In Ezekiel 25, the Lord reveals to Israel's neighbors that he will judge them for their bad attitudes toward and mistreatment of his people. After speaking of the Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Edomites, the Lord says concerning the Philistines: "When the Philistines set out to right the wrongs done to them, they enacted revenge with utter contempt and old hatreds" (25:15).
I'm struck by the phrase "old hatreds." The Hebrew original could be translated literally as "everlasting enmity." In the time of Ezekiel, the Philistines not only sided with the Babylonians against Judah, but also acted with "utter contempt" because of their historic hatred. As you may recall, the Philistines had been enemies of Israel for centuries. Their "old hatreds" clicked in when they had a chance to join the side of Babylon and participate in the devastation of the people of God.
In our world today, "old hatreds" continue to wreak havoc as neighbors attack neighbors, ethnic groups attack ethnic groups, and nations attack nations, often with a viciousness that comes from centuries of animosity. Political efforts to bring peace to the world stumble over historic divisions between peoples. It's easy to feel hopeless in the face of such ancient hostilities.
Furthermore, many of us harbor "old hatreds" that infect our relationships and disturb our souls. These might be directed toward parents who abused us, former spouses who betrayed us, bosses who mistreated us, or neighbors who tormented us. Our hatreds may have their root in genuine wrongs committed against us. Yet, if we allow them to fester in our hearts, they can pollute our relationships and steal our joy.
What will set us free from old hatreds? A better question would be: Who will set us free from old hatreds? This is God's work, as he forgives us and enables us to forgive others. The more we experience God's transforming love, the more we will find the ability to put old hatreds to rest. The more we center our live in Christ, who forgave even those who crucified him, the more we will be able to follow him in loving our enemies.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever felt the power of "old hatreds" in your own life? What makes it hard to give up our "old hatreds"? What helps you to let go of them?
PRAYER: Gracious God, today I'm impressed by a phrase from Ezekiel 25 – "old hatreds." I think of how historic animosity troubles our world today. I ask you to heal those who are ill with hatred, to set free those who are captured in the bonds of enmity.
Lord, as I reflect upon my own life, I realize that I can let "old hatreds" infect my soul. How easy it is for me to hold grudges against those who have hurt me, and how tempting to forget the evil that lurks within me. Show me, Lord, where I have "old hatreds." By your grace, help me to forgive, so that I might live in the freedom and joy of your grace. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: I'd like to invite you to join me at Laity Lodge this summer. I am delighted to be teaming up with Jackie Roese, an outstanding Bible teacher. We'll be focusing the theme: "Get Found: Moving Out of Hiding into Community." The musician for this retreat will be Sara Groves, who is an amazing singer-songwriter and a great friend of Laity Lodge. The artists for this retreat will guide you in flower arranging, bird carving, and flint knapping. (No, I'm not kidding.) This retreat begins in the evening of Thursday, June 28, ending at noon on Sunday, July 1. For more information, check out the Laity Lodge website. I hope to see you at Laity Lodge this summer.
Image by claireburgephotography.com, used with permission.