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He is good (1) to refugees (2) in sieges...

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south………………… Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labour; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron. Psalm 107: 1-3; 10-16
 
Refugees?  Please see last week’s Info for Islanders. What about sieges? This very day about 42,000 people are under siege in the Syrian town of Madaya. Surrounding that city are Syrian government and Hezbollah forces. Residents are eating leaves and pets to survive. Not far away is another town under siege – Fouaa – this time government held and under siege by rebels….

The first known siege was in BC 1530. One of the longest – 872 days – was the siege of Leningrad (St Petersburg0 between 1941 and 1944. That siege gave rise to over a million people dying of starvation as well as thousands of murders for ration cards and many cases of cannibalism – including murder for cannibalism. Those under siege were Russian; the besieging forces were those of Hitler’s Germany and of Finland.

Cannibalism was also recorded back in BC 587 during the siege of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar II and the cruel Babylonians. Those under siege were God’s people – the Jews – from which people Jesus the Messiah was born.
 
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‘If anybody is not disturbed by the problem of pain, it is for one of two reasons: either because of hardening of the heart or else because of softening of the brain.’ (G A Studdert Kennedy, chaplain and poet, 1883-1929)
How could that ever have arisen? God’s own people starved to death – and cannibalism?

The national archives of the Jews – their Scriptures (now beloved of Christians and included in the Christian Bible as the “Old Testament”) gives the reason from God’s perspective. It’s in the Book named Lamentations.

Might the reason for the tremendous suffering of God’s people under siege then give us a clue as to the reason for so much siege suffering today and throughout man’s history?

Perhaps – for us – the most surprising primary reason given in the Bible for the suffering of God’s besieged people on BC 587 is this: The LORD God gave full vent to his wrath and poured out his strong anger –Lamentations 4: 11. This siege was not only a Babylonian one – it came from Almighty God above.

The secondary reason given by God for the suffering of his own people is not so much surprising as deeply challenging today: This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests who shed in the midst of her the blood of the righteous – Lamentations 4: 13. These “people of God” were under siege with all its tremendous suffering because of the sins and iniquities of their leaders who allowed enormous injustice and wrong to go untamed in society.

Many today speak of the victims of war and conflict as being “innocent”. Are they? In God’s sight? And what about the “leaders” of wars and conflicts – those who engage in it – those who compete for power and wealth? Is anyone “innocent”?
 
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‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’ (C S Lewis, poet and academic, 1898-1963)
Psalm 107 – see bold – shows how the God of truth is also the God of mercy. Writing of those under awful siege, the Psalmist says - Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

In what way? The Psalmist says - He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. 
 
Those who do cry he does deliver. Even if they die, he does deliver those who call upon him. And bursts their bonds. And takes them to glory.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
 
Richard Syvret

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