THE SELF-IMMOLATION OF PALESTINE HAS ME thinking over Jesus' words, that "a divided household falls." I could as easily have been set off by the Irish "troubles," or the Kashmir tug-of-war, or even the more hushed hara-kiris in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Sudan. Planet Earth, suspended in its orb, must seem verily to throb and writhe as in the pangs of childbirth.
The context of the quote is Jesus' exorcism of a demon (Luke 11:14), for which He is in turn called a demon, by a tough audience for whom the simile is aptly coined: "like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep'" (Luke 7:32). Such is man.
The Messiah (who has come in fact "to destroy the works of the devil"-1 John 3:8) makes short work of this logic: "And if Satan is also divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?" This reply is generally taken to mean that Satan is not divided against himself-but Jesus does not precisely say that.
I cavil on this point only because of a certain personal discomfort at the idea that a clutch of demons should be less divided-in any endeavor-than the righteous often are. Is Beelzebub's kingdom really so harmonious, even in its God-hatred?
Human dividedness is not so much in question. Why shouldn't the nations be embroiled in civil war when my neighborhood is-and nations are just big neighborhoods, aren't they? Even our church denominational monikers often sound like arguments, defining themselves by who they are not rather than by the large swaths of truth they share. (We sing only Psalms. We are Reformed. We don't baptize babies. We worship on Saturdays.)
The dye is in the wool. The world must keep pretending that there is a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; otherwise, we would have to face the reality that the problem is sin, and the heart of man, and there's no fixing the Middle East though a hundred Rumsfelds rise up. Bucks County, next door to ours, sank $9 million into school-violence-prevention programs, including "peace tables" at which feuding tykes can solve their problems. Lots of luck.
Yet can it be that Satan's house is undivided while man's thus lies in tatters? If he has scraped together that much virtue in the service of a diabolical cause, then what is to impede his total rehabilitation in the end! Nay, things may look hunky-dory now, but a day is coming when the Beast will turn on the Harlot (Revelation 17:16), and then Jesus' remark in Luke 11 will prove a prophecy more than a premise. Screwtape, who heretofore signed his correspondences to demon-in-training Wormwood "Your affectionate uncle," will show a truer color in his final missive: "Your increasingly and ravenously affectionate uncle."
Moreover, a fatal division within himself as well as within his ranks will appear, that same which made him play into God's hands by killing the Messiah and fulfilling the prophecies he knew full well. For is not Satan's major goal (to harm God's Holy One) at cross-purposes with another goal (to thwart the prophets' words)?
And at such time also will come to fulfillment the very last words of the very last book of the Old Testament, words at once picked up in the New by Luke (1:17): "And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers ..." (Malachi 4:6). For the Messiah Himself will accomplish what Bucks County and Donald Rumsfeld and all the "peace tables" of the world cannot.
Till then the lament for the scarred land between three continents still rises from the stench of suicide bombers: "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation" (Luke 19:42-44).