Posted by: إنسان الكتاب | February 26, 2010

“May Japheth live in the tents of Shem”

A stylised T and O map, depicting Europe as the home of the descendants of Japheth (bottom left). Africa is ascribed to Ham and Asia to Shem.

Considering Genesis 10:5, which states that the sons of Japheth moved to the “isles of the Gentiles” — commonly believed to be the Greek isles, and also considering the work of Josephus Flavius, a first-century Jewish historian, we can call Japheth as the father of the European nations, Shem as the father of the Semitic nations, which is actually the whole Middle East, and Ham as the father of the African nations. The image above is a medieval T and O map, depicting Europe as the home of the descendants of Japheth (bottom left). Africa is ascribed to Ham and Asia to Shem.

Having these in mind, the text from Genesis 9:27 came to me with a new sense, and caught my attention: “May God add land to Japheth’s territory. May Japheth live in the tents of Shem.“ (NIRV)

So, here is Noah’s bless to Japheth, and through Japheth, to me too. I see in this blessing an invitation to go into the Middle East, to my brothers, to the sons of Shem. To dwell in the tents of Shem! To meet their culture, to learn their languages, and to give them back what once, long ago, came from among them: my Savior, Isa Mesih!

Posted by: إنسان الكتاب | December 19, 2009

Never be shaken

It is said about Moses in Hebrews 11.27 – “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (NASB).

When I was still a teenager, I saw this text and pondered on it. I prayed that God would show Himself to me, at least the same way how He showed himself to Moses, so that I could continue strong, as Moses did.

Later more places in the Bible captured my attention – all linked to immovability, steadiness, foundation. I learned that there is even a Name of God that reflects all these – The Rock. It is found for the first time in Genesis 49:24. Jacob gives the blessings to his sons, before dying. In the last 17 years he saw how God changed his son Joseph – from a fickle and proud teenager to a strong leader and a great man of God. And Jacob shows this in his blessing. “But his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone [אֶבֶן] of Israel),” (Genesis 49:24, NASB). This Name is also found in Isaiah 28:16, referring to Jesus – “So the Lord and King speaks. He says, “Look! I am laying a stone in Zion. It is a stone that has been tested. It is the most important stone for a firm foundation. The one who trusts in that stone will never be shaken.” (NIRV).

The challenge is to know God the same way like Moses did, and remain unmovable when anything else holds novelty and changeability as high values; to have a strong spiritual backbone, to let God make me “as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze”, like Jeremiah, let Him make my forehead as an adamant, harder than flint (Ezekiel 3:9), so that I would not be afraid or be dismayed, and once, in a day, to be able to set my face steadfastly towards a ‘Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51).

Posted by: إنسان الكتاب | November 30, 2009

Eid ul Adha and the ram

On 28th November 2009 Muslims in my town celebrated Eid ul Adha, or Kurman Ait. The festival remembers the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to. Because God sent a ram, so that Ibrahim could have something to sacrifice, every year Muslims sacrifice rams and distribute the meat among family, friends, and the poor.

The Imam who leads the prayer in our local mosque invited me to come there too, to take some meat. They all know that I am a Christian.

How did I meet them? Once I was walking on the street and saw two people with nice beards and brown faces, talking Arabian. I asked them if they were Muslims. One of them was the Imam, and on that day they showed me where they meet for prayer. So I went there occasionally and had nice talks with some of them. They are orthodox Muslims, Sunni, and some of them are natives of my country. With just one exception, they were always friendly and careful when talking about Christianity. I say one exception, because once a guy started to insult Christian beliefs and called us stupid people, because we can believe in the Triunity of God. I asked him: ‘are you hostile now?’ He just went away, but later came back and apologized to me. Nevertheless, we get along quite well.

This time we started to talk about Abraham’s (Ibrahim) faith, and about the sacrifice of the ram, which substituted his son (in the Qur’an says that the son was Ishmael, in the Bible says that the son was Isaac, but that’s not very important). We read the story in both the Bible and the Qur’an. I wondered, why in the Qur’an, when referring to the ram, it is called ‘bithibhin Aaatheemin’ (Surah 37, Al-Saaffat, ayat 107), ‘a momentous sacrifice’ (Yusuf Ali translation), ‘a tremendous victim’ (Pickthal), ‘a Feat sacrifice’ (Shakir). What can be so momentous, tremendous and great about a ram? Their answer was that because such a great prophet was saved through this sacrifice, that this is what makes the ram so great. Someone else said that it was so special because it was sent down from God. Then I talked with them about substitution – the ram was sacrificed to save the life of Ibrahim’s son. I told them that in the Bible, this story is an image of what happened later, on the same mountain, Moria. Isa Messiah was nailed to a cross and died on our behalf, taking our sins and the punishment for them on Himself, because we could never meet God’s perfect standards and gain our way to Paradise by our good deeds, or in any other way. That’s why the only way to know God and get into Paradise is by faith in Isa Messiah.

One of their teachers said afterwards that when Ibrahim brought his son to sacrifice him, it was not to cover his own sins, or to cover someone else’s sins – it was an act of obedience, an act of worship to God. I asked him, how does he look at the fact that a huge part of the Taurat (Torah) of Musa (Moses) has descriptions on how to bring different sacrifices for different sins? Why sin offering? Why burnt offering? Why the guilt offering? All of them were given as commandments, with this purpose: to imprint in people’s minds the truth that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9.22). All those sacrifices were an image, pointing to the supreme sacrifice, Isa Massih, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1.29).

The meat that they gave me was about 7kg, so I came back to our dormitory and cooked spaghetti with mutton for about 10 other students.