As I sat to write to you tonight, doctors on the other side of town at the Hadassah Medical Center were anxiously awaiting the arrival of three-week-old Sham from Gaza. She was born with a blocked pulmonary valve which keeps blood from reaching her lungs, and was barely clinging to life in a Gaza ICU. Accepting Sham in Jerusalem would take huge extra effort–testing both Sham and her escort for coronavirus, and also dedicating precious hospital space in order to isolate them. But at 10:45 tonight we got the first picture of Sham safely in Hadassah:
It was the exact same story Thursday for month-old Ahmed, born in Gaza with transposition of the great arteries:
Doctors were waiting for him at close to midnight at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, and tested him for coronavirus before bringing him and his aunt into the children’s hospital, which has so far kept virus-free. Georgia reports tonight that Ahmed has already been treated via catheterization and may soon be ready to return home until a later surgery.
Friends, it’s really a miracle that these Israeli hospitals–at the height of the coronavirus crisis–are giving their limited time and resources to save these little ones from Gaza. They’re putting aside rabbinic traditions that would have doctors treat non-Jews as less valuable than Jews, and instead they’re living out the Torah truth that we’re all made in the image of God. We need to support them! Both Sham and Ahmed still need local leaders: friends anywhere in the world who will share their stories, raise financial and prayer support for their treatment, and build relationship with their very grateful and open-hearted Muslim families. Let’s do something constructive like that with these last few precious remaining days of lockdown.
And if we do find ourselves binge-watching television, Michelle and I would highly recommend a remarkable crowdfunded retelling of the gospels called “The Chosen” which started streaming online free on April 1. The series is all filmed in north Texas (“what better place to double as the Holy Land“) yet is creative, credible, and biblically and culturally authentic. Please check it out–you’ll find yourself with tears in your eyes as I have.
And let that whet our appetite for diving deeper into the scriptures. Our coworker Amar described this to me tonight as “filling our cup every morning” so that we can live changed lives throughout the day.
We’re now a week into the seven-week countdown to Pentecost, and as our tiny Jerusalem community studies the beginning of the book of Acts I’ve found my attention drawn of all things to the progressive revelation of the chosen line of priests who oversaw worship in the biblical temples. It’s a fascinating multi-generational account, similar to the way the Hebrew bible tells story after story which ultimately reveal who is the chosen seed of Abraham.
Here’s a brief overview: Aaron and his sons are given the priesthood in Exodus 28; two of his sons perish (in this week’s Torah portion, Leviticus 10) for offering strange fire; the two remaining sons Eleazar and Ithamar carry the family line forward, with the eldest Eleazar given preference at Aaron’s death in Numbers 20.
Then you remember the story of Eleazar’s son Phinehas, who stops a plague in the camp by thrusting a spear through an Israelite prince who defied Moses by taking up with a Midianite princess. As a result to Phinehas and his descendants is promised “the covenant of a perpetual priesthood” in Numbers 25.
Nevertheless by the time of Samuel it was a descendant of Aaron’s younger son Ithamar–Eli–who we find overseeing the priesthood and who raises up Samuel. Since Eli does not restrain the evil practices of his two sons, in 1 Samuel 2 a fateful word comes from the LORD: “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.”
And indeed it falls to David to fulfill this word, restoring the priestly line of Aaron’s eldest son Eleazar when he sets Zadok over the priesthood in Jerusalem. It is this Zadok who anoints the son of David, Solomon, as king in 1 Kings 1. And the sons of Zadok will go on to serve as chief priests over the first and then the second temples, all the way to the time of the Maccabees circa 150 BC.
At this point something happens that should be deeply troubling to all who cherish the promises of God: this long and glorious priesthood was usurped from the sons of Zadok by Hasmonean rulers who set themselves up as both king and priest. The implications of this are staggering: the corrupt priesthood that we next meet in the pages of the gospels are in truth not the legitimate holders of that office, according to the testimony of the Hebrew bible itself.
And what then became of the real Davidic high priestly line? If the word of God is that “he shall go in and out before my anointed forever,” the line did not disappear from history–and should in fact be on hand to affirm Jesus as the Son of David. Next week God willing: we’ll look at evidence that the sons of Zadok still had a divine appointment to meet the Anointed One, when the day of Pentecost had fully come in Jerusalem.
Jonathan for Shevet Achim
“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133).