What It Takes to Heal Nations
SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Prayer of the Day: Bountiful God, you gather your people into your realm, and you promise us food from your tree of life. Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit we may love one another and the world you have made, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
“Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.” Psalm 67:4.
“On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Revelation 22:2.
The relationship between Gods people and the “nations” is-well, a little bit complicated. In the Hebrew Scriptures the nations are often seen as enemies of Israel. “Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.’” Psalm 2:1-2. These verses reflect the geopolitical reality of 9th and 8th Century Palestine where relatively small kingdoms like Israel and Judah led a precarious existence among other petty kingdoms vying for control of the fertile crescent in the shadow of the great Hittite, Babylonian, Egyptian and Assyrian empires. The nations and their ambitions posed an ever-present existential threat to Israel.
Particularly insightful is Psalm 82 in which “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.” Psalm 82:1. The “gods” referenced here are the gods of the various nations. See Rogerson, J.W. and McKay, J.W., Psalms 51-100, The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible (c. 1977 by Cambridge University Press) p. 164. The religion built around these gods functioned as a divine justification for the hierarchical regime that stratified human society from the king down to the slave. In contrast to these gods who “judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked” (Psalm 82:2), the God of Israel gives “justice to the weak and the fatherless” and maintains “the right of the afflicted and destitute.” Israel’s God “rescue[s] the weak and the needy; deliver[ing] them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4. Indeed, this unique God to a band of escaped slaves turns the hierarchical regime of these other so-called “gods” on its head. So, too, in the New Testament the “nations” personified by Herod and Pontius Pilate were instrumental in the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus. Acts 4:27-28. In the end, the nations will be judged for their neglect and abuse of the poor, the hungry, the naked and oppressed. See Matthew 25:31-46.
This is not the entire story, however. Read more