Bethel: The House of God
Genesis 28 vs.: 10-22; Matthew 21 vs. 12-16
In every religion the founders and subsequent followers were women and men of God who had no time for pretence. If they did not agree with their God they said so and if they did they were quick to say so too. The problem is with us late followers because we are given to pretence and as a result we do not get the benefit of being true disciples of a particular religion. Jacob names the place he had a dream in which he was promised both, the land and many descendents Bethel, meaning, the house of God.
Jacob whose story we read about in the first scripture above at one time had to struggle with God the whole night. As a result of the fight with God he became disabled and he named the place Piniel because he came face to face with God and his life was spared. (Genesis 32 vs30) The name also reminds him of the struggle he had with God. As people of God we have the freedom to ask, to question and to disagree with Her/Him. This kind of relationship makes God proud of His daughters and sons. They reason with him. It would be a very dull relationship where you agree with everything.
Bethel is a place where God should be honored. Those who defile it are not tolerated. When Jesus visits the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 21) and finds out that many followers were defiling it he did not hesitate to take a whip and thoroughly beat the money changers who were misusing the house of God. Jesus declared, “My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’.” Jesus too does not hide his anger with people who claim to be his followers and yet they engage in evil behavior.
We see a God who wants to relate at a personal level where everything is above board. Followers are free to put their cases across without fear and the Lord is also free to chastise them when people have wronged him. Here is a healthy relationship which should be at the centre of any religion. Unfortunately religion has been used and abused in order to control people. Yet religion is there to free and liberate people.
Zimbabwean people are a religious lot. They have learnt to abide by the rule of God. Indeed the people of this land were abused. They were tried and tested. At one point the whole world thought the so called ‘people power’ would erupt and change would come in that way. The people of this country refused to be used. They rejected the destructive way and they have not been forgiven by some of our friends.
I remember soon after the 29 March 2008 harmonized elections which were wan by MDC there was a meeting called by the civil society representatives from all over Africa in Tanzania. At this meeting Zimbabweans were challenged to put their destiny into their own hands. The example of what the Kenyans did was sold out to Zimbabweans. Some of us suggested that for once the world should learn from Zimbabweans who had chosen the peaceful root. “Why should we not celebrate the way Zimbabweans have restrained themselves,” I suggested at the meeting. The world is used to ‘celebrate’ civil wars all over. They get the maximum coverage there is. It is time we also celebrate peace and peaceful transitions.
Each people on earth have been given space to occupy, to call their own. But over and above that piece of land belongs to God. That is where they find and meet their God. We do not have to make it the house of robbers, war mongers and charlatans of this world. One thing the whole world has to learn from Zimbabweans is the gift of restraint. For over a month election results were kept away from the people who voted and only to be told what the whole world knew to be a lie. The logical thing to do was to go into the streets and exercise the people power. But alas the children of Zimbabwe respected their land. They had been brutalized by their own government but did not sink with it. Soon change is coming and the old regime will be gone. The people of Zimbabwe remain triumphant. There is room for skepticals. They keep our faith strong. God bless.