Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Daily Old Testament: 2 Maccabees 9 and My Own Article on "Friends' Testimonies" (Part 7)

2 Maccabees 9 – Antiochus is outraged when he hears of the defeat of Nicanor and Timotheus. He races out to take revenge, but God strikes him with a terrible pain in his bowels and “excruciating internal torture” (9:5) that cause him to smell very bad. The author uses this as a lesson in how God takes his revenge on those who persecute even in this life, and no matter how exalted a man may be in power, his power is not greater than the power of God’s justice.

He actually seems to come to a realization of this on his own. When “he could not even bear his own stench, he spoke in this way: ‘It is just to be subject to God, and a mortal should not consider himself equal to God.’” (9:12). He seems to want to reverse all the terrible things he had planned – destruction of the city, massacre of the Jews and the plundering of the Temple. He even promises to “become a Jew himself, [so he could] travel through every place on earth and declare the power of God” (9:17).

He writes to the people, begging them to respect him and the son he has named to succeed him when he dies – a reality he sees as coming soon. So “The murderer and blasphemer, having been struck very badly, just as he himself had treated others, passed from this life in a miserable death” (9:28).

Philip the Phrygian flees into Egypt to Ptolemy Philometor because he is afraid of Antiochus’ son. Antiochus' son is supposed to have been nine years old at this time, so it is unlikely he was really afraid of him. His tutor and guardian is the man he is afraid of - Lysias.

“Friends’ Testimonies”
Part 7
The reduction of spiritual issues to political or social ones was deeply bothersome to me, as I have said several times. It sapped the faith of any real need for Christ and failed to recognize that the deepest barriers in us that kept us from God were not societal but spiritual. I already lived my life wary of the kind of materialism that capitalism promoted. Simplicity for me involved more things like avoiding political or philosophical fads, trying not to be overly cerebral about what I believed, speaking what was on my mind and heart simply and directly and trying not to be manipulative or devious in my dealings with others. These were the parts of the simplicity testimony that came to mean most to me, maybe because talking and arguing about ideologies was something I had done a lot.

If you believe that God dwells in you and works in and through you, then it is your responsibility to treat your words and acts with respect by making sure that what you say and do comes as much as is possible from a spirit of love, that it is sincere, and that it comes from a deeper place in you than off the top of your head. How what you say or do is received or whether it changes anything is not for you to worry about.

Examples of the kind of speech I am talking about are very common, such as words of apology or repentance for things you have said or done in anger or impatience. If, like me, you lose your temper with people in frustrating circumstances—you are forced to stand in line endlessly or have to deal with people who cannot understand some important, complex issue you need to work out with them—if the Lord puts a word of repentance in you to offer to that offended party, you have an obligation to act on it. It doesn’t matter that it was a week or two weeks ago. It doesn’t matter that you might go through the rest of your life without every having to cross paths with that person again, you have an obligation to go back and try to apologize.

Or perhaps you have a family member or friend with whom you have long-standing and intractable “issues”. In these situations too, you have a duty to speak thoughtfully, lovingly, and with integrity what the Lord gives you to say. I know I did. There were family members who had hurt me many times over the years, relationships that were tortured and difficult because my need for them had always been so great. People who come from broken, dysfunctional families like mine will easily be able to understand what I am talking about even without the boring details. There was a need and a call in me to “speak truth” in love to members of my family and also, for the first time, an ability to accept the broken reality I had always previously hoped would be healed by my silence or endurance. I could not cure things in my own will. Perhaps it would not be God’s will either that everything be cured the way I had in mind. But my job was not the end result. My job was only to be faithful to the little truths I believed God had given me to speak.

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