Exiles, Natives, and Rebuilders

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalm 80 (Morning)
Psalm 77, [79] (Evening)
Neh. 9:1-15(16-25)
Rev. 18:1-8
Matt. 15:1-20

Exiles, Natives, and Rebuilders

Thanks to his personal relationship with the Emperor of Persia, Nehemiah gets himself sent to the land of his ancestors as governor to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and revive the Jewish community. He inspires dozens of disheartened Jewish landowners living just inside the city walls to restore their lands and, while they’re at it, restore the adjoining wall. He supervises city reconstruction and invites remnants of the Jewish diaspora to come take part in the reconstruction. He discovers manuscripts of the Torah and has them read aloud to the people, with interpreters because the ancient Hebrew has already become hard to understand. His plain narrative, The Book of Nehemiah, written in Hebrew, is part of the language restoration. (His success reminds me of current revivals by Native American nations of languages that had seemed lost forever.) In today’s reading Nehemiah culminates his account by repeating their founding Exodus story, abbreviated for better understanding. There is nothing more thrilling than the reawakening of a people.

But there are moral dangers. Nehemiah wants not just ethnic revival; he wants ethnic purity. The measures he takes to achieve “purity of blood” are harsh, including breaking up of families and population removals, measures not approved by his more cosmopolitan patron, the Iranian ruler of what Tony Stankus in his October 30 “Morning Reflection” calls a “multiethnic” empire. Living as we do in a multiethnic country, we Americans need to strike a generous balance between dedication to our own faiths and cultures and respect for others’.

For another example of exile, read about today’s saint, Margaret, Queen of Scotland, first exiled from her native Wessex to Hungary, then to Scotland. Read how she used her prestige to encourage, not force, the “wild Scots” to a more fervent Christian devotion.

Written by John Tabb DuVal

John Tabb DuVal recently returned from Bangalore, India, where he read a paper on The Song of Roland at Christ University and where his wife Kay and he, with their daughter Kathleen, participated in the wedding of their son Niell and daughter-in-law Anjana.

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