The Reformation and the 12 tribes of Israel

When the Israelites left Egypt under the leadership of Moses, they were one people.  When Jesus sent out the 72 to preach the Gospel they were one Church.  In the Book of Numbers we read that Moses ordered the people of Israel into 12 tribes ready to enter the promised land.  In the book of Acts we read that Peter and Paul are ordering the Church ready for Mission.  So where did it all go wrong?  Why do we read in the Book of Judges that the tribes are at war and one tribe is almost wiped out?  Why do we read the books of history and have a church that is so fractured that some branches are almost wiped out?

It seems that we have become used to the history of Israel as we read the Old Testament.  We know that the tribes have come together, worked together and survived many attacks from other nations.  Yet we also know that in some periods of the Old Testament the people of Israel were fighting against each other.  In Judges the tribe of Benjamin are almost wiped out and God has to give them wives to keep the tribe multiplying.  In Samuel the Kingdom is divided into Israel and Judah.  We also know that the theme of exile runs through the old testament but that God always remains faithful to His Promises.

So it seems to me that the Reformation both in Europe and in England were like the tribes of Israel splitting in the promised land.  Once the Israelites and Christians moved from being the people of God into Geopolitical nations all the trouble started.  Is it just me or does this feel a little bit like the Book of Samuel where God says that it is not good to have worldly kingdoms for God is our King.  Whilst I am no Church history scholar it seems that many difficult times in Church history have been tied to political forces.

In January 2012 the Tablet published two articles about the formation of a joint commission between the Vatican (Catholic Church) and the Lutheran World Federation.  The commission will look at a joint statement on the history of the Reformation in preparation for the 500 anniversary of the Luther statements in 1517.  In the articles it acknowledges that in the past both churches have blamed each other for the Reformation, yet now they recognise that both sides had a hand in the split.  It seems that it became Geopolitical, the tribe of Vatican were at war and split with the tribe of England and the tribe of Germany.

In recent years as the Church has lost it hold on almost every Government in the World, it is becoming easier for the Church to reunite as the people of God.  Instead of seeking to become one Church under one banner (such as Catholic), perhaps we should learn from the bible.  The 12 tribes of Israel is an example to us all that the Body of Christ is made up of many parts, each with its own special role.  Lets not try to be the same but seek unity as the Body of Christ.

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Are there “Flashbacks” in the Bible?

Sometime when people want to be critical of the bible they point to passages in the bible that they call “errors”.  An issue that some critics raise are what they perceive as chronological errors.  Some critics look at stories that are out of chronological sequence as a proof that the bible is made up.  Yet if we look at modern day film making, we may have a clue to why some passages in the bible seem out of chronological order.

For example in Judges 1:1 we read that Joshua died, yet in Judges 2:6 we read that Joshua is still alive sending out the nations then dies again.  Did the author get it wrong? Is this a chronological error?  Is this a different Joshua?  In Genesis 10 we read that after the flood, people filled the earth yet in Genesis 11 all the people are back in the one place, is this right?

It seems that some people look at these literary tools as “errors” in the bible but when it happens in modern movies we all call these “flashbacks”.  Whilst I use this term here I have to be careful because the ancient writers didn’t use the term “flashbacks”.  However if you want to explain some literary tools of the bible in terms that young people might understand then you can suggest the parallel to flash backs in modern movies.

For example in the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy we see one character go into an optometrist to get a new pair of glasses.  Whilst the scene is quiet boring and might seem unimportant, the film maker uses the two different set of eyewear to show different periods of time in flashbacks.  When the character is wearing the old set of glasses the audience knows it is a flashback without the date having to appear on the screen.

So flashback to the example in Judges, the author is reminding the reader that Joshua sent out the nations to fill Canaan because it explains the problems Israel faced in chapter 1 and the rest of the book.  So Judges 2:6-8 is like a mini flashback to remind the reader of an important point for interpreting the future chapters.

Likewise with the earlier reference to Genesis 10 and 11.  In Genesis 10 the author is showing what happened after the flood involving Noah and so finishes the narrative with the people filling all the earth, which would have taken some time.  In Genesis 11 the author has a flashback account to explain why the people dispersed rather than stay together in the one place.  This is not a chronological error in the bible, simply a literary tool that the author uses to tell compelling accounts of God and God’s people.

What other “flashbacks” can you see in the Bible?  Leave a comment.