Being Anti-Antiochus

Scripture Focus: Daniel 8.12,25
12 Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. 

25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.

Reflection: Being Anti-Antiochus
By John Tillman

Scholars are not in serious doubt about the identity of Daniel’s “fierce-looking king,” the “master of intrigue” who will cause great devastation. This prophecy refers to Antiochus IV, who called himself Antiochus Epiphanes.

Antiochus claimed to be the “image” of Zeus, the highest Greek god—Zeus in the flesh. Ephiphanes means “God Manifest.” A common joke of the day changed a letter of his name making it “Epimanes,” meaning “madman.” However, this didn’t stop the destruction he caused and surviving his rule typically meant playing along.

As a power grab, Antiochus sought to give one religion, his religion, favored status. “God Manifest” wanted his image to be reverenced above all others. So, rather than allow people to worship as they wished, he desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and erected an image of himself on its altar. The rebellion of the Jews that followed, their eventual victory, the reconsecration of the Temple, and Antiochus’s death of a wasting illness are all depicted in 1 Maccabees and are the subject of the celebration of Hannukah.

These are the events that Daniel’s vision directly refer to but, like many prophecies, these images give us a pattern of warning for the future. Jesus knew about historical Antiochus, yet he used Daniel’s vision as warning for the future. (Matthew 24.15-16) Antiochus is the model Jesus chose to warn about “Anti-Christs” and false messiahs to come.

One might think it would be foolish for a modern ruler to claim to be “God Manifest.” But that depends on what “god” people want to see manifested. Antiochus “manifested” Zeus, a despot and a philandering adulterer, who had children by many different women. Have we not seen and heard modern leaders manifesting this “image?” Have we not seen people of faith bending the knee to them? 

Perhaps few would dare to say, “I am the image of God on earth.” However, we have seen many leaders claim a metaphorical mantle of authority from God. Some leaders (like Esther) are chosen by God for such a time as this (Esther 4.14), but far more common are those twisting scripture and “throwing truth to the ground.”

We must take Jesus’ warning seriously. Antiochus-like leaders will come. We might not be able to stop them. But we mustn’t play along or follow them. May we be blessed with discernment and endurance for times of testing. We must be anti-Antiochus.

Music: “Hayo, Haya” Peter, Paul, and Mary

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out. — Psalm 65.3– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Daniel 8 (Listen 4:39)
Hebrews 6 (Listen 2:58)

This Weekend’s Readings
Daniel 9 (Listen 5:22) Hebrews 7 (Listen 4:01)
Daniel 10 (Listen 3:18) Hebrews 8 (Listen 2:22)

Read more about Facing a Biblical Disaster
Too many Christians follow political pundits more closely than Jesus Christ. Their spiritual diet depends more on news programs than Bible passages.

Read more about Peacefully Resisting Gog and Magog
The Gog and Magog that come against us today are not necessarily physical kingdoms.

White (Clerical) Collar Crimes

Scripture Focus: Daniel 6:3-4
3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Reflection: White (Clerical) Collar Crimes
By Erin Newton

White collar crimes are depicted as less serious, less offensive than other crimes. Media attention tends to focus on violent crimes. Those accused of insider trading or insurance fraud are shrugged off as foolish, ambitious people. But does that mean those sins are any less offensive?

Daniel was a distinguished worker. His capabilities, skills, and wisdom set him apart from his peers. The text does not comment on his godliness or his outward religious actions. We understand that his faith was a driving factor in how he conducted business. But for his immediate supervisor, the king of Babylon, it was his business practices that stood out. Even in an ancient setting, work ethics were important.

The church has been just as guilty in the area of financial crimes as in the area of sexual abuse. Churches have been devastated when those who claimed to be doing the work of God were embezzling funds from the pool of tithes. Businesses that promote their religious affiliation with Christianity have committed fraud. Clerical collars have been soiled by white collar crime.

Like Daniel’s, our faith in God should guide our business practices. Faith should shape how we report our taxes. Faith should enforce our truthfulness in filing insurance claims. Faith should keep our hands out of the coffers.

Paul commended Titus to act as Daniel did:

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)

As Christians, we expect to be admired for our charity and love. We set up memorials for Christians who served the poor or died for their faith. But how many do you know who are distinguished because they practice godly ethics at work? How many do we esteem for their truthfulness with the IRS or with loan departments?

White collar crimes are seen as soft crimes. They are assumed to be non-violent. They also feel safe. But they are still crimes. They still violate the command in Romans 13 to obey governing bodies. They always break the heart of God.

Our world sees white collar crimes as less offensive. But Christians should not be creating a business ethos according to what the world permits. Be set apart in how you file taxes and count every penny.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments. — Psalm 119.10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Daniel 6 (Listen 5:18)
Hebrews 3 (Listen 2:43)

Read more about Tendencies of Unfaithful Shepherds
Unfaithful shepherds place their own security and power before the health of the flock.

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Deceit Hardens Hearts

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 3.15-19
15 As has just been said:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”
16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. 

Reflection: Deceit Hardens Hearts
By John Tillman

The teacher of Hebrews repeats a warning twice in just a few verses: “If you hear his voice do not harden your hearts.” Why does the writer feel we need this message so deeply? Who was it that hardened their own hearts? It was not unbelievers or those who had never heard from God. It was God’s own people.

The teacher is quoting from Psalm 95, which references events in Deuteronomy. (Psalm 95; Deuteronomy 1.27-36) Those who hardened their hearts had been brought out of Egypt through miracles and victory. The elders had seen his physical presence and dined with God on Sinai. (Exodus 24.9-11) The people who rejected God were the ones God stayed with day and night as a pillar of fire that gave light at night and a pillar of cloud that gave guidance by day. (Deuteronomy 1.33)

We may think of non-believers as hardhearted and there may be a few hardhearted atheists or unbelievers in the world. The Pharoah they escaped is the biblical prototype of hardheartedness. (Choices and Hard Hearts) The teacher, however, is not writing to hardhearted unbelievers. The greater concern is that believers might have their hearts hardened by “sin’s deceitfulness.” (v 13). 

Sin hardens our hearts by deceit. That deceit is often about the character of God. The Israelites believed a lie and hardened their hearts out of fear of God’s treatment. “If we trust God, he’ll bring us harm.” (Deuteronomy 1.27)

Whatever sin you are tempted by, there is a lie about God’s character at its root. The more deeply we believe the lie, the harder our hearts can grow.
“If I follow God, I’ll never be happy.”
“If I follow God, I’ll never be fulfilled.”
“If I follow God, I’ll never be successful.”
“If I follow God, I’ll never be ________.”

What lie is in the blank for you?

The psalmist restates God’s decision to not allow the rebellious and hardhearted people into the promised land: “they shall never enter my rest.” (Psalm 95.11) The truth is: “If I don’t follow God, I’ll never find rest.” 

Sin’s deceit will leave us wandering in the desert of desire and want. God’s rest leads to well-being beyond any thing we fear the lack of. When we rest in God’s goodness and follow him, we’ll find greater things that God has in store for us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory. — Psalm 50.2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Daniel 5(Listen 5:47)
Hebrews 3(Listen 2:25)

Read more about Weighed and Found Wanting
“Writing on the wall,” has become a worldwide idiom that shows up in countless cultural references…it comes from the Bible.

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Your donations can help provide biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads and no agendas.

Fully Human

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 2.14-18
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them,  fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Reflection: Fully Human
By John Tillman

Hebrews describes the power of death as a weapon wielded by the devil. Fear of death fuels sinfulness. Greedy obsession with possessions, prideful pursuit of prominence, insecure demands for recognition…these temptations are defenses we raise against death.

The death and resurrection of Jesus strike at the root of this power. We don’t need to race death to make ourselves significant or raise ourselves to prominence. Our significance is in his sacrifice for us and, like Jesus, we will be raised from death in the same way and by the same power.

The teacher is emphasizing Jesus’ humanity because early Christians had difficulty with the idea. The first heresies the early church dealt with were ones which diminished (or completely denied) the humanity of Jesus.

Some, even today, struggle with the idea that Jesus could be human enough to be tempted by sin. They theorize about whether Jesus could have chosen to sin or not. Scripture, however, confirms that not only was Jesus tempted, but that he “suffered” in it. It is Jesus’ experience of suffering temptation that, according to Hebrews, makes him uniquely qualified to help us in our temptations.

Paul said that if Jesus was not raised, Christians are most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15.17-19) But if Christ was not fully human and fully experienced in the suffering of temptation and death, then what is his resurrection other than a meaningless stunt by an untemptable, unkillable God? Jesus is not a not-quite-human God who laid down for a few days to trick everyone. No. There is no hope in that for us.

Our hope rests in Jesus who was human enough to touch, to bleed, to have dirty feet that needed washing, and hands willing to dirty themselves washing the feet of others. Our hope is not in his invulnerability, but that his vulnerability leads us on a path to victory.

We need not fear death or temptation. Jesus has suffered them and defeated them both. When we fear death, the answer is not piling up security but resting in Jesus. When we suffer temptation, the answer is not surrendering to longing but resting in Jesus. Our high priest, Jesus, despite being human, remained God, remained faithful, and won every battle that was impossible for us to win.

When fear comes or temptation comes, turn to him who knows and cares and can help us endure and conquer.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. — Psalm 51.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Daniel 4(Listen 7:27)
Hebrews 2(Listen 2:47)

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Humility will save you and your nation. Pride will destroy you and your nation. If only kings had ears to hear.

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A Generation of Exiles

Scripture Focus: Daniel 1.17-29
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

Reflection: A Generation of Exiles
By John Tillman

The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth began in 1971. 5,000 intellectually talented 12-13 year-olds were identified and tracked over their lifetimes to identify ways education for all students could be improved.

At a similar age to the SMPY participants, Judah’s children were not just “identified” or “tracked.” They were captured, enslaved, and transported to a foreign capital. They were forced into a culture hostile to their values. They were educated in things that conflicted with their beliefs. The system of indoctrination went so far as to force them to change their identities. Their names were stripped from them and they were assigned names that honored false gods. Many were made eunuchs, although the Bible is silent on whether this happened to Daniel’s group.

Despite the Bible not holding all the data we would like to know, we can still learn from Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These young men, or children as we would call 12-year-olds today, are good subjects for our study.

Like the SMPY subjects, Christians have long tracked Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. We comb through the data of their lives for proof that faith can stand times of fiery testing. We long to learn from them how to live under cultural pressure. We look to them for examples of excellence amidst exile.

Looking around us today, some Christians have little more than disparagement for younger generations. They are called weak, lazy, entitled, and unprincipled. They are called out for uninformed idealism, lack of conviction, or unrealistic goals.

We could say similar things about Daniel and his peers. They assimilated, at least partially, into the culture around them. They took foreign names. They learned forbidden topics. Instead of disdaining what they were taught, they learned it better than anyone else. But when it came time to take a principled stand, they proved beyond any doubt that their idealism had a backbone that stood strong, even against threats of death.

Arguably part of their backbone came from their mentors in the scriptures. Daniel read Jeremiah and Ezekiel, finding hope and strength. What are younger generations reading from us? Insults? Sarcasm? Or loving, supportive truth?

If we hope for Daniels in this generation, younger Christians need guidance from elders who speak truth to them with humility and hope, not disdain or disgust. The next generation of the church will soon be in their hands.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus said: “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” —Luke 10.22

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Daniel 1 (Listen 3:21)
2 Timothy 4 (Listen 2:48)

Today’s Readings
Daniel 2 (Listen 8:45) Jude (Listen 4:12)
Daniel 3 (Listen 5:56) Hebrews 1 (Listen 2:15)

Read more about Undefiled at Heart
Pastors and teachers regularly turn to Daniel as an example of how to live undefiled in a culture that is radically opposed to faith.

Read more about Resisting in Faith
Daniel doesn’t succeed by doing what all the other strategists and forecasters did. He doesn’t resist by deception, by violence, by falsehoods.