division in our own families, with such anger, strife and sometimes outright hatred, hearts are badly broken, lives destroyed.  In the Bible, there were other brothers who killed each other for personal gain.  King David's sons come to mind.....

Let's examine Jesus' answer to this question. (I'll go ahead and give it away.  Yes, yes, we are our brother's keepers!) . The text is Luke 10:25-37.

25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35And the next day he took out two denariic and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

When Jesus asked the lawyer what the Law said about "how to get to Heaven", the man quoted The Shema, which is the foundational statement of all Judaism.  It is found in Deuteronomy 6:5-9.  Traditionally, these verses are recited at the end of the most climactic prayer on Yom Kippur, which I mentioned in the last post, and also just before a person's death.2  These words are considered most holy to Jews.  So, this was the lawyer's response, a very good one, considering.  But, then, seeking to justify his neglect of his fellow man, the lawyer asked, "And, who is my neighbor?"  In other words ... Just how selfless must I be?  How much of a loving, servant's heart must I have?

To answer the lawyer, Jesus gave us the teaching story (parable) of The Good Samaritan.
It was no accident Jesus used a Samaritan as the hero of this parable, because Samaritans were hated in the Jewish culture of the day.  I mean, they were considered "the lowest of the low".  Yet, we see this Samaritan treat a total stranger with utter mercy, concern, generosity, even love, with no expectation of reciprocation.  This was after two other "would-be heroes", both much more likely, failed the test (a Levite and a priest).

We are surrounded today by the wounded, by those our brothers, who have "fallen among robbers".  "Robbers" can be any sort of adverse life circumstance, whether the person brought it on him/herself or whether he/she was a victim of others' sins.3
What should be our response to "the walking wounded"?  Jesus says we should extend compassion and mercy and should help them.  Within the context of lawfulness, we should selflessly throw them a lifeline.  We should "rescue the perishing" and "care for the dying".

Are we our brother's keepers?  Yes.  Yes, we are.  May God help us, the Holy Spirit within us empower us, to "go and do likewise."