Dec 22, 2006

The History of Hanukkah VIII

(Start with part one first.)

People were so stunned and saddened that they fell to their faces on the ground. Many wept. And then they got to work to purify the Temple. They built a new altar from whole stones. They rebuilt the sanctuary and the inner parts of the Temple. They made new holy vessels and candlesticks. They baked breads and placed the loaves on the table. They hung new curtains.

Finally, early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev, the Jews began the celebration of the rededication of the temple. People sang and chanted, accompanied by harps and lutes and cymbals. The front of the Temple was decked with gold crowns and small shields. They lighted the lamps of the Temple menorah.

The Temple was purified and the Jews celebrated, but still the fighting went on. Even though Antiochus died the year after the recapture of the Temple, the Syrians kept on sending armies into Judea. It wasn’t enough for Judah and the other Maccabees to have regained the Temple. They wanted religious freedom established officially. That took more years of military battles. When religious freedom was granted, most of the Hasideans dropped out of the fighting.

But religious freedom wasn’t enough for the Maccabees. They wanted total independence, all enemy troops out of Jerusalem, and no foreign rule of their land. Fighting for this took almost twenty more years and was finally achieved by Simon’s negotiations. The only surviving Maccabee, Simon, became the High Priest of Jerusalem and ruler of Judea. As Mattathias’ second son, he began the rule of the Hasmoneans over the kingdom of the Jews in the year 143 BC.

This was twenty-five years after the confrontation in the small village of Modi’in when Mattathias refused to accept the laws of the Syrian king, Antiochus. This was twenty-five years spent gathering troops, training them, hiding in the hills, attacking and retreating – always fighting against better-equipped armies with many more soldiers. This was twenty-five years of courageous and determined struggle for the right of Jews to live their lives as Jews, freely and openly, governed only by the laws of the Torah.

In John 10:22-39, Jesus not only celebrates the Feast of Dedication, but He chooses this time to reveal himself as the Messiah.

The Feast of Dedication is about the dedication of the second temple of the Jews. So what does this have to do with us today? What can we learn from this? It is important to give God glory for the might victory over the Jews’ enemies and the restoration of God’s house to His people. If this Jewish revolt did not happen, or if they were not successful, there might not have been any Jews left for a Messiah to be born unto. Satan has tried over and over throughout history to kill the Jews, but against highly disproportionate odds, God’s chosen people always survive. We should always remember His great blessings and protection, and give Him thanks.

This is a feast that can be used to glorify God in His Temple today also. I Corinthians 6:19, 20 says “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

I Corinthians 3:17 says, “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

Romans 12:1 tells us, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

And I Corinthians 10:31 says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

What better time of year to truly rededicate your own “temple” to the Lord? What “cleansing” needs to take place in your temple?


1. Why do you keep calling this the “Feast of Dedication?” Isn’t this the same as Chanukah?

Chanukah, which can be spelled with a “ch” or an “h,” is actually Hebrew for “Feast of Dedication.” Another name for this holiday is “The Festival of Lights.”

2. If this is Chanukah, why didn’t we hear about the miracle of the oil? Isn’t that what Chanukah is all about?

Actually, the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days is a myth. It is thought that the Pharisees hated the Maccabees because they felt they had committed blasphemy by making themselves both king and priest after their ultimate victory over the Syrians. Unfortunately, the Maccabees abused their power, becoming a dictatorship and eventually becoming very wealthy. Although they had begun by opposing Hellenism, they ended up becoming the single most successful Hellenizing force in Jewish society! The Pharisees eventually became rabbis who feared glorifying a martial past while still being occupied and oppressed by the Romans, so they shifted the focus of Chanukah over to the great lights of the Temple. Over time, the “miracle of the oil” became attached to the story of Chanukah, overriding the truth of the miracle of God’s deliverance of His people from a mighty enemy, and the restoration and dedication of His temple.

3. Why is Chanukah celebrated for 8 days?

There is a lot of significance to numbers in the Bible. The number 8, for instance, is attached to circumcision, which is a sign of a covenant. Whenever God’s temple was dedicated to Him, it was always an 8 day celebration; hence, this Feast also celebrates the dedication of God’s temple for 8 days. Another important reason is that this feast originally was patterned after the Feast of Tabernacles, another 8 day feast, which is a feast of thanksgiving. Of course, the Maccabees and their followers had many things to be thankful to God for when the Feast of Dedication first took place.

4. If Chanukah is for 8 days, why are there 9 candles?

The candle that is a little higher is called the “Shamash,” or the servant candle. You light that candle first, and then the Shamash is used to light, or serve, the other candles. It is to remind us that just as Jesus came as a servant, we, too, are to be servants to one another.

(All rights reserved.)

The History of Hanukkah VII

(Start with part one first.)

(Enter General Appolonius.)

Judah’s force ambushed them, killing many of the soldiers and forcing the rest to flee. The Jews collected many weapons and a great deal of armor from that skirmish. Judah himself had killed General Appolonius and he kept the general’s sword. Judah used that sword in battle for the rest of his life.

Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts…”

(Enter General Seron.)

Another general, General Seron, heard about Appolonius’ defeat. He decided to avenge this loss. His army was twice the size of Appolonius’ army. He marched his army along the coast, heading south toward Jerusalem. They turned inland finally, and, in a pass in the mountains were attacked by Judah and his men who had been carefully watching their approach. Judah’s men killed over 800 soldiers; the rest fled.

“Not by might…”

As news of the Maccabees’ successes spread, more and more people joined the cause. Antiochus was furious. He was on his way to Persia to collect some tribute money, but before he left, he assigned half his army and elephants to the man he trusted most in the world, Lysias.

(Enter Lysias.)

Antiochus told Lysias, “Destroy the strength of Israel and the remnant of Jerusalem.”

Lysias planned to do so. He chose his highest ranking generals to head the battle campaign. Altogether there were about 20,000 foot soldiers and cavalry. They didn’t make the mistake of being ambushed in the mountains. They stuck to the plains where they could maneuver in the formations they were trained for. Besides, they knew that Judah’s forces were more practiced at fighting in the hill country. They felt sure they would win. So were the slave dealers who came along in hopes of buying the defeated Jews, to sell later for a profit.

Judah and his men saw the army make their camp on the plains. They were struck with fear at the odds against them. But Judah was a persuasive leader who was able to instill great pride in his troops. "Do not fear their numbers or be afraid when they charge. Remember how our ancestors were saved at the Red Sea, when Pharaoh with his forces pursued them. And now, let us cry to God, to see whether He will favor us and remember His covenant with our ancestors and crush this army before us today. Then all the Gentiles will know that there is one who redeems and saves Israel. It is better for us to die in battle than to look upon the evils that have come upon our nation and our sanctuary.”

The plan of the Syrian generals was to split their army and send half the soldiers to wage a surprise attack in the night on Judah’s sleeping troops. The famous General Gorgias was to lead the attack. When the Maccabees’ effective spy system learned of this plan, Judah had his men desert their camp. But they left fires burning as if they were really still there and asleep. Then Judah led his forces down to where the other half of the Syrian army was waiting and, before dawn, they attacked those sleeping soldiers. They were successful.

(Enter General Gorgias.)

Meanwhile, Gorgias and his men had found the empty Jewish camp. He thought that Judah and his men were fleeing in retreat. He returned to his own camp, feeling triumphant. When Gorgias found a ruin of a campsite and all his dead soldiers, he realized that he had been outwitted.

“Not by might…”

The defeated survivors returned to Lysias. Lysias decided that he had to take care of this situation himself. He would lead the next attack on the Jews. He planned carefully, organizing 20,000 foot soldiers and over 3000 cavalry. When Judah saw their military strength, he offered this prayer: "Blessed are you, O Savior of Israel, who crushed the attack of the mighty warrior by the hand of your servant David, and gave the camp of the Philistines into the hands of Jonathan son of Saul, and of the man who carried his armor. Hem in this army by the hand of your people Israel, and let them be ashamed of their troops and their cavalry. Fill them with cowardice; melt the boldness of their strength; let them tremble in their destruction. Strike them down with the sword of those who love You, and let all who know your name praise You with hymns."

Lysias took the same route as the other army, but he didn’t want to fall into the same battle pattern. So he continued further on that route into more hilly country. This was more than Judah could have hoped for. He and his men were so well trained to fight in the hills that even though there were so many fewer Jews, they slaughtered 5000 of Lysias’ solders and caused many others to desert and flee. Lysias was surprised at the intensity and determination in the way the Jews fought. He ordered a retreat and planned to go and enlist more soldiers for his army.

“Not by might…”

After this battle, even though the Jews knew that Lysias would attack again, they also knew they had won a major victory. They felt strong enough to march into Jerusalem and seize the Temple. The symbol of Jewish freedom had been held by the Syrians for 3½ years, and it had been in the hands of the hellenizers for many more.

Some of Judah’s troops went ahead and fought off the enemy soldiers who were stationed at the Temple. When the rest of the troops arrived, they were horrified by what they saw. Their once beautiful Temple was in shambles. The gates of the Temple were charred from fire. Weeds grew in the courtyard. The altar was broken. The sanctuary was bare. Statues of Greek idols were everywhere.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

Dec 21, 2006

The History of Hanukkah VI

(Start with part one first.)

Daniel: And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white.

In the first year spent organizing to fight, Mattathias’ group of people expanded. Some of the Hasideans joined them. They went to many villages, undoing what Antiochus’ men had done. They tore down the Greek altars and circumcised all the uncircumcised boys, often by force. Many Jews greatly feared Antiochus and his Syrian army. Others had been hellenized. But Mattathias and his followers demanded obedience from all Jews to the Laws of Moses.

With persistent effort, Mattathias found and trained recruits and expanded his force. During that first year, this small band of Jews would strike out from time to time at a Syrian patrol, or disrupt ceremonies the Syrians were trying to hold in other villages.

The aged Mattathias never lived to see the outcome of his resistance. He died during that first year. But the revered priest and fighter helped make a vital military decision: Even though it was against the Jewish law to fight on the Sabbath, the Jews decided that they would defend themselves if attacked. They wouldn’t initiate an attack, but they would not be passive under attack, either. Also, before Mattathias died, he appointed his successors – his sons, Simon and Judah. "Arrogance and scorn have now become strong; it is a time of ruin and furious anger. Now, my children, show zeal for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of our ancestors. Remember the deeds of the ancestors, which they did in their generations; and you will receive great honor and an everlasting name. Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness? Joseph in the time of his distress kept the commandment, and became lord of Egypt. Phinehas our ancestor, because he was deeply zealous, received the covenant of everlasting priesthood. Joshua, because he fulfilled the command, became a judge in Israel. Caleb, because he testified in the assembly, received an inheritance in the land. David, because he was merciful, inherited the throne of the kingdom forever. Elijah, because of great zeal for the law, was taken up into heaven. Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael believed and were saved from the flame. Daniel, because of his innocence, was delivered from the mouth of the lions. And so observe, from generation to generation, that none of those who put their trust in Him will lack strength. Do not fear the words of sinners, for their splendor will turn into dung and worms. Today they will be exalted, but tomorrow they will not be found, because they will have returned to the dust, and their plans will have perished. My children, be courageous and grow strong in the law, for by it you will gain honor. Here is your brother Simon who, I know, is wise in counsel; always listen to him; he shall be your father. Judah Maccabees has been a mighty warrior from his youth; he shall command the army for you and fight the battle against the peoples. You shall rally around you all who observe the law, and avenge the wrong done to your people. Pay back the gentiles in full, and obey the commands of the law."

Maccabee was Judah’s nickname. Maccabee means “hammer,” and in battle after battle, Judah dealt “hammer blows” to the Syrian army. The name stuck to describe all five brothers.

Judah had about 3000 soldiers under his command, while the Syrian army was more than ten times that size.

Not only was Judah’s army outnumbered by the Syrians, it was outweaponed as well. Antiochus’ army had the latest arms: ballistas, which threw large stones, rams that battered the walls of the cities, bows and arrows, javelins, spears, and armor. They had foot soldiers, cavalry, and warrior elephants. The Jews had only farm animals and farm tools, which they converted into crude weapons. They used sticks and stones and whatever arms they were able to capture. It was like David fighting Goliath.

Judah was a brilliant fighter and an inspiring leader. He never lost sight of the Jewish goal – to regain control of the Temple of Jerusalem. Through centuries of foreign rule, the Temple had symbolized the right of the Jews to worship freely by the Laws of the Torah. This freedom was so essential to the Jews that they continually risked their lives to fight for it.

Judah encouraged his men against great odds saying, "It is easy for many to be hemmed in by a few, for in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between saving by many or by a few. It is not on the size of the army that victory in battle depends, but strength comes from Heaven. They come against us in great insolence and lawlessness to destroy us and our wives and our children, and to despoil us; but we fight for our lives and our laws. He himself will crush them before us; as for you, do not be afraid of them."

The Maccabees’ men trained well to fight. They knew the hills better than the Syrians did, but they didn’t all hide in the mountains waiting for a chance to attack. That wasn’t really possible since there was no way to feed so many soldiers. For much of the time the fighters stayed in their villages, farming or doing whatever they normally did. When it was time to wage a battle, they’d be sent for by a local leader.

It was a good system. While the soldiers were in their villages, they could keep their eyes and ears tuned for helpful information. The basic tactic of Judah’s force was to attack and then retreat, jabbing constantly at the opposing troops. As more and more fighters joined the cause, the attacks became more harassing to Antiochus’ forces, and Antiochus got more aggressive in his campaign.

Four large battles were waged before the Jews regained control of the Temple. The first of these battles took place when a large army commanded by General Appolonius marched into the territory where Judah and his men were organized.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

Dec 19, 2006

Weekly Recipe: Oat Cream Scones

I missed a couple weeks of recipes and we made these today, so you get two recipes this week. If you've ever made homemade biscuits, these are even easier.

1 2/3 c. flour (I use half spelt, half Golden 86 whole grain, but any will work)
1/3 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. healthy sugar (Sucanat) (or brown sugar)
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. cold butter
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. blueberries, dried fruits, cranberries, diced apples, raisins, etc. (optional)

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in butter. Add cream and mix until just barely blended. (This will be a very wet texture.) Gently fold in fruit. Pat into 9" circle on baking stone or sheet and score into 8 wedges. Bake at 425 deg. for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and top bounces back when touched. Score again. (I double this and can fit two large scones on one sheet.) These are rich enough that you don't need any butter, but you may want butter, jam, lemon curd or whipped cream on them for a special treat.

The History of Hanukkah V

(Start with part one first.)

Daniel: But the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.

In 168 BC, a patrol of soldiers entered Modi’in, a small village located in the countryside to the northwest of Jerusalem. They went to the central marketplace of the town where they erected an altar. The soldiers then assembled all the men of the town. The priest and elder of Modi’in, Mattathias, was among them.

(Enter Mattathias and sons.)

A descendant of the revered Hasmonean family of Levites, Mattathias stood with his five sons: Jonathan, Simon, Judah, Eleazar, and John and lamented: "Alas! Why was I born to see this, the ruin of my people, the ruin of the holy city, and to live there when it was given over to the enemy, the sanctuary given over to aliens? Her temple has become like a person without honor; her glorious vessels have been carried into exile. Her infants have been killed in her streets, her youths by the sword of the foe. What nation has not inherited her palaces and has not seized her spoils? All her adornment has been taken away; no longer free, she has become a slave. And see, our holy place, our beauty, and our glory have been laid waste; the Gentiles have profaned them. Why should we live any longer?"

Then Mattathias and his sons tore their clothes, put on sackcloth, and mourned greatly.
The soldiers led forth a pig, which they had brought with them and asked who was the most respected among the villagers. Mattathias was identified.

The commander of the patrol addressed him: "You are a leader, honored and great in this town, and supported by sons and brothers. Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the people of Judah and those that are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts."

Mattathias did not move. He knew that making the sacrifice would be an act of honoring the Greek gods as well as disobeying the Jewish dietary law. He knew that if he made the sacrifice, each of the other Jews would also have to eat the meat or be executed. Mattathias’ choice was clear. He answered and said in a loud voice: "Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to obey his commandments, everyone of them abandoning the religion of their ancestors, I and my sons and my brothers will continue to live by the covenant of our ancestors. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king's words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left."

There was a tense silence while everyone waited to see what would happen next. Another Jew was the one to break that stillness. “I will do as you bid,” he said to the commander. “I will follow the king’s orders.” He approached the animal. The soldiers stood at attention next to the altar while the Jews watched hopelessly. Mattathias could not control his rage. Suddenly he rushed forward, snatched the commander’s sword, and killed his fellow Jews. And then he turned on the commander and killed him too. The force of his action spurred his sons and the other villagers to attack. The soldiers had no time to collect themselves. They were all killed.

This was not a joyous occasion for the villagers. They knew that when the patrol didn’t return to headquarters, another would be sent to investigate. They had to flee. Mattathias called out, “Every one of you who is zealous for Law and supports the covenant, come with me.” His sons and other supporters took as much of their own food and equipment as they could. And they took their farm animals and weapons of the dead soldiers. But they left much behind –all the comforts of their homes, many of the family remembrances they treasured, and the life they knew in the village. They could make no other choice: They feared the power of Antiochus and his army.

Mattathias fled with his followers to the mountains where they felt they could hide easily. No army was sent to track them down. Maybe it seemed unlikely that they could make any more trouble. Maybe it was because the Jews of the village of Modi’in weren’t important leaders or well recognized in Jerusalem. Whatever the reason, it was a big mistake for Antiochus.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

Dec 18, 2006

Weekly Recipe: Honey Mustard Roasted Carrots

This is easy to prepare, but it takes a long time to cook, so plan ahead. I can never make enough of these carrots for any occasion. They are much loved at every potluck.

1 bunch green onions (or 1 regular onion)
1/2 c. butter
5 lbs. carrots, sliced 1/2" thick
1 c. orange juice
1 c. water
3 1/2 T. mustard (try different flavors)
2 T. honey
s/p to taste

Saute onions about 3 minutes in butter. Put in 13x9 pan and add sliced carrots. Mix remaining ingredients well and pour over the carrots, stirring well. Place in preheated 500 deg. oven for about 2 hours or until tender, stirring every 10 minutes to distribute sauce evenly. Sauce will cook way down until it appears none is left. Enjoy!

The History of Hanukkah IV

(Start with part one first.)

(Enter Mother and 7 sons.)

It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king to taste some pork, which the law forbids, under torture with whips and thongs. One of them, acting as their spokesman, said, "What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors."

The king fell into a rage, and gave orders to have pans and cauldrons heated. These were heated immediately, and he commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out and that they scalp him and cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of the brothers and the mother looked on. When he was utterly helpless, the king ordered them to take him to the fire, still breathing, and to fry him in a pan. The smoke from the pan spread widely, but the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, saying, "The Lord God is watching over us and in truth has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song that bore witness against the people to their faces, when he said, 'And he will have compassion on his servants.'"

After the first brother had died in this way, they brought forward the second for their sport. They tore off the skin of his head with the hair, and asked him, "Will you eat some pork rather than have your body punished limb by limb?"

He replied in the language of his ancestors and said to them, "No." Therefore he in turn underwent tortures as the first brother had done. And when he was at his last breath, he said, "You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws."

After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly thrust out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands, and said nobly, "I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again." As a result the king himself and those with him were astonished at the young man's spirit, for he regarded his sufferings as nothing.

After he too had died, they maltreated and tortured the fourth in the same way. When he was near death, he said, "One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by Him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!"

Next they brought forward the fifth and maltreated him. But he looked at the king, and said, "Because you have authority among mortals, though you also are mortal, you do what you please. But do not think that God has forsaken our people. Keep on, and see how His mighty power will torture you and your descendants!"

After him they brought forward the sixth. And when he was about to die, he said, "Do not deceive yourself in vain. For we are suffering these things on our own account, because of our sins against our own God. Therefore astounding things have happened. But do not think that you will go unpunished for having tried to fight against God!"

The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Although she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors. Filled with a noble spirit, she reinforced her woman's reasoning with a man's courage, and said to them, "I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of humankind and devised the origin of all things, will in His mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of His laws."

Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Antiochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his ancestors, and that he would take him for his friend and entrust him with public affairs. Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself. After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son. But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native language as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: "My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. I beg you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. And in the same way the human race came into being. Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again along with your brothers."

While she was still speaking, the young man said, " What are you waiting for? I will not obey the king's command, but I obey the command of the law that was given to our ancestors through Moses. But you, who have contrived all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will certainly not escape the hands of God. For we are suffering because of our own sins. And if our living Lord is angry for a little while, to rebuke and discipline us, He will again be reconciled with His own servants. But you, unholy wretch, you most defiled of all mortals, do not be elated in vain and puffed up by uncertain hopes, when you raise your hand against the children of heaven. You have not yet escaped the judgment of the almighty, all-seeing God. For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of ever-flowing life, under God's covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our ancestors, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by trials and plagues to make you confess that He alone is God, and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty that has justly fallen on our whole nation."

The king fell into a rage, and handled him worse than the others, being exasperated at his scorn. So he died in his integrity, putting his whole trust in the Lord. Last of all, the mother died, after her sons. Let this be enough, then, about the eating of sacrifices and the extreme tortures.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

The History of Hanukkah III

(Start with part one first.)

And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. Through his cunning he shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes;…Then I heard a holy one speaking, “How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” And he said to me, “For two thousand three hundred days (a little more than 6 years); then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days (3½ years).”

But Jason also allowed Jews who wanted to preserve their own religious ways to do so. This leniency troubled those Jews who were anxious for hellenization and some of them complained to Antiochus. They even offered the king money if he’d appoint a new High Priest, one who would be stricter. And so, although Jason had caused more hellenization in twelve months of lenient rule than had happened in all the years since Alexander’s death, he was removed from office and forced to flee.

(Enter Menelaus.)

Menelaus was appointed. He was a Jew who was not even a Levite, and he cared less for the Jewish way of life than he did for his own power. There wasn’t enough money in the Temple treasure to pay Antiochus the sum that he’d been promised for appointing Menelaus. Menelaus’ solution was merely to sell some of the holy vessels of the Temple to raise the money that was needed!

While the hellenization efforts were being supported by some Jews, unrest from other Jews continued to grow. Some of the anti-hellenizers organized into a group called the Hasideans.

(Enter Hasideans)

This group was deeply troubled and angered about the hellenization, especially at the Jews who had chosen Jason, and then had him replaced by Menelaus. The Hasideans grew in strength, and they planned to revolt as soon as it was possible.

Their time came. Antiochus, feeling secure that the hellenization was progressing well, had gone off to Egypt with his Syrian army to challenge the Romans who were now in control there. News that Antiochus had been killed in battle came back to Jerusalem.

(Enter Syrians.)

When the Hasideans heard this, they attacked Menelaus’ supporters at the Temple. None survived. The Hasideans threw all the Greek statues over the Temple walls. And then they killed every known hellenizer they could find, and took control of the city. Even though Menelaus was away from Jerusalem at the time, it was an effective massacre.

“Not by might…”

Daniel: At the appointed time he shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter. For ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant and do damage.

But there was one big problem. The news of Antiochus’ death had been just a rumor. He was alive. While in Egypt, he had lost his battle against the Romans. The Romans had spared his life, but had shamed and humiliated him, making him promise never to attack again. So Antiochus was very much living when he returned to Jerusalem, sulking from his defeat. When he found out about the Hasidean revolt, he was infuriated. He marched his armies into Jerusalem, where they senselessly killed 10,000 people. Their victims were not only Hasideans and Hasidean supporters, but hellenized Jews and their families were slaughtered as well. The bloody punishment didn’t stop.

Antiochus attacked the Temple. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils. He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off. He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures that he found. Taking them all, he went into his own land.

New Greek statues were installed. To the Jews, this was a dreadful sign. Antiochus went further. He decreed that Jews could not observe the Sabbath, study the Torah, or circumcise their sons, under penalty of death. If a circumcised baby was found, he was hung around the mother’s neck and both were thrown over the city walls or they were crucified, along with anyone who had participated in the circumcision. Soldiers broke into homes looking for signs of Jewish life. Legend has it that the children still secretly studied the Torah. A lookout for Syrian soldiers was always present. If a soldier was spotted, they quickly hid the Torah and brought out small wooden tops, spinning them as if playing a game. We now know them as dreidels. If they found any evidence of Jewish life or culture, they would pronounce those people enemies and kill them. It was a nightmare to be a Jew in Jerusalem at that time.

Jews reacted in different ways to this terror. Some felt that the only thing they could do was to go along with the Greek rule. Others, who had been Greek supporters, were so filled with grief and rage that they switched their loyalties to the Hasideans and the cause of religious freedom.

Many families left Jerusalem, fleeing to smaller villages where they hoped to live simpler and more peaceful lives. That didn’t work. Antiochus sent his patrols to villages, calling together the Jews, and demanding they make sacrifices to show allegiance to the Greek way. Refusal meant death. In some villages, Jews went along with the sacrifices, feeling it was more important to live than to die for breaking a Jewish law. In some villages, Jews refused and were tortured and killed.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

Dec 16, 2006

The History of Hanukkah II

(Start with part one first.)

(Enter Hellenized Jews.)

Over time, some Jews did become hellenized, moving farther and farther away from Jewish customs and laws. For some this happened because they moved to farms or cities outside of Judea, but even in the land of the Jews, changes took place. More Jews wore the Greek-style tunic. Some took Greek names for social or business reasons. Synagogues were built that resembled Grecian temples.

Religious beliefs began to change. The attitude among some Jews was this: Why should we cling to our different ways? Why not be like all others? In Judea, this attitude was felt especially by those Jews who came into daily contact with people living the Greek way. Most of these Jews lived in the city of Jerusalem and were from the wealthier families. They generally were merchants who had a great deal of contact with people other than Jews. These Jews claimed they did not really want to give up Judaism, but they wanted to make Jews more like Greeks so that people who lived in cities neighboring Judea would look upon Jews as people just like themselves.

While some Jews felt this way, others were horrified by these changes in attitude. “It’s not possible to live in two worlds. Hellenization is a threat to the future of the Jewish people.” An undercurrent of unrest developed between those Jews who feared and resisted hellenization and those who felt it was backward and unrealistic, as well as undesirable, to resist Greek life.

Along with this growing struggle among the Jews, another struggle was developing between the Ptolemies (who ruled Egypt and Judea), and the Seleucids (who ruled Syria and Asia Minor). Though Seleucus had been content to concede the control of Judea to Ptolemy, his descendants wanted to rule that territory. About 125 years after Alexander had died, a Seleucid king finally did force the Ptolemic rulers to give up control of Judea. This Syrian king was name Antiochus III.

Antiochus III made energetic attempts to hellenize people, requiring that everyone put statues of himself and the Greek gods in prominent places. To erect such statues, especially in the Temple in Jerusalem and in synagogues throughout Judea, was unthinkable to the Jews. They claimed that paying taxes was enough proof of being good citizens. Antiochus III did not insist. Neither did his successor, his son Seleucus IV.

Daniel: Each of the Ptolemies and Seleucids were prophesied about in detail in the vision which is recorded in my book. But we want to focus tonight on the next king: “And out of one of the four notable horns came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.” I was then told that “there would arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.”

(Enter Antiochus Epiphanes.)

The next leader was Antiochus IV, a man who called himself Antiochus Epiphanes, which meant “the visible god.” Behind his back, the Jews called him Antiochus Epimanes, which means “a crazy man.” He wanted to extend his power and capture all of Egypt. In order to do that, he needed the full support of all the people under his rule. To him, that meant that the people had to become, once and for all, totally hellenized: They must speak Greek, follow Greek customs, worship Greek gods, and even think like Greeks. The Jews were especially important to him since Judea bordered on Egypt.

Daniel: Those who do wickedly against the covenant, he shall corrupt with flattery.

Those Jews who were willing to be hellenized thought it would be to their advantage to help Antiochus hellenize the rest of the Jews. "Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us." They abandoned the holy covenant, joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil. Some of them convinced Antiochus to appoint a High Priest who would help. They recommended a man who had already adopted man Greek ways. He’d even changed his name from Joshua to Jason. As High Priest, he was not only to govern the Jews; he was to make sure they were becoming hellenized as well.

Daniel: He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices; and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered.

Under Jason’s rule, statues of Greek gods were put up in the Temple in Jerusalem, with a statue of Zeus, representing Antiochus Epiphanes being put up on God’s once-holy altar, Jewish priests officiated at Greek rites, and Greek athletic games were held in the temple courtyards.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

The History of Hanukkah I

I wrote this play several years ago and we filled our living room with about 100 people, having all guests participate in the play. Since Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, as Christians, we should understand the history of it. Hanukkah began at sundown last night and continues for eight days. Since this is a lengthy play, I have divided it into eight days as well, so come back each day for another installment of Christian history, prophesied and fulfilled in God's Word.

Although we Christians often say there were 400 silent years between the two testaments, those 400 years were actually extremely important to us as Christians. God foretold in great detail in the book of Daniel what would happen during those 400 years before the birth of the Messiah. Let’s listen to Daniel tell us about his two visions in which the Lord gave us the story of what happened starting in 332 BC. You can find his prophecies for tonight’s story in Daniel, chapters eight and eleven.

Daniel: Suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.
Then he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power. And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns. There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand.

The meaning of this vision was made known to Daniel a few verses later.

Daniel: The ram which you saw, having the two horns, - they are the kings of Media and Persia. And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king.

(Enter Alexander)

History books such as those found in the Apocrypha tell us what happened during those 400 “silent” years. Having just defeated the Persian armies two years earlier, this young Greek king, Alexander the Great, marched into Jerusalem in 332 BC. That victory had given him control over all that the Persians had ruled, which included Judea, the land of the Jews, with Jerusalem as its capital city.

Much to Alexander’s surprise, his soldiers met no resistance in the Jerusalem. Quite the opposite!

(Enter Jews and High Priest)

The Jewish High Priest came with a procession to greet him. Alexander was pleased by this welcome. He proved to be a tolerant leader, who allowed the Jews to govern themselves in many ways. He allowed them to observe their religious law and he did not insist that young Jewish men join his army. For their part, the Jews declared that they would name all male babies born in the first year of his reign Alexander.

The Jews were used to being ruled by foreigners. The change in power from the Persians to the Greeks seemed to mean that taxes were ultimately paid to someone else, little more. The actual collecting of the taxes, as well as other governing tasks over Judea, was carried out by the Jewish High Priest in Jerusalem and Alexander did not interfere with this practice.

The Temple in Jerusalem was the seat of the High Priest’s governing. It was the most important building in Jerusalem and in all of Judea. More than a governing institution, it was a visible reminder of God’s presence and a source of great pride. Especially in the face of foreign rule, the Temple was a unifying bond for all Jews.

Farmers who lived in Jerusalem or in the small villages that surrounded the city’s walls came to the Temple to offer sacrifices to God. With the city’s artisans and merchants, they gathered at the Temple, maintaining the strength of their religious beliefs. The change from Persian rule to Alexander’s leadership didn’t change their day-to-day existence, or their reverence for God and their religion, at least not right away.

Daniel: Therefore the male goat grew very great.

But Alexander had a dream of how the world might be under his rule. He wanted to do more than just receive taxes from conquered peoples. He wanted to spread the Greek way of life everywhere. It was fine for people to govern themselves and, for now, to observe their own ways of life. But Alexander wanted to unite eventually all people into one culture, the Greek culture. He wanted them to learn the Greek language, and to study Greek philosophy, science, and art. Alexander planned to do this by encouraging his solders to move into various parts of his empire. They would live with the people there, marry, and start families. In time, the soldiers would help the people learn about Greek customs and Greek thought.

The Jews were not excluded from Alexander’s dream. But to the Jews, learning about Greek ways posed no major problem. It was interesting to study new ideas, to learn a new language and customs. Besides, Jews were still able to live their lives by their own religious beliefs, following the Law of the Torah.

Daniel: But when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it, four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven.

When Alexander died after only twelve years in office, quarrels over power erupted among his generals, Ptolemy and Seleucus.

(Enter Ptolemy and Seleucus.)

They divided the empire, with Ptolemy taking Egypt and Seleucus taking Syria and Asia Minor. But they both wanted control of Judea. Ptolemy won. He did this by entering and seizing Jerusalem. He marched into the city on the Sabbath and was astonished when the Jews made no effort to defend themselves, thinking they must be foolish people.

The kings who succeeded Ptolemy generally believed in “live and let live.” For more than a century, Jews continued to pay their taxes to the Ptolemic leaders while maintaining their own self-government under their High Priest. Jews also kept up their own cultural and religious practices, while learning more and more of the Greek ways. This learning continued to be encouraged by the Greek rulers over time. Their goal was hellenization – the total acceptance of the Greek customs, ideals, and language by all people. The Greeks didn’t force this, but they tried to introduce their own ways into daily life, mainly by encouraging Greeks to move in and settle among other people.

(To be continued tomorrow.)

Dec 14, 2006

Kent Hovind: Blessed, Spoiled and Honored

My son asked me recently how Kent Hovind was spending his time in prison. I responded that if I knew Kent Hovind, he would be preaching. We decided to look it up and found that he has a blog while he's in prison.

Preaching the gospel isn't the only thing Kent Hovind is doing while he's in prison. He's making lists of all kinds of things to thank the Lord for, such as having a bed, clean water, food, and paper and pencil. There is no complaining spirit here at all.

He spends his time not only preaching the gospel, but diligently discipling five new converts, having verse-by-verse expository Bible study with them four times every day. He calls prison a "pastor's dream." He is teaching grown men basic math, science, and reading. He is teaching one man to read using Genesis and John. He gives away food rations to men who memorize Scripture verses. He has learned empathy for men whose lives revolve around drugs and alcohol, showing them a different way. He is investing his life into those men God puts in his path.

He lists 19 possible reasons for God allowing this to happen, all of which show humility. I won't list them here, because you need to see how a true man of God responds under adversity. I'm glad to see he hasn't lost his sense of humor either; don't miss his joke about David Gibbs and the second law of thermodynamics.

I am only sorry that I came across this too late to write a letter of support to the court. The deadline was last week. I shall see what else we can do to support him at this time, however, in addition to daily prayers.

In comparison to many other Christians who have been imprisoned, he says, "I am blessed, spoiled, and honored to be a child of God." My initial assessment of him was right; he is not your typical "famous" Christian, and my son and I thanked God that we were able to spend time with Kent Hovind last summer.

Changing the Water

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see."

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its
thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?"

Changing the water. That's what this whole thing is about. Doug Phillips has managed to keep everyone quiet so far about his hypocrisy, but I am here to change the water. I have the opportunity to help protect others and I have the responsibility to expose unrepentant abuse. Sometimes the water has to boil quite violently and for a good length of time before it is changed into what it should be, but I'm here to change the water.

Dec 11, 2006

New Blog for Exposing Tyranny

I would like to thank Ministry Watchman and especially Charles Fisher for being willing to take my story to the internet and stand behind me and my family in exposing Doug Phillips. Both the Watchman and Mr. Fisher have spent many hours working on our behalf and I am eternally grateful to them.

Ministry Watchman sought to protect our identities because they knew of the serious abuses that we'd already suffered as a family. They knew that by telling our story it would bring retaliation on us and probably on them as well. Doug Phillips' employees and ex-interns at Vision Forum decided, however, that the world should know who we are anyway. The original intent therefore of having Ministry Watchman tell the story for us is now gone.

Therefore, it has been mutually decided that our story might be able to be handled better in small, bite-sized pieces written by me, making it more personal and allowing for important details to be covered in depth. Mark will continue to provide commentary about our story on his new blog. Ministry Watchman and Charles Fisher still stand behind us in their desire to see the ecclesiastical abuses of Doug Phillips, as well as any other ecclesiastical tyrants, exposed. As our pastor said in his sermon today, there are times to be gentle, there are times to be firm, and there are times to really lay it on the line. Exposing sin of this nature demands that we lay it on the line.

In the interest of keeping this story separate from the intended purpose of this blog, I have set up a new blog for the sole purpose of telling my story. I will be starting over again from the beginning and telling the story in small, bite-sized pieces several times a week. The flavor of the comments there should be a little different, as I have a different comment etiquette. Be sure to read that before you post a comment. I will graciously answer all charitable questions and expect commenters to remember that this is a site for Christians. Be sure to read the "Why We Are Here" page as well to set some background. The new blog has the same name, but is hosted by Wordpress, so it should be easy for you to find! See you there! (This blog will remain under its intended initial purpose, for those who are interested.)

Get a Life?

This is in reply to Get a Life (comment on Ministry Watchman): If you were falsely accused and not charged with anything specific, yet told that your soul was in peril until you repented, and tried to reconcile for two years, would you just get a life? If your reputation was so tarnished, when you had tried harder than probably any wife you know, to the extent that all your friends now turn their backs on you and your children even in public, would you just get a life? If you knew the truth about someone and that person was leaving a trail of hurt all over the world, and you were the only one who could warn others of this potential threat, would you just get a life? If you were "imprisoned" for years with no charges, false accusations, and no trial, would you just get a life?

I have a responsibility before God and man in this situation. If it was just me, or even just my family and me, that were affected by Doug Phillips, I would forgive and "get a life." I have forgiven Doug, but that does NOT relieve him of his responsibility to repent. I know of many people who have been hurt by Doug personally and some by his teachings. My story is not unique and therefore I have a responsibility to warn others who might be swayed by his very charismatic personality.

I want to make it very clear that I bear no ill will toward Doug and Beall or anyone at BCA. I have years of fond memories with everyone there, although there were some difficult times as well. I am not a quitter. When the going gets tough, I will do everything possible to work through the situation. You can verify that by knowing that I did more than was even asked to be a joyful, submissive wife to an extremely angry husband for 15 years, off and on. I did not quit, even though many Christians counseled me to leave him. I am reaping the fruit of those 15 years of hard labor now, and I am very grateful for a husband who dearly loves the Lord now and has since repented.

At BCA, each man signed a covenant of membership. Somehow this bound the whole family. Doug is very open about how he feels regarding "covenant" and feels that a church "covenant" is a lifelong commitment, just like marriage should be. I believe you already know this, though, Get a Life, because you are in the community. Ask some of the people who tried to leave BCA how easy it was to leave. You already know who I'm talking about – and there's plenty of those folks. We had 25 families leave in less than two years. With only just over 20 families left, that should tell you something.

You also know as well as I do that the churches in the community are vastly different from your mainline churches. Most people cannot just pick up and go to another church. Those who did leave usually went to another church in the community because their values were in line with that particular church. Tight-knit community. It's hard to change, and Doug wouldn't let anyone go easily.

Even so, we could have left, probably, but where would we go? Where would anyone who currently attends BCA go, if they left? You know as well as I do, how many families in the "community" are desperate to find a place to go. In a way, I don't fault those at BCA who didn't stand up for me. They would have risked too much – their own reputation, their jobs, church, fellowship. You know it's true.

What am I looking for? My goal is, and always has been, to warn others of danger. We have previously considered moving to other "communities," and were extremely grateful to people like the Austins who warned the Reformed community about RC, Jr. and his crew. RC isn't the only one who has whole families pick up and move to be by him. I am here to warn others that something similar could happen to them if they follow a man and his teachings, especially if they don't know what he's really like. I am sending out a warning signal. It is not my responsibility for how people respond to the news, but I am carrying the message. If justice were to be served, if Doug Phillips and those involved were to see their sin in not protecting me, in falsely accusing me, in so many areas, if they actually repent, then that would merely be a bonus for me, but it would still serve my main purpose – to protect others. For, if Doug repents, truly repents, it would follow that his abusive ways would take a 180 degree turn as well. It would be a win, win situation for his followers as well.

This situation has not consumed my life, so I would say that I have already gotten on in life. I will not dwell in the past, but I have a responsibility to fulfill and I shall do my best to bring that to completion. My life is very full with many things, and I do not live in the past. I was not willing to share my story until I knew there was full forgiveness in my heart and that I could proceed with NO bitterness, NO spirit of revenge, and a true desire to only warn others of danger. If you are on the "in" with Doug, you may not understand this, because he is a great guy with his friends, but remember that you were warned if you ever cross him. My heart actually aches for Doug and Beall; we gave them so many chances. I pray for them every day.

Dec 6, 2006

The Parable of the Bed

Once upon a time, there was a bed. It was a lovely, grand piece of furniture, but it was still just a bed. The bed served its purpose well and provided many nights of refreshing sleep. Then there was sin. The bed itself did not commit sin, but there was sin that took place in the bed, so the bed needed discipline.

The owner of the bed made a declaration, "The bed shall lose its mattress and all its linens." And it was so. And life for the bed was good.

However, the bed's master changed his mind several years later and decided that the bed had not been disciplined severely enough. A new declaration was made, "The bed shall have a different style of mattress." And it was so. And life for the bed was good once again.

Not entirely satisfied, though, another declaration was forthcoming, "The bed shall be put up on the trading block for auction." And it was so. But weeks passed and no one bid on the bed. And so the bed went back to being a bed again.

A couple years later, the angry master declared, "The bed shall be put out of its misery." But no one wanted the bed that was now 20 years old. It had served its usefulness and needed to be put out to pasture with all the other old beds.

Tired of the ever-changing declarations, the master's wife decided to become a judge and sentenced the bed to immediate execution. The bed was then chopped to pieces.

In its second life, the bed was then reincarnated into a workshop in the garage, while the master and his wife were relegated to sleeping on the floor. The master and his lady were very pleased with the bed's new purpose.

And the master and his lady lived happily ever after – well, after they commissioned a new bed. And life for the new bed was good.

A couple of years later, however, the master was indeed surprised to find that the copyrighted version of his story of the bed had been strangely warped and twisted, and was now being produced without authorization by young men with no scruples for honesty. Knowing the original story had only been told to his spiritual shepherd, the master and his lady were grieved to hear that their ecclesiastical privileges of confidentiality had thus been violated. And life for the pastor was not good.