The God of Our Fathers

Recently, as I was reading the Bible, I found myself reading in Numbers. I was reading there because that’s how far I’ve gotten in my attempt to read through the Bible. I started earlier this year after a Conservative Friend recommended the practice to me. When I complained about Leviticus and Numbers, she said I might try to find if, even there, the text might speak to me.

As I was reading, I realized that I must have skipped ahead through parts of the Old Testament anyway. The notes on the text I was reading stated that the Israelites were attempting to enter into Canaan a second time. I hadn’t remembered them trying the first time!

Then, I found myself thinking about my blog post, “Becoming A Wilderness People.” I realized that if we, Friends, want to accompany present-day ‘Israelites’ into the ‘land of milk and honey’ that we should revisit this Bible story in an attempt to learn from it. My sense was that we should start our journey at the point just after the Israelites have gotten through the Red Sea (see Exodus 14).

I imagine the shock of the Israelite people (men, women and children). They have been burdened for so long. They have been hiding, terrorized, running. When they get to the other side after the waters have closed the path behind them, they cannot believe that they are free and safe. They look around to see what has transpired.

Then Moses and the Israelites s[a]ng this Song to the Lord…:

I will sing to the Lord, since he is highly exalted;

the Horses and Horsemen has he thrown down in the sea.

Of the Lord is my Power and Praise,

and of him is Preservation to me:

this is my God, and I will make him a Habitation;

the God of my Father, and I will extol him. (Exodus 15:1-2)

I was doing fine until I ran into the phrase, “the God of my Father.” Could I say that the god of my father was this the Highest God? Could I say that the god of this nations’ “founding fathers” was this God that sets the oppressed free?

I grew up Christian. My father was a pastor in the Church of the Brethren for 30 years. Before him, his father was a medical missionary in Nigeria, also with the Church of the Brethren, for almost 40 years. If the God of my fathers was the Lord, the God who delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, why has my path toward inward freedom been plagued by all sorts of pestilence and festering boils?

This country was founded by Christians. Christopher Columbus was an agent of Catholic monarchs. Christians came here so they could worship God as they wished. However, they and their sons and daughters established, participated in and/or allowed the exploitation and domination of Native and African peoples.

We sing the hymn “God of Our Fathers” at patriotic and religious events. In fact, the hymn “God of our Fathers” was written for the centennial celebration of the U.S. constitution. Is the God who leads people beyond toil to Covenant the god of whom we sing when we sing “God of Our Fathers?”

My belief is that when Christians haven’t walked down the path toward inward freedom, perhaps particularly those of us who are in positions of authority, we unconsciously exacerbate rather than reduce outward bondage. For centuries, we’ve tried to take the sliver out of others’ eyes, when we’ve still had a plank in our own (see Matthew 7:1-5).

For this reason, as we attempt to name the spiritual condition of the world, let’s first make sure that we have identified our own spiritual condition. My sense is that only if we worship the Lord who releases the captives within history rather than the false gods of the domination system, we don’t have any business attempting to travel with contemporary ‘Israelites’ into the wilderness.

Was this Lord your father’s and mother’s god? How has that affected you? Will your children say that this God was your god? Can you sing this song with all your heart?

I… sing to the Lord, since he is highly exalted;

the Horses and Horsemen has he thrown down in the sea.

Of the Lord is my Power and Praise,

and of him is Preservation to me:

this is my God, and I will make him a Habitation;

the God of my Father, and I will extol him. (Exodus 15:1b-2)

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2 thoughts on “The God of Our Fathers

  1. Pingback: Water in the Wilderness | Quaker Mystics

  2. Pingback: Manna for Future Generations | Quaker Mystics

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