Celebrating Common African Biblical Heritage
“Envoys shall come from Egypt, Let Cush stretch out her hands to God” (Psalm 68:31).
Seldom do ancient streams of religious history converge to generate a reconciling river, refreshing the longings of diverse people for freedom and validation in contemporary culture. Yet, this moment of celebration is upon us.
Descending from ancient Ethiopian ancestry—“Miss Israel,” Yityish Aynaw, is visiting the U.S. (September 23— September 30). On this occasion she is hosted by the National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council(NJCLC, Rev. Dr. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D.) in partnership with the National Black Evangelical Association(NBEA). In this visit, we have the confluence of Africa, of Hebrew-Israelite religion, and of African-descended Christian cultural roots. These streams join together in the context of validating the distinct identity and quest for freedom sought by all. Substantial historical experiences undergird this confluent and momentous gathering.
Ethiopia, as a nation in modern times, traces its ancient historical roots to a child born to the union of Israel’s King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, ruler of Egypt and Cush. She came from Africa’s uttermost parts of the earth to commune with the Davidic king about the report of his wisdom (cf. 1 Kings 10:1-13; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12). The Queen of Sheba validated the divine wisdom of Solomon for the ancient world in her generation. Further, the Hebrew- Israelite religion, continually practiced by many Cushite people of Ethiopia’s ancient kingdom, confirms the religion of YAHWEH in its association with the Africa continent. Ethiopian (Cushite) Jews trace their lineage to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and the majority of Ethiopians continue to worship the God of their biblical Hebrew ancestors as He reveals Himself in the Messiah and His Church.
Christian believers in the African-American experience and their churches—indeed all true followers of Christ— worship the “greater than Solomon” of the Gospel’s record (Luke 11:31). He came from the Davidic-Solomonic dynasty of Israel, a heritage evincing African-descended roots. Jesus is Messiah and Lord; He is Liberator. Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Jesus came to bring genuine and holistic freedom to all, and particularly to poor and oppressed peoples throughout the earth. In our present day and culture, the National Juneteenth Movement celebrates the freedom of African-descended Americans from the legalized shackles of human slavery in our society. Africans held as slaves in Texas received the word of emancipation in 1865, some two years following the signing and ratification of the Emancipation Proclamation. When these oppressed black folks finally heard the news of liberation in the month of June, they celebrated their Jubilee with joyous festivity. Hence, this is our “Juneteenth.” Juneteenth is the quintessential holiday of freedom for African-descended people in America.
T he U.S. visitation of Yityish Aynaw, “Miss Israel,” becomes the catalyst for gathering people of good will, even in the prophetic vein of Cush stretching out her hands to God (Psalm 68:31). The National Black Evangelical Association joins with the National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council, and with other members of Christian and Jewish
faith communities, to highlight the great historical significance of her ascendancy to this honorable position. Together, peoples of African-descent, Jews, and Christians celebrate this occasion by nurturing shared values, especially historic bonds, cultural validation, freedom, and reconciliation. We foster an understanding of common geographical, historical, and cultural African roots. In the biblical period, these streams shaped the identity of both Hebrews (Israelites, Judahites, and Jews) and the earliest believers in Jesus the Christ, even as both covenant people gave worship to God Most High. It is for the good of all that we gather ourselves in celebration as partakers of this divine African confluence, to the glory and praise of God.