Saturday, September 29, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Maccabees 13 and 1 John 3

1 Maccabees 13 – With Jonathan in Trypho’s custody, Simon takes over the leadership of the Jews. He gathers the people, encourages them and rekindles their spirit. He completes the planned fortifications.

Trypho assembles his army to invade and sends envoys to Simon demanding a ransom of 100 talents and two of Jonathan’s sons before he will free Jonathan. Simon prepares to pay it more to assuage the desires of the people than anything. He believes it is all a trick.

He sends the demanded things but they do not release Jonathan. Trypho invades and also kills Jonathan.  Simon recovers his body and builds a great monument to all his family in Modein. Trypho also deals treacherously with the young King Antiochus, Alexander Balas’ son.  He kills him, allegedly by sending him for a surgical procedure he really does not need; then he seizes the Seleucid crown.

Simon writes to King Demetrius, seeking to use him against the growing power of Trypho.  The king responds by pardoning the Jews and making peace with them. It is 142 BC and the year is celebrated as the year that pagan rule of Israel was finally ended.

Simon leads a force to take Gezer [see] 20 miles west of Jerusalem. He builds a residence there. Back in the Citadel in Jerusalem, men are starving because they are not allowed to get their supplies from the Seleucids. Jonathan makes peace with them, but expels them and purifies the Citadel in 141 BC. Then Simon makes his son John commander of all his forces. 

1 John 3 – Very deep words from John: “My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is” (3:2).

How then must we live to be faithful to this promise? We must aspire to be pure – “as pure as Christ” (3:3). We must break from sin and “live a holy life” (3:7). “No one who has been begotten by God sins; because God’s seed remains inside him” (3:9).

If you are not living this way, you are not a child of God’s. The way of God and the way of the world are diametrically opposed. “You must not be surprised . . . we have passed out of death and into life, and of this we can be sure because we love our brothers. If you refuse to love, you must remain dead; to hate your brother is to be a murderer, and murderers, as you know, do not have eternal life in them” (3:13-15).

We learn to love others by thinking of the love Christ showed us in giving up his life. Like his love for us, our love for others must not just be “mere talk” (3:18); it must be “something real and active” (3:18).

“His commandments are these: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to. Whoever keeps his commandments live in God and God lives in him. We know that he lives in us by the Spirit that he has given us” (3:24).

There is a great deal in these words of John that are deeply meaningful to me. Indeed, John’s entire “take” on the Christian message is what drew me back to Christ at a time when I was full of doubt about religion. Early Friends understood John’s words. They saw the passage from “death . . . into life” as spiritual; they understood the presence of “God’s seed” in them as the fulfillment of the earliest scriptural “promise” in Genesis 3:15. We will be doing the Gospel of John after we finish with this epistle, so I will go into it more then.

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