Friday, December 3, 2010

December 3

OT: Daniel 11:2-35

Today, we read a detailed history, completely devoid of any names. I don't know that I've ever read that many pronouns in a story before. Obviously, the whole thing was confusing b/c I had no idea who Daniel was prophesying about. Afterward, I looked it up in my Eerdman's Handbook to get some background. According to the handbook, the prophecy tells the history of the Greek Empire:

"There are to be three more Persian kings (2; Cambyses, Gaumata, and Darius I), followed by a fourth (Xerxes). Xerxes invaded Greece but was defeated at Salamis in 480 BC. The power then passed to Greece (3-4). Verse 5 refers to Egypt (the 'king of the south') and to Ptolemy's one-time general, Seleucus, who became 'king of the north'--the powerful kingdom of Syria and the east. Fifty years later (6), the daughter of Ptolemy II married Antiochus II of Syria. But she was divorced and murdered, and her brother avenged her by attacking Syria (7). Verses 9-13 reflect the struggles between the two powers at the end of the 3rd century BC. The Jews then joined forces with Antiochus II of Syria to defeat Egypt (14-15). They gained their freedom from Egypt (16), and Antiochus made a marriage alliance with Ptolemy V (17). Antiochus invaded Asia Minor and Greece but was defeated by the Romans at Magnesia in 190 BC (18-19).

"The 'exactor of tribute' (20) was his son Seleucus IV, who was shortly succeeded by his brother Antiochus IV, the persecutor of the Jews. Verses 21-24 aptly portray his character and policies. Through the treachery of Ptolemy's own men, Antiochus briefly gained control of Egypt in 173. On his return he attacked Jerusalem and slaughtered 80,000 Jews (25-28). The next time he attacked Egypt he was thwarted by the Roman fleet (29-30). He turned on Jerusalem again and desecrated the temple (31). He was aided and abetted by some Jews, but others refused to compromise their faith, though they died for it (32-33). Judas Maccabaeus instigated a successful revolt, so helping the faithful (34).

"Verses 36-45 do not describe actual events at the end of Antiochus' life. They may refer to the end of Syrian domination, at the hands of Rome, the new king from the north. Or they may anticipate events at the end of time (see 8:17), which the sufferings of God's people under Antiochus foreshadow. This then leads to chapter 12."

Oh wait, we don't get to verses 36-45 until tomorrow. Still, that last paragraph is probably good to know going in.

Everyone got that? Moving on.

NT: 1 John 3: 7-24

In verses 7-15, John lays it down. You can't be a Christian and keep sinning, got it? Maybe it's what I've always heard, but my take on that is that "continuing to sin" means a deliberate, recurring sin. Even earlier in the book, the author notes that we all sin. But you have to stop those lifestyles of sin.

The contrast to sin, though, is not adherence to a list of rules. Instead, it is love. In verse 14, John says that the indication of our passing from death to life is that "we love our brothers." Verses 16-17 further define this love as Christ-like, sacrificial, and active. Some of my favorite verses ever are 18-20: "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong tot he truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence, whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he know everything." As someone who has spent some time struggling with confidence in her salvation, I find concrete measures like this to be really reassuring. According to these verses, the closest thing to a sign of our salvation is not our personal feelings on the matter, but instead, the love that we show to others. I can get behind that.

Psalm 122:1-9

A praise psalm that is as much a tribute to Jerusalem as it is to God.

Prov. 29:1

Against stubborn sinfulness.

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