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.

Read more about Supporting Our Work
We believe Christians, changed by the Bible, will change the world. We need your help to provide biblical content for free with no ads and no agendas.

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.

Facing a Biblical Disaster — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, October 23, 2020, based on readings from Daniel 8 and Psalm 116.
It was selected by reader, Jerome from Golden
“Thank you for these words and the refreshing breath of the Holy Spirit that they represent. You are spot on; turning our eyes to Jesus instead of on the drama du jour will bring us peace in the storm.”

Scripture Focus: Daniel 8.26-27
26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.” 
27 I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding. 

Psalm 116.8-11
8 For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, 
my eyes from tears, 
my feet from stumbling, 
9 that I may walk before the LORD 
in the land of the living. 
10 I trusted in the LORD when I said, 
“I am greatly afflicted”; 
11 in my alarm I said, 
  “Everyone is a liar.”

Reflection: Facing a Biblical Disaster — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

For some people the only use of the word “biblical” they are familiar with is as an adjective to describe the proportions of disasters. 2020 has brought multiple disasters described as being of “biblical proportions.”

Along with physical disasters, this year has brought the exhausting mental and emotional disaster of trying to sort out truth from the storm of misinformation and lies. Every problem we face seems to have competing sets of “facts” that conveniently paint one political side or the other as being the problem.

The unnatural disaster of conspiracy theories getting injected into churches by mainstream and fringe news outlets has caused spiritual and emotional trauma for many. How is it people who claim to know the truth that will set us free, have become unable to agree on basic truths? 
Christians have been filling up on bread with the yeast of conspiracy theories rather than the bread of life, and we are belching up harmful and hateful lies as a result. As Ed Stetzer has said, “Gullibility is not a spiritual gift.”

Too many Christians follow political pundits more closely than Jesus Christ. Their spiritual diet depends more on news programs than Bible passages. They are more concerned with the status and power of their political party, than the health and productivity of the body of Christ, God’s Church. Many Christians would rather change churches (or fire their pastors) than face uncomfortable truths from the Bible that conflict with their political worldview. 

This is the true biblical disaster of 2020.

Many ask, “Are we in the end times?” I don’t know. I do think we are seeing what they are like. Visions of the end, as Daniel can attest, are exhausting and terrifying. Daniel tells us, wisely I think, that visions of the end are “beyond understanding.” Even with Gabriel’s explanation, he still couldn’t understand. 

May we mimic Daniel’s faithfulness through confusion and weariness, his caution in not sharing what he didn’t understand, and his focus on prayer and the scriptures.

Rest and trust in Christ. Your exhaustion and confusion is real and justified.

Lay anguish, rage, and sadness from this crisis-filled year at the feet of Jesus, rather than weaponize it against your brothers and sisters.

Go about our king’s business. Love one another well and share the good news (the gospel) that unites us rather than news that conspires to divide us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne; love and truth go before your face. — Psalm 89.14

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 10 (Listen – 4:34)
Romans 8 (Listen – 6:22)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.

Read more about Worship and Politics
I have never heard anyone say that a politically tinged sermon which agreed with their politics was “too political.”

Things Even Angels Question

Scripture Focus: Daniel 12.5-6, 8-9, 13
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?” 
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” 
9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel…13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” 

1 Peter 1.10-12
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 

Reflection: Things Even Angels Question
By John Tillman

Most responses to apocalyptic prophecies start with what, when, where, why, or who.

Daniel asks questions. (Daniel 7.15; 12.8) John asks questions. (Revelation 10.9) Even the angels in Daniel’s visions ask questions. (Daniel 12.5-6)

Peter seemed to have this passage in mind when he wrote that even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1.10-12) The “these things” Peter was writing about are prophets, like Daniel, who searched with care regarding times and dates. Yet, Jesus also told the disciples, including Peter, that times and dates were not for them to know, but only the Father. (Acts 1.6-8)

End times prophecies are one of those areas in which well meaning believers can start missing the forest for the trees. We can become so obsessed with finding some little hint or clue regarding the life to come that we forget to live the life God calls us to now. 

Identifying a date, a time, a leader, a moment, won’t matter if we are not doing justice, walking humbly, and loving mercy (Micah 6.8). Knowledge can be a clanging gong and a symbol (pun intended) of self-interest rather than care for others. (1 Corinthians 13.1-2

Asking questions isn’t bad. But eventually Gabriel, instead of answering Daniel’s questions, tells him to move on. 

Two other humans in Scripture question Gabriel. In contrast with Daniel, who is strengthened to speak so that he may ask questions, Zechariah is struck mute for expressing doubt through his questions. Mary questions Gabriel, but instead of being struck mute is indwelt by the Holy Spirit to prophesy when she meets Elizabeth.

From Zechariah, we can learn that even without speaking, we can testify to the message of Christ.
From Mary and Daniel, we can learn that revelations and prophecies are sometimes meant to be rolled up and sealed until the proper time—to be pondered and treasured in our hearts rather than shared.

From all three, we learn that at the right time, our tongues will be loosed to sing (Luke 1.64, 67-80), our hearts will be moved to prophesy (Luke 1.41-55), and our scroll of revelation may be unsealed. (Daniel 12.9-10; Revelation 5.2-5)

We can follow the instructions Gabriel spoke to Daniel. (Daniel 12.13)
We can go. Move on from doubts and questions to faith and action.
We can rest. We can trust the outcome of life and eternity to Christ.
We can rise. At the proper time, in this life or the next, we will be raised up.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Short Verse
I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. — Revelation 1.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Daniel 12  (Listen – 2:40)
Psalm 119:49-72 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Breaking the Rhyme Scheme
Christians do not believe in cyclical, neverending, repetition. We know that an end is coming and a new beginning. However, history does rhyme.

Read more about Living Is Harder—Readers’ Choice
Living for Christ in the world often makes a larger difference in the world than dramatic sacrifices.