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A Special Treasure, this Nation

A Special Treasure
A Special Treasure (DreamsTime.com Royalty Free Licensed Media)

Who Really is a Palestinian?

This was the decidedly provocative title of a magazine article recently delivered directly into my inbox. The piece, which I read with much interest, outlined the 3,500-year history of Israel and sought to propose an answer to the Palestinian Question based on the writer’s particular perspective.

The article had been authored, chiefly from a biblical viewpoint, by Fred Kilonzo, a gentleman well-known to me. So naturally, I reached out; I had a few questions to ask.

“Why the biblical perspective to this distinctly geopolitical issue?” I inquired as a start.

“I am a pastor,” Fred told me during his intro, a fact I thought might explain his heartfelt support of the birthplace of the Bible, so evident in his  article. Fred runs a Christian ministry in Nairobi, the capital city of our country, Kenya, together with his wife Lydia. The two maintain a close interest in the nation and people of Israel, a deeply-held value they have also passed on to their adult son.

“But I’m also an upcoming author,” Fred continued, explaining that he is currently working on publishing a book relating to the future of Kenya.

I asked what inspired his faith and religious work, an area of much interest to me as a faith-based author.

Fred was a young child, he explained, when his interest in Biblical matters began to take shape. “I heard that there was a heaven and a hell and that hell was a place of fire. And, as a six-year-old boy, I wanted to go to heaven,” he said, smiling at the simplicity of his childhood faith. This eventually led to a lifelong devotion to the study of scripture. And this, combined with his master’s degrees in divinity and biblical leadership, deeply informs his worldview today.

Why his particular interest in the nation of Israel, though, a country so far beyond our borders?

“Over the years,” Fred responded, “as I studied the Bible, I came to realize that there was a lot written about God’s dealings with the nation of Israel. And so, I became interested in His covenant people.”

I’d heard this term before: covenant people. But I wanted to know more.

“You can’t talk about a covenant with God without talking about Israel,” Fred asserted, referring to the nation’s unique interactions with the Almighty, as conveyed in biblical scripture. “It’s just not possible.”

“The book of Exodus, for a start,” he shared, “mentions a national covenant made several thousand years ago between God and the ancient inhabitants of present-day Israel. The Jewish people today are the descendants of that nation. And we know this because of their knowledge of that covenant, their preservation of the Torah where the covenant is found, and their preservation of the writings of the prophets, some of whom also spoke of the covenant.”

Reflecting on this, I reached for the said book of Exodus and did a little digging myself. Chapter 19, I found, described a literally earth-shaking encounter between God and the ancient Israelites, shortly after their hasty departure from Egypt. It was during this event that He revealed Himself to the nascent nation for the very first time, and invited them to enter into an everlasting covenant with Him.

But as I read through this passage, a powerful little phrase caught my eye, striking an unexpected chord somewhere deep within my spirit:

“…now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, [said the Lord], then you shall be a special treasure to Me.”

A special treasure…

But Fred was not through yet.

“I would like to add,” he continued, “that this covenant came about by the initiative of God. It was not a human being, it was God. And Israel said yes. Israel said yes to God.”

“Israel was the first nation to enter into a covenant with God. We learn this from what they’ve given to the world.”

Pastor Fred Kilonzo and his wife, Lydia. (Photo courtesy Fred Kilonzo)

Perhaps not surprisingly, Fred himself was a key participant in a home-grown national covenant initiative, named the God Bless Kenya Movement, a few years ago.

“On 12th May 2012, Kenya entered into a covenant that formally committed her people, land and resources to the God of Israel,” he told me. The event was held at the historically important Uhuru Park in the nation’s capital, lending it great significance, particularly to the religious community in Kenya. It brought together thousands of citizens, religious leaders and governmental representatives to formally place the nation in the hands of God Almighty.

“We were seeking to follow Israel’s pattern,” Fred said to me.

Keen to learn more about the Kenyan event, I did a quick online search and found an article titled: Needed: National Covenant between Kenyans and God. The story, published by one of Kenya’s national newspapers, argued that a spiritually-led covenant between the people of Kenya and the Almighty might just be what the country needed to attain her national goals. The writer had compared such a covenant to the Mayflower Compact famously signed by North America-bound pilgrims in November 1620.

“God is the God of all the nations really, even if the nations don’t recognize it, because the earth and all its fullness is His, and all that dwell therein,” Fred said, quoting another scripture, the twenty-fourth Psalm, almost verbatim.

I reflected on this for a long moment. Dipping a toe into what I knew were turbulent waters, I asked what his opinion was, then, on the matter of Israel’s ownership, in light of the perennial conflict between the Jewish people and Palestinians.

“In the book of Genesis,” he explained, “God promised Abraham that he was going to give him land stretching from the river of Egypt, which is the River Nile, to the great river, which is the River Euphrates,” referring to the fifteenth chapter of the book of Genesis, which records this scenario. “All that land was promised to Abraham – that whole region.”

I listened, tracing, in my mind’s eye, the large swath of land stretching from present-day Egypt to the regions of Turkey, Syria and Iraq, where my modest knowledge of geography might place the great Euphrates. And hastily retrieved my toe.

“God gives land and property to whomever He wills,” Fred continued nonetheless, “and yet Israel occupies only a fraction of this land today.”

What about the claim then, that with their relatively recent return to Israel, the Jewish people had invaded land rightly belonging to Palestinians?

“The Jewish people have been away from the land before,” he conceded. “During the days of Nebuchadnezzar, they were sent into exile. Yet they came back to the land in the time of Zechariah, Ezra and Haggai. God brought them back to the land. They were exiled again during the time of the Roman Empire, but they came back to the land after about two thousand years,” he said, not without passion.

Indeed. But if my admittedly limited knowledge of history served me right, there had been several different communities occupying the land in the course of the last two millennia.

“Even if others occupy the land,” Fred responded emphatically, “it doesn’t change the ownership. The title deed indicates whose land it is.” This title deed, I inferred, was to be found within the pages of the holy scriptures.

I was now well-apprised of the gist of the matter, as espoused by a significant section of Evangelical Christians: that there exists an incontrovertible, God-given deed that grants Jewish people legitimate entitlement to the land of Israel.

I was inclined to agree.

“The story of Israel shows us how God makes covenants,” Fred shared as our interview drew to a close. “And how He keeps them. We don’t find this with any other nation. Only with Israel.”

Fred’s upcoming book, he said, would therefore seek to investigate the divine purpose of our own nation of Kenya, drawing deeply from the biblical history of Israel. “Israel and Her Covenant” would be the title of one of its early chapters.

“We owe Israel a debt we cannot repay,” Fred told me.

I nodded, seeing it too. A very special treasure.

About the Author
Paulie Mugure Mugo is a published author based in Nairobi, the capital city of the East African nation of Kenya. Paulie has authored three books, two being lightly humorous personal memoirs, while the third, “KINGS”, is a memorable look at the rulers of ancient Israel, a subject she finds endlessly captivating. Were books children, this would be Paulie’s unwittingly spoiled favorite. She recently completed a certificate course, "The History of Modern Israel", and is currently enrolled to study "The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem" at the University of Tel Aviv, through one of the institution's online platforms. She enjoys reading widely, but rarely works of fiction as, in her view, nothing can be as fascinating as the world we live in. She lives in Nairobi with her husband, four boisterous offspring, and Nala, a guard dog who clearly has no clue she is one.
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