Good Housing for All—At Last!
JUST outside Nairobi, Kenya, is the beautiful 140-acre [56 ha] United Nations Gigiri compound, which includes the UN-HABITAT headquarters. This community is a symbol of the international commitment to resolve the global housing crisis. A walk along the Gigiri Nature Trail, which is on the compound, provides striking evidence of what can be accomplished with concerted effort and adequate funding. Here a former environmental wasteland has been transformed into a fully functional and beautiful recreational area for the staff and visitors.
Just a few miles away, however, sits a relatively new, yet steadily expanding, slum. It is a grim reminder of just how troublesome the current housing crisis is. The shanty homes, built of mud, sticks, and tin, are about 170 square feet [16 sq m] in area. The passageways between them reek of dirty wastewater. The residents pay up to five times as much for water as the average citizen does in the United States. Most of the 40,000 or so who live here are in their 20’s and 30’s. They are not lazy or unmotivated. They came here in search of jobs in nearby Nairobi.
In sharp contrast, world leaders assemble here in clean, functional, attractive surroundings to debate the future of impoverished men, women, and children living right next door. The frustrating truth, according to the secretary-general of the United Nations, is that “the world has the resources, know-how and power” to improve significantly the lives of slum dwellers. What needs to be done then? “It is my hope,” Mr. Annan concludes, “that . . . all actors involved [can] overcome the apathy and lack of political will that have been a barrier to progress.”
How realistic, though, is that hope? What would it take to get all the international, regional, and local politicians to put aside their interests and work for a common solution? There is Someone who has the resources, know-how, and power to put an end to the current crisis. More important, he also has the compassion and the will to take action soon. In fact, his government has already outlined a detailed program that will permanently resolve the global housing problem.
A New Housing Program
In the Bible, our Creator, Jehovah God, outlines what he purposes to do. He promises: “I am creating new heavens and a new earth.” (Isaiah 65:17) That will result in a dramatic change. The new governmental “heavens” will accomplish what present human governments cannot. God’s Kingdom, or government, will guarantee health, safety, and self-respect for everyone making up the new earthly human society. Earlier, Isaiah was told that prospective members of this new earthly society would be gathered during “the final part of the days.” (Isaiah 2:1-4) This means that these changes are near at hand.—Matthew 24:3-14; 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
Significantly, in the words recorded in other verses in Isaiah chapter 65, God specifically offers to provide a permanent home for everyone at that time. “They will certainly build houses and have occupancy,” he says. “They will not build and someone else have occupancy.” (Isaiah 65:21, 22) Imagine finally having a proper roof over your head and living in clean surroundings and safe conditions in a wonderful paradise! Who does not long for such conditions? But how can you be sure of what God has promised?
A Promise You Can Trust
When God first created Adam and Eve, he did not abandon them in a wasteland. Rather, he settled them in a garden in Eden, a beautiful park with clean air and plenty of water and food. (Genesis 2:8-15) Adam was told to “fill the earth,” not to overcrowd it. (Genesis 1:28) From the beginning, God purposed that everyone there should enjoy order, harmony, and an abundance of good things.
Later, in Noah’s day, human society became filled with violence and immorality, so “the earth came to be ruined in the sight of the true God.” (Genesis 6:11, 12) Did God just turn a blind eye to the situation? No. He took immediate action. He cleansed the earth by means of a global Flood, both for the sake of his own name and in behalf of righteous Noah and his offspring. So when Noah came out of the ark into his new home, he was told once again to spread out and “become many and fill the earth.”—Genesis 9:1.
Still later, God gave the Israelites the inheritance promised to their forefather Abraham. That Promised Land was described as “a land good and spacious, . . . flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) Because of their disobedience, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness without a permanent home for 40 years. Yet, true to his word, God eventually provided them with a land to settle in. The inspired account reports: “Jehovah gave them rest all around . . . Not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made to the house of Israel; it all came true.”—Joshua 21:43-45.
Home at Last!
It is clear, therefore, that Jehovah’s words in Isaiah chapter 65 are not idle promises. As the Creator of all things, he certainly has the power to do whatever is needed to cleanse the earth and fulfill his original purpose for it. (Isaiah 40:26, 28; 55:10, 11) Moreover, the Bible assures us that he wants to do so. (Psalm 72:12, 13) He has acted in the past to provide righteous humans with adequate housing, and he will soon do so again.
In fact, when his Son, Jesus Christ, came to the earth, Jesus specifically taught his followers to pray for ‘God’s will to take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.’ (Matthew 6:10) He indicated that the earth would be a paradise. (Luke 23:43) Think of what that will mean. No more slums, squatter settlements, people sleeping in the streets, or evictions. What a happy time that will be! Under the rule of God’s Kingdom, everyone will receive a permanent home at last!
[Box/Picture on page 10]
HOUSING IN ANCIENT ISRAEL
Evidently, like the Canaanites before them, the Israelites preferred stone houses, as these buildings were more substantial than others and provided more protection from intruders. (Isaiah 9:10; Amos 5:11) However, in the lowlands, sun-dried or kiln-baked mud bricks were used for the walls of dwellings. Most roofs were flat, sometimes with an upper chamber built on top. Often, there was an oven in the courtyard and, occasionally, a well or a cistern.—2 Samuel 17:18.
The Mosaic Law included several policies on housing. Safety, of course, was of paramount importance. A parapet was to be constructed around a flat roof for the prevention of accidents. The tenth commandment warned the Israelites against coveting their fellowman’s house. Anyone who had to sell his house retained repurchase rights, at least for a while.—Exodus 20:17; Leviticus 25:29-33; Deuteronomy 22:8.
A house in Israel also served as an important place of spiritual instruction. Fathers were specifically directed to teach God’s requirements to their sons when sitting in their house, and the home was to be kept free of all appendages of idolatry.—Deuteronomy 6:6, 7; 7:26.
In ancient Israel, homes were used for spiritual activities, such as the celebration of the Festival of Booths
[Box/Picture on page 12]
THE EARLIEST HOUSES
The Bible says nothing about the first man, Adam, living in a house. However, Genesis 4:17 says that Cain “engaged in building a city and called the city’s name by the name of his son Enoch.” This city was likely nothing more than a fortified village by present standards. The type of housing used is not stated in the account. Perhaps the entire village was made up of Cain’s immediate family members.
Tents were a common form of shelter in early times. Another of Cain’s descendants, Jabal, is called “the founder of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.” (Genesis 4:20) Tents would obviously have been much easier to erect and move about.
In time, many civilizations developed cities filled with ever more elaborate homes. In the city of Ur, for example, where the patriarch Abram (Abraham) once resided, ruins indicate that some residents enjoyed the comforts of plastered and whitewashed houses that had 13 or 14 rooms. Such homes may well have been the envy of the times.
[Picture on page 8, 9]
God promises secure housing for the righteous