Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
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My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.
— Jeremiah 50:6
They have forgotten their restingplace. I like how that is one word in the King James version. It seems to emphasise the importance of such a place. The story of the Israelites is one of homelessness and restlessness. From enslavement in Egypt, to wandering in the desert for 40 years the nation's attempts to settle are constantly thwarted by upheaval and strife, and finally by captivity, led from their home by Babylonian soldiers. The history of the Jewish people since that time has followed the same patterns, always settlers in a land far from home, often marginalised, scapegoated and oppressed, but curiously never broken. There has always been a state of Israel, even without soil to call their own.
But we are all God's people, and this is our story too. Perhaps we are all as lost and restless today as the Israelites have always been, the story of Israel being an apt metaphor for modern society. The Israelites' restlessness and homelessness came about due to not trusting God and not following the divine law. Things have not really changed. Today we (almost mindlessly) cheat, steal, covet, enslave, oppress, take what (and who) we want when we want it, and worship false idols. There is barely a commandment that is followed today. Perhaps "thou shalt not kill" for most of us, but more and more that one too seems to be eroded, and there is plenty of "murder by character assassination".1 These are bleak times. No wonder we feel restless. When we lose our sense of purpose we become untethered; we become as lost sheep.
At the beginning of the covid crisis I hoped for a quietening down, a world-wide reflection on our past misdeeds that brought us to this place.2 The opportunity was there for repentance, and re-creation. Instead the world's governments went straight into frantic panic and control, the world's businessmen went straight into frantic profiteering, the media went into fanatical suppression of information, and the rest of us went into fear and terror. It was such a sadly missed opportunity. When offered redemption we instead chose sin, when offered enlightenment we chose greater darkness. We are indeed a lost people.
1 This line is from "Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions" by Alcoholics Anonymous, the full paragraph being "Self-righteous anger also can be very enjoyable. In a perverse way, we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority. Gossip barbed with our anger, a polite form of murder by character assassination, has its satisfactions for us, too. Here we are not trying to help those we criticise; we are trying to proclaim our own righteousness."
2 Please read Let My People Go, my newsletter from March 2020.