TRA Episode 17/00
T/C: June 18th, 2000
"Entering the Promised Land"
RECENTLY we saw another rusted out trawler running aground and disgorging 60 or more Asians. They had paid excessively high sums of money to be landed in Australia. They were landed in one of the wildest parts of our coast-line, a thousand miles from any major town and in crocodile infested territory. Unless they were rounded up and transported back to whence they had come, they would have soon been dead from the harsh terrain. Last week a large rusted-out boat loaded 1000 Somalis who would have tried to cross the Indian Ocean, if they had not been stopped. For countless people Australia beckons as a Promised Land.
It was the same after the Second World War. The dislocation of war took people from one part of the world and flung them in battle dress against people in lands seen only in an atlas. In the opposite direction came the flotsam and jetsam of the war, washed up on strange shores to begin a new life. Refugees, orphaned children, mothers with babies in their arms, persecuted minorities, former prisoners, injured combatants, the fearful, the homeless, the stateless, the hopeless, the innocent. When war ceased, the homeless were transported here, and to other countries, to start life afresh.
1. AUSTRALIA - A PROMISED LAND.
In my lifetime the refugee ships were followed by the migrant ships, which brought tens of thousands of British, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Maltese, Yugoslav and other "New Australians" to our shores.
Here they learnt a new language, lived in temporary accommodation, accepted the lowliest of jobs and faced the taunts of some of our earlier inhabitants who do not want them in their land. A Polish Jew, a friend of mine, had every relative murdered by the Nazi S.S.. He escaped from Hitler, was imprisoned by the Russians as a slave labourer, escaped, made his way to Egypt, met Australians, learnt his first word of English: "Bloody", thought they were Canadians and boarded their ship for Canada, only to be off-loaded in Melbourne. He learnt a trade as a welder. He did not know one person yet met a girl from his home village in a Melbourne Street. He built a business and had a family. His children are doctors, lawyers and businessmen and he is a millionaire. For Harry Ramler, Australia was the Promised Land.
Such refugees now have new roots, new hopes and dreams. Their children have married other nationalities. Many have new surnames. But this is their land, their Promised Land. Australia has seen many waves of people come to her shores and claim this to be their Promised Land. Aborigines in frail bark and log canoes came down from the north and this land has felt the soles of their feet for 40,000 years. It was here they fished and hunted the kangaroo and painted in caves and traced their history on carved stones hidden in special places and sacred sites. Their homeland was invaded 200 years ago when sailors from Europe came upon their shores for fresh water, fruit and meat. Then Convicts were sent here to establish a new colony followed by settlers lured by the promise of free land.
Pastoralists came under the Wakefield scheme to establish ownership and prosperity. Goldminers from California and China mingled on the gold fields with every other nationality to dig their fortune. Children, collected in British villages, were brought out by Dr Barnado and the Fairbridge Foundation to a land of sunshine and oranges. Migrants from Europe, Asia, America, Russia, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam and from other 200 countries declared this was their promised land. They all now sing: "No matter how far or wide do I roam, I still call Australia, home."
2. ISRAEL - A PROMISED LAND.
One place evokes that feeling of being "home" even to people whose ancestors may have not been there for 2000 years. That is the land known today as "Israel". Palestinians say it is their home and violently oppose being forced from the land of their ancestors. Many today live in the neighbouring Arab countries of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. Jews who have migrated to Israel as part of the United Nations agreement in 1948 over the ending of the war claim they are in their home land and proud today be Israelis. Zionists all this century have re-entered the land promised in perpetuity to people of their race and faith since Abraham 5000 years ago. "The Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, "I promise to give your descendants all this land from the border of Egypt to the River Euphrates." Gen. 15:18 The "Promised Land" has long since been the scene of international conflict. It is the land of three great religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
3. THE PROMISE IS CLAIMED.
Moses stood on the western rim of the mountain range which looks down into the Jordan Valley and across to the land of Palestine. Moses had led the Hebrews from Egypt to Mt Sinai, gave them the Commandments of God, and for forty years against incredible odds had led theHebrews through the wilderness until they arrived at their destiny: the Promised Land.
Deut 34:1-3 Moses on the mountains overlooking the Jordan Valley gazed at the land reported so fertile it was "flowing with milk and honey". The land dimensions mentioned are similar to the boundaries of Israel today enclosing 34,500 square miles. v4 God said: "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it." God fulfilled His promise. v5-6 Moses died and was buried in unknown grave in foreign soil, but his greatness flowered in his nation. Today Jordan has archaeologists desperately searching for the burial place of Moses to entice the tourists who will flood Israel during the third millennium celebrations.
v7-8 Moses died when he was 120 years old. He had lived three generations. His life could be divided into three terms: as a young man in Egypt's courts; as a nomad he learnt the wilderness caring for his flocks; and as an old man he lead the slaves out of Egypt to the freedom of their own land. When he died "his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone." He looked upon the Promised Land that he had sought so long.
V9 Joshua took command. Later he would lead the people over the River Jordan and be the younger general who would defeat the cities of the Canaanites including the well-defended Jericho. The nomadic people need wander no more. The promise had been fulfilled. v10-12 So the five books of the Torah, or Law, written by Moses conclude with the brief obituary to Moses written by some later hand: "There has never been a prophet in Israel like Moses". His life was that of three great men: he was saved at birth, educated as a prince of Egypt, identified with the Hebrew slaves, became angry when he saw an Egyptian slave driver lashing a Hebrew slave, murdered the Egyptian and fled into the wilderness. There he worked as a shepherd for a Midianite chief, married his daughter and with his family lived as a desert sheik learning the lessons of the desert for 40 years. Moses was called by God from a burning bush to go and tell Pharaoh to let God's people go. Bashful and reticent, he went. He argued with Pharaoh, producing a series of plagues, and finally won freedom for the slaves.
Moses led the huge force of slaves with their possessions and herds. He welded them into a nation. He wrote the basis of civilized law that is foundational to all Western Law. He formed them into tough fighters, led them from oasis to oasis, established the basis for Jewish ritual and religious rights. Moses was a man of compassion, enthusiasm, toughness, temper, impetuosity, dedication, obedience, courage, and confidence. He was the author of the Torah, a lawgiver, leader, prophet and priest. He saw God.
4. WHAT DOES POSSESSION OF LAND MEAN?
Possessing land that is yours gives any people, Australian, Jews, Aborigines or any race, three things.
IDENTITY. This is what the Aborigine wants from land-rights - the sense of racial identity that comes from ownership of the land. The Aborigine belongs to the land. Wind, river, sand, trees, and his spirit are one. His origin and his destiny lie in the land. It gave him birth, nourished his life, and it gives him his identity. Moses led the Jews into their Promised Land, and henceforth they had an identity as a people.
SECURITY. The Aborigine wants that security. To the Aborigine the word "land" means camp, home, fire, food, belonging, family, life-source, spiritual centre. Every time a European put a fence round some land, it decreased part of the Aboriginal security and life force. The Israeli today, surrounded by a hostile Arab world, wants security. So do Australians. We like to own our own piece of land. To own land gives a sense of security, a feeling of belonging. Moses took a group who were a no-people and made them a people, wandering tribes now a nation, possessing their own land.
DIGNITY. Aborigines lack a sense of self-worth and racial dignity. Ownership of land is how racial dignity can be restored. The Aborigine was never a dying race until we took his land away. The land gave them dignity. The Jew now holds his head high. He is a member of a nation, not longer from a tribe of rag-collectors and moneylenders on the fringe of society in other cities.
Identity, security, dignity: that is what possessing the land means to people who are homeless and stateless. God brought the people under the leadership of Moses to the boundary of their new country. They looked from the mountain ridge and saw the Promised Land. They were now a people, a race, a nation: they could see the Promised Land!
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke to an audience of more than 200,000 civil rights marchers in Washington, D.C., in 1963. In his famous address "I have a Dream" he associated the love his listeners felt for the American dream of liberty with the struggle of black Americans for social equality. By knowing the deeply felt values of his audience, reinforcing them through his own credibility as a speaker, and identifying the dream of civil rights with those values, King delivered one of the most effective speeches in American history. He said that he had seen the Promised Land when all of God's children would be free, and equal in the land together. Only then would they be free. He evoked all the images of Moses and his listeners understood because they knew their Bibles.
Christians who believe in Jesus are a new people, with a new Promised Land awaiting us in heaven. That promise gives to us a new feeling of who we are and where we are going. Those who claim Christ discover their identity, security and dignity. We have the new identity as citizens of heaven. We have the security of being right with God. We have the dignity of being the children of God and joint heirs of the Father!
Gordon Moyes 2000
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