In the Ancient Near East there were many gods. Of local shrines, on every nearby koppie, of wells, of fertility, of weather, etc. Groups of inscriptions are often unearthed, stemming from nomadic tribes and dedicated “to the god of [a particular person]”.
Abraham and Isaac therefore would have wandered through the Fertile Crescent, trusting their God for protection and guidance. So, in Genesis 26:15-25, we have a curious incident where Isaac is moving through the valley of Gerar. Each time he stops and sets up tent, he digs for water and actually finds. Fresh water. Not brackish or bitter. This causes some consternation among the locals, because it means that their gods haven’t helped them very much. Whereas the God of Isaac is clearly doing a good job.
It makes me think of how the personal gods of the nomadic people of old have been replaced by apps. These days we have a whole host of personalised apps that offer us help and convenience as we navigate through the daily grind. From banking to insurance. From medical aid to fast food. I’m not saying that apps are idols. It just seems to me as if we, like the ancients, are constantly looking for ways to make it in this life. If there is an app that can make life that bit simpler or easier, what’s wrong with that?
Perhaps the question is this: (sticking with the app theme) Is God still a part of our home screen? While we may have a myriad apps doing things for us, do we still look to God to walk with us too?
There’s an old hymn which says that God’s angels (messengers) here on earth are human. This brings me to mention the fact that it is Ascension Day on Thursday (25th). The whole point of Christ’s ascension is that he is represented in the Godhead as human. Body and soul. The implication of this is that God can be known to us in this day and age too. God not only revealed himself to the Patriarchs, and through them. But God reveals himself through a human representative still. A Son. The significance of this is that a son is more personal than an app. God is more approachable than a password-protected app. And God is thus still relevant.
So, happy Ascension Day. Happy app’ing. And let us try to see God’s guiding hand in all places and peoples of the earth.
Fr Deon Lombard