I am blogging this Advent from #decolonizelutheranism’s Advent devotional, Shut Up. (That would be the sanitized version)
O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. (Psalm 79:1 ESV)
Earlier this year my father died, quite suddenly and unexpectedly. And I found myself dealing with the remains of his life — his things, and his money.
I came into my inheritance. What was my father’s, is now mine.
The psalmist here — this is a “Psalm of Asaph,” whatever that might mean — is speaking to God, and telling God that the nations, גֹויִם goyim, have taken possession of God’s inheritance.
That inheritance is the people of God, it is the land God gave to his people, and it the House those people built for God, and the city — the city in between North and South where David build his stronghold, that conquered city full of foreigners. These things, which have belonged to God, to which God is rightful heir, the rightful owner, the rightful keeper, have fallen out of God’s hands.
Or God has let them go.
And into the hands of others. Who have destroyed and defiled and ruined them.
Come into your inheritance. It is a common phrase. That word come בּאֹו also has another implication in Hebrew, just as it does in English.
It is the word the despairing daughters of Lot use when they say “there is not a man on earth to come into us” following the flight from Sodom, when they get their father drunk, lie with him, and conceive children. It is the command Judah gives to his second son Onan when he tells him “go into your brother’s wife” after Er proved to be so mysteriously wicked as to be struck dead in the sight of the Lord. Of course, Judah is only following the law that has yet to be given in Sinai, when God through Moses tells brothers they have an obligation to go into a dead brother’s wife to “and perform the duty of a husband’s brother” in Deuteronomy.
It is the first thing Samson wants to do to his wife when he visits her at the time of the wheat harvest. It is what Boaz does with Ruth to beget the son who will be David the king’s grandfather.
And … it’s what Absalom does to all of his father David’s concubines on the roof of the palace “in the sight of all Israel.” To humiliate his father. And show Israel who was boss.
Go into. Come into. Went into.
Like the psalmist, we are angry. “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” Angry about all the lost lives, all the blood spilled, all the destruction and all of the suffering. We are angry that we are ashamed, humiliated, broken, powerless, and yes, violated and defiled. We are angry that our God, who has made us so many extravagant promises, has allowed this to happen to us.
Has done this to us.
Here’s an awful truth — we brought this upon ourselves. Our ancestors, and the gods of wood, metal, stone, and ideas they hewed and worshiped and put their trust in, set this all into motion. We are reaping the harvest of their idolatry. If we have been defiled, it is because they (we) gazed at an Asherah pole, they (we) sacrificed to Molech, and felt fulfilled, happy, safe.
And they would not be moved.
It is a terrible thing, this defilement. It is our appalling inheritance. We have not wished it, or wanted it, and wouldn’t choose it if we could but choose. (Not my ancestors, you say? Good for you. Sorry you are stuck here with the rest of us.) However … there it is. The armies of Babylon besieging us. The suffering of the people and the ruin of the city. With no happy ending in sight.
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)