Today's Bible reading: Ezekiel 34:20-31
In 198 BC, Judea became part of the Seleucid Empire, which on your timeline is referred to as the Syrians. As part of a concerted program to unify and strengthen his realm, Antiochus Epiphanies IV tried to speed up the process of Hellenizing the Jews. The books of the Jewish historian Josephus report that many priests had long since given into the temptation to become men of culture – they rushed through their temple duties so that they could go off to practice discus throwing and other athletic games!
Again, we can see the parallels to today: secular culture’s effects on the church … our societies worship of sports, entertainment, events – the more things change, the more they stay the same. The temptations are always there – they always will be. The question is our own personal response and our own personal priorities.
At one point - in revenge for a rebellion in Jerusalem - Antiochus moved quickly and brutally. He desecrated the temple by making the priests offer pigs on the altar … made them eat pig meat … and had pig blood splattered on the sacred scrolls. A pagan statue of Zeus - the father of the Greek gods - was erected in the temple. All Jewish practices - such as circumcision and the celebration of the Sabbath and other sacred festivals - were forbidden.
Though many leading Jews were willing to obey the king, there were many more who were willing to remain obedient to God and to His law. They preferred martyrdom to idolatry. When a priest in a village close to Jerusalem refused to offer pagan sacrifice, he was soon joined by a small band of people prepared to fight for the Lord. This priest - Mattathias - died in 166 BC … but his sons continue to lead the rebels against the Seleucid armies. Judas Maccabee gained stunning victories with a very small army, and by December 165 BC was able to recapture the temple and cleanse it from its desecration. This is the origin of the festival of lights – aka Hanukah – which Jewish people have just celebrated in recent days.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, King of all kings, accept our joyful shouts of praise for Your saving work. Rule in our lives, now and always, that we may know the riches of Your heavenly grace and share it with others; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
GOD BLESS YOUR DAY!