“The LORD loves the gates of Zion” (Psalm 87). This was part of this morning’s readings. So I asked myself “Why does God love the gates of Zion?” (Zion is the hill on which Jerusalem is built, and is often used in the bible to speak of Jerusalem and/or Israel). What is it about Jerusalem and Israel that God loves so much? And especially, why does it matter now that Jesus has opened to way to the whole world to come into God’s house: “For he [Jesus] is our peace, who made both [Jews & Gentiles] one, and broke down the dividing wall of partition.” (Ephesians 2:14)?

So why do I keep reading about God’s love and enthusiasm for Zion – when I also know that God loves the whole world (e.g. John 3:16)? So I asked God this question, and straight away an image came to mind that spoke to me.

I recently began to play (not very well) for a local village cricket team here in the Cotswolds. I’ve only been with them for a few months. Already, I feel a loyalty for the team that seems disproportionate to the limited amount of effort I have put in.

Now,  imagine that I’m the captain of this team. I started the team from scratch. I began to work with a disparate group of young, inexperienced players. I train them, encourage them, befriend them. They go from being a group of individuals to a group of friends who will do anything for each other. And then we start to win matches. We win the league and the cup. (I appreciate this sounds like the script to so many sports based films, but bear with me).

At the same time, some of the players start to neglect practice. They are unsporting towards each other and other teams. They try to cheat. It is frustrating and disappointing. But I still continue to work with them and care for them. It’s become more than just a game of cricket – this is family. Whilst I know that similar things are going on in all cricket clubs – it is my club that is special and I am working with.

Because of all this success I am invited to become chairman of the English Cricket Board that supervises all the cricket teams in England. I now want the good things that I saw in my team, to be seen in all the clubs in England – good sportsmanship, great skill, real friendship etc.

How do I feel about my old club? I’m not there in the same way – someone else is running it. But it’s still my club, my home – and I love it. When I go back, it still seems like such a great place. I know that all clubs are similar – with similar aspirations and hopes – and I am interested in them all. But it doesn’t stop me having a special place in my heart for my home club.

God is passionate for every nation and every individual on earth (“God wants all men to be saved and ome to a knowledge of the truth”). God loves everyone. It’s just that Israel is his ‘home club’. It is full of problems  – but it is still the place where God has walked and worked for thousands of years.

God loves everyone. And we should pray that everyone would have a chance to meet with the love of God. And when we read in the Old testament of God’s love  for Israel – it’s not that he doesn’t love everyone else – it’s just that Israel is his ‘home team’.

Does this sound like putting human characteristics on God (anthropomorphism)? I simply think that they way we do things is often similar to what God does (without the selfishness) because we were made in his image. We are like him, not him like us.

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