Hebrews 13.5: I will never leave nor forsake you.
So I read in preparing for prayer over Syria last night, this God promise the writer of Hebrews sets forth – the context far different as he (presumably) writes about leaving aside the fears and desires created by a lack of material goods. Or is it?
Was he writing to people starving to death? To people running for their lives? To people aching with the fear of never having enough? to people whose fears had good cause? I suspect so – there is no need to preach freedom from worry to the rich, the safe, is there?
So maybe this is a word of the Lord for the people of Syria today, this God promise of safe haven and deliverance. But what can it mean in the midst of real violence, real destruction, real lack?
I cannot presume to say. Yet the promise stays with me and becomes my prayer for these strangers who are my kin so far away.
Then, perhaps subconsciously harkening back to where the promise is first uttered (in Deuteronomy 31), I think of Moses, his arms uplifted, held in place by Aaron and Hur at his side when he grew weary.
But I mixed my images, holding the Moses image together with the demand that his people be released from captivity. I forgot the context. God didn’t, but I did. Deuteronomy 31's divine promise of eternal presence is in aid of the conquering of the promised land and Aaron and Hur hold Moses’ arms up because his upraised arms assure battle victory to the Israelites.
I cannot escape the imagery of war no matter where I turn. The irony is lost on me, but perhaps God appreciates the joke as I use these images of battle victory to pray for a turning of hearts and minds away from violence and towards just peace.
There are real combatants on battle fields all over the world today. Maybe it does make sense to offer prayer for both sides to all these conflicts, prayer that they recall the divine promise to never leave nor forsake. . . maybe were all to remember this God promise, the lasting victory whose name is peace would become real . . . maybe it becomes impossible to lift weapons when, eyes downcast, it is remembered that the ground stood upon is not holy because of the blood shed there, but rather is holy because of the God standing there . . . maybe the feared, implied threat of divine abandonment is so real that it is necessary that we pray that none be left or forsaken . . .
Lord, whatever You do, do not leave them . . . do not leave us.
In Your mercy, hear this prayer.