Bring Me To Life
Van Diemen's Land
2003 09 01
I came across a reference to Van Diemen's Land in a book I was reading recently. Van Diemen's Land is the old name for Tasmania. My interest was piqued because somewhere in the distant recesses of my memory was an echo of this in the geography or history I'd learned aged eleven. What I couldn't quite remember was why it had earned that name.
I was fascinated to read therefore of Abel Tasman leading an expedition to discover the southern continent in 1642 who happened across Tasmania instead. He named his discovery after Anthony van Diemen, his superior responsible for the mission. Now this may have been the convention in those days but it still struck me as very generous to immortalise his Governor General in this way and not himself. All this before Cook 'discovered' what's now Australia.
Jeremiah (Jer 12:1) voices a concern many of us may share from time to time when he is troubled that around him it appears wicked people prosper and aren't punished by God.
In fact this often is an objection raised by those struggling to believe because it seems to make more sense to expect God to act swiftly in punishing evil. We would have him casting lightning bolts a plenty were it up to us. That there isn't apparent swift 'justice' can seem difficult and where the wrong concerns us we might be tempted to take matters into our own hands.
The teachings of Jesus to turn the other cheek (Lu 6:27-28) begins with the command to love our enemies, to seemingly give in to the oppressor.
Paul in Romans 12:19 reminds us to leave room for God's wrath and quotes Deu 32:35 that 'vengeance is mine... says the Lord'
These ideas were difficult then and still are. To apply them on a national or international scale causes us as much trouble as in our own lives, yet we have examples, say in the life of King David who refused to harm Saul, leaving it to God to deal with him (1Sa 24:12)
Scripture reminds us frequently that God is attracted to the cause of the weak (Pv 22:23) and the humble and opposes pride, arrogance and self-seeking (1 Pe 5:5). Jesus taught us to give up our lives in order to find life. (Jn 12:24-25)
In 1856 New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land were no longer penal colonies and the policy of transportation had ended. They were granted the right to establish their own government. The people living there then changed the name of their state from Van Diemen's Land to Tasmania, honouring the discoverer rather than his patron. Whether it was to break with the past and signal a new beginning or for some other reason I don't know but I find it encouraging that though not seeking his own honour and preferring another, Abel Tasman was at last exalted.
We may not see the end from the beginning or be able to seek out all of God's wisdom (Ecc 3:11b). Instead we must trust in His justice and His mercy, knowing that he will repay and reward. The teachings of Jesus are indeed true and His way, though beyond searching out, is the path of life.
© cag 2005