Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Something from the Apocrypha

The Christian Church has always seen its share of persecution.  In America, it is pretty mild, though it appears to be on the verge of changing.  Time will tell how quickly and how intently that will change.  May God preserve us and make us stand firm in the faith!

But in other parts of the world, the persecution is much more intense.  China, North Korea, northern Africa (e.g, Nigeria, Sudan), Syria, and Iraq have seen particularly intense persecution in recent years--exponentially worse than the subpoenaed pastors in Houston.  They are worthy of our prayers.

But we need not think that God has forgotten them.  God still knows and loves his people.  And even the persecution which Christians face comes because God loves his people.

The following words are from the Apocrypha.  They are a sort of interlude in between sections speaking of the persecution and butchery that God's faithful people were subject to in Jerusalem and Judea.  This was occurring sometime around 180 BC, give or take.  The Greek forces--the Ptolemy's in Egypt and the Seleucid's in Syria--were taking turns trying to control the land of Palestine.  So the faithful Jews were getting attacked and slaughtered by both forces.  Many were killed.  Others were forced into hiding.  While God's love appeared to be hidden, it was not withdrawn.  The following words from the Apocrypha help us understand what God does through persecution and that he still loves his Church regardless of what it looks and feels like.  We do well to take these words to heart--as God is still God and we are still his Church.

Now I urge those who read this book not to be depressed by such calamities, but to recognize that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people.  In fact, to punish the ungodly quickly rather than leave them alone for very long is a sign of great kindness.  For in the case of the other nations the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins; but he does not deal in this way with us, in order that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height.  Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us.  Though he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people.  Let what we have said serve as a reminder; we must go on briefly with the story. (2 Maccabees 6:12-17)

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