No More of This So-Called Worship!
A Message. God’s Word to Israel through Malachi: God said, “I love you.” You replied, “Really? How have you loved us?”
“Look at history” (this is God’s answer). “Look at how differently I’ve treated you, Jacob, from Esau: I loved Jacob and hated Esau. I reduced pretentious Esau to a molehill, turned his whole country into a ghost town.”
When Edom (Esau) said, “We’ve been knocked down, but we’ll get up and start over, good as new,” God-of-the-Angel-Armies said, “Just try it and see how far you get. When I knock you down, you stay down. People will take one look at you and say, ‘Land of Evil!’ and ‘the God-cursed tribe!’
“Yes, take a good look. Then you’ll see how faithfully I’ve loved you and you’ll want even more, saying, ‘May God be even greater, beyond the borders of Israel!’ “Isn’t it true that a son honors his father and a worker his master? So if I’m your Father, where’s the honor? If I’m your Master, where’s the respect?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies is calling you on the carpet: “You priests despise me!
“You say, ‘Not so! How do we despise you?’ “By your shoddy, sloppy, defiling worship. “You ask, ‘What do you mean, “defiling”? What’s defiling about it?’
“When you say, ‘The altar of God is not important anymore; worship of God is no longer a priority,’ that’s defiling. And when you offer cursed lifeforms for sacrifices in daily worship, animals that you’re trying to get rid of—dead, blind and sick and crippled animals—isn’t that defiling? Try a trick like that with your banker or your senator—how far do you think it will get you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.
“Get on your knees and pray that I will be gracious to you. You priests have gotten everyone in trouble. With this kind of conduct, do you think I’ll pay attention to you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.
“Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? As I have! Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased. The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship!
Offering God Something Hand-Me-Down, Broken, or Useless
“I am honored all over the world. And there are common people who know how to worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to me. They’re saying it everywhere: ‘God is greater, this God-of-the-Angel-Armies.’
“All except you. Instead of honoring me, you profane me. You profane me when you say, ‘Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,’ and when you say, ‘I’m bored—this doesn’t do anything for me.’ You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air—act superior to me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies! And when you do offer something to me, it’s a hand-me-down, or broken, or useless, or dead! Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is God speaking to you!
“A curse on the person who makes a big show of doing something great for me—an expensive sacrifice, say—and then at the last minute brings in something cursed and worthless! I’m a great king, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, honored far and wide, and I’ll not put up with it!”
Desecrating the Holiness of God
“And now this indictment, you priests! If you refuse to obediently listen, and if you refuse to honor me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, in worship, then I’ll put you under a curse. I’ll exchange all your blessings for curses. In fact, the curses are already at work because you’re not serious about honoring me. Yes, and the curse will extend to your children. I’m going to plaster your faces with rotting garbage, garbage thrown out from your feasts. That’s what you have to look forward to!
“Maybe that will wake you up. Maybe then you’ll realize that I’m indicting you in order to put new life into my covenant with the priests of Levi, the covenant of God-of-the-Angel-Armies. My covenant with Levi was to give life and peace. I kept my covenant with him, and he honored me. He stood in reverent awe before me. He taught the truth and did not lie. He walked with me in peace and uprightness. He kept many out of the ditch, kept them on the road.
“It’s the job of priests to teach the truth. People are supposed to look to them for guidance. The priest is the messenger of God-of-the-Angel-Armies. But you priests have abandoned the way of priests. Your teaching has messed up many lives. You have corrupted the covenant of priest Levi. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so. And so I am showing you up for who you are. Everyone will be disgusted with you and avoid you because you don’t live the way I told you to live, and you don’t teach my revelation truly and impartially.”
Don’t we all come from one Father? Aren’t we all created by the same God? So why can’t we get along? Why do we desecrate the covenant of our ancestors that binds us together?
Judah has cheated on God—a sickening violation of trust in Israel and Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the holiness of God by falling in love and running off with foreign women, women who worship alien gods. God’s curse on those who do this! Drive them out of house and home! They’re no longer fit to be part of the community no matter how many offerings they bring to God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
And here’s a second offense: You fill the place of worship with your whining and sniveling because you don’t get what you want from God. Do you know why? Simple. Because God was there as a witness when you spoke your marriage vows to your young bride, and now you’ve broken those vows, broken the faith-bond with your vowed companion, your covenant wife. God, not you, made marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage. And what does he want from marriage? Children of God, that’s what. So guard the spirit of marriage within you. Don’t cheat on your spouse.
“I hate divorce,” says the God of Israel. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says, “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.” So watch yourselves. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t cheat.
You make God tired with all your talk.
“How do we tire him out?” you ask.
By saying, “God loves sinners and sin alike. God loves all.” And also by saying, “Judgment? God’s too nice to judge.”
An Ebenezer of Honesty Before Moving on to Hope
Before we start, I am putting this here because the only thing that grieves me more than the completely unnecessary loss of life is the arrogant ignorance and depraved indifference that so many who claim Christ (pagans and the lost I understand) show towards the needless suffering that will mark the survivors for decades to come… all the things left undone or openly lied about… What kind of gods do they have, in all honesty? God is not fooled by their performances of worship and acclimations of faith. No, He sees them without excuse no matter their reasons. This should’ve never happen. But it will again, even worse, if enough people don’t get honest.
Contagious diseases highlight the dishonesty of a people and proliferate by deceptive beliefs. Wilfull, especailly self-righteous, ignorance always ends in death. The same social and spiritual maladies that provoked 9/11 from overseas have now been wreaking a similiar mass casualty event everyday within US borders. Who’s the enemy now? Their ever expanding play-list of profligate and delusional phobias (homo, Islamo, political-eco, etc.) which demarcate the idolaters are of little use now, as if any ever were in reality. Wisdom says there’s no end to the fears of the wicked.
Dishonest people have no real Hope, and an even grimmer future, no matter what their chosen entertainment sources tell them. When will the arrogant ignorant come clean? When can they finally quit cheating on God and get honest about themselves? When their money is taken away? Honestly, that possibility bothers me too, but it would only take an instant. More reality checks, as many as needed, are “in the wings.” All God need do is nothing but allow the mountains of self-inflicted consquences to run their course as the nations fall into tumult. All He need do is not bless. But nowadays, who would even notice? How few?
The enemy separates people from God. If you scapegoat your neighbor, then you are the enemy. If you are throwing shade to ignore your own part in the mess, then you are the enemy. If you refuse to look in the mirror honestly, then you are the enemy. Enemy of whom? God, the One calling you to account. But instead of returning, they lie in ever-greater rumors and enable even more death in worse conspiracies and corruptions, just so they can promote themselves, their idols, and their faithlessness to death, literally.
Isn’t the reality check at hand enough? An unnecessary and self-inflicted mass casualty event everyday? This curse is sponsored to the world by the sons of disobedience (spiritual adulterers) desiring the power(s) of air (alien gods), struggling for a rule of lawlessness by rumor, time and again… Vichy-christians who devolved the gospel of Christ Jesus back to the imperial euangelion from whence it came, exchanging service with Jesus for ruling with Satan in perpetual obfuscation and distraction for fallen powers. But then, hallow people can only cast a shadow, because in reality they are not even there for God.
God’s desire edifies and directs faithful people, as he does all rectified creation, in righteousness with open and honest Eyes. The hallow ones are so sick they ignore or deny the death within their walls. They have covered themselves in a landscape of grim evidence, not righteousness. I could map out, as the plague has, the interstitial network that connects their death and deception with their gods now, but they must get honest first. What is the test for infidelities? Does the test of bitter waters even matter when their multitudinous, material infidelities have already polluted the waters across the earth literally, from underground to the open seas?
Only Jesus’ righteousness saves eternally above. But for all of us called to serve below in the meantime, for his ends, doing the right things for the right reasons is a practical gaurd against the selfishness and self-centeredness which is the root of destruction that shaped the past and immediate present. It need not be anyone’s future, neither for self nor other, God’s people nor the nations. I beg you, do not miss that mark. I plead, realign your aim with God’s no matter the cost. Don’t trade eternity for a bowl of comfortable stew!
A faith in “once saved always saved” has become a comfortable and convenient platitude of ease addressing the wrong soteriological question for those in exodus to Christ’s Kingdom. Duh, of course it’s true. Jesus is righteous and judges all; so certainly, he ultimately sends every soul to the one(s) they served in reality. But here and now, we start with a reality check in the wasteland that all the dishonesty has created. The first honest questions today concerning salvation should be: What master (in reality) do you follow and serve (whom are you “saved to”)? What does that path look like? And do your fruits (pick any or all) match scriptural fruits in reality? If I had to essentialize like everyone else does… I don’t like to because process is more honest and real… the one question would be, can Jesus see himself in you and your community? He himself intimates the essential question most simply, “where is your heart?” And Paul talks about “the body of Christ,” still others a “hardness of heart.” To answer it truthfully, honesty is required even if we don’t like the answers. In time, God will change us to a pleasing response.
None of us care what you call yourself or the shape of your communal piety, blessings and lay on! Just know that followers of Jesus, His Way, never traffic in death or deception nor do we ignore or rationalize it; if you really live as Christ did, then death is a gain, no question about it. Don’t you think that Jesus can recognize his image mirrored in his people… no matter what? Cannot others too? How is any “other” ever going to believe a greater truth about any social issue if the same witnesses preaching are in denial about the bedrock, shared realities of plagues, math, or the weather? Even the lost mock if someone preaches life and spreads death. And it is right that they should! In this old, deceptive arrangement others rarely come to the Truth, because the testimonies about life are “unquestionably selective in nature.” Even the wicked recognize wickedness, but the dishonest seldom see and never confess theirown twists.
Honesty is the point origin and abiding necessity for all today’s salvific questions to be answered favorably, in progressive revelation, most often of an educational type. If you simply begin to try that’s enough for today, so don’t be too hard on yourself right now. Arise tomorrow and repeat. God is faithfull and awaits the opening of eyes that He loves in tomorrow’s first light, like a husband without morning breath. It is rare that one is struck honest in a flash, the Sun doesn’t just appear at mid-day; it slowly travels there… more on all that in Lent. We promise, because without honesty today there will never be real transformation nor true unity tomorrow, the kind that Jesus’ marriage bed deserves in the eternity to come.
Honesty For Hope
Again, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.–Dickens
“Bad boys whatcha gonna do” when Judah and the Maccabees come for you? Hide from the light much? What if Elijah pulled up a chair by you? Because the Lion and we are, directly and at-a-pace… To start, for everyone who is alive the Holy Spirit, Truth is our Prime Mover. So, honesty is a journey toward the Light not a staged destination where the lights shine on us. There’s always more to be revealed later by the Light. And the farther down the trail we get, the greater our Hope becomes in the right knowledge of all things and our place, our proper image in his Eyes, within them. If we focus on the honest image of Jesus, then faithfulness plus Light equals a greater (deeper) knowledge of the Truth. My soul is not fascinated by the crystal darklings that shinny god-men have tried to sell me over the centuries to distract my eyes from the Light. I am only enthralled by what Jesus gives me to light the worlds their of dark-nesses.
In the interregnum, between Malachi and the dawning of Righteousness, during a time when even many God-fearers thought there was no prophecy nor miracles… there were people who God worked with in miracles. The biblical saga of the Maccabees is the background for the miracle of Hanukah. I was a typical church boy in the American south while empire was in full rage. So I was deprived of many of these important stories about God and his people, ‘a primitive Christmas’ was the best gloss of disinformation I got from honest church folk. That is mostly a lie. As a college student, my grandparents were terrified for my salvation when they discovered I was reading the Septuagint. Forget the liquor and “Corinthian women,” reading that version of the story was tempting eternal damnation!
Today I can safely report that fear of peril was a lie. They all know that too… now. But their fear, while real, was a non-biblical fabrication by some folks who wanted to justify themselves when they decided to jettison important texts from the bibles we carry around here; too many protestants have always been very cavalier that way (see Luther’s original cannon). But what’s done is done. I know their reasons, and we can’t fix the past… But we can learn not to repeat it. ‘I have not come to bury my brothers and sisters but to lift them up,’ even though some will remain too invested in their version of the past to meet the future honestly. Honestly, reactionary and pious constructivists (be it cannon or constitution) are the most postmodern of thinkers, yet they decry postmodernity… funny that. Do you know how you can tell who’s a hypocrite? Easy, when they shut their mouth the lies stop. But we’ve been called to leave the dead to bury their dead, while we’re headed to Life in Spirit and Truth.
However, I will make a note, upon the memorial Ebenezer, an interesting age in American development. An event horizon when the cannon was truncated, which is not lost to sober, appropriately critical observers. Rev. Miller’s heirs and followers in the Great Disappointment inaugurated that age. Not by accident, it coincided with the rise of the quintessential imperial American slogan of “Manifest Destiny.” It soon found a perfect running mate in the self-congratulatory spiritism of ages by Rev. Darby from England. All of this “just happened” to work well (financially enabled) with prosperity found in the rising industry of the beast. All beginning about 170 years ago, that’s one hell of a mule train stuck in the Grand canyon, or that’s a long bowling alley for bowling pins of today to watch that balled serpent to come rolling at you.
But hey, who cares about history? People just want to make their own names profitable today. Good luck with all that, but if we want to be with Jesus we can’t keep making the same mistakes repeatedly. Jesus and I don’t mind a little crazy in our brides, from time to time, in fact, we gloat on it a bit. But doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome… that’s just insane. Old school translation might call it the reprobate mind of idolaters, and it is written that Jesus cannot be wed with an adulteress. But I digress…
I don’t expect too many to know the great and intriguing story of the Maccabees that well upon reading this. Maybe sometime in the next year you can rebel against disinformation and read for yourself at least the first two books of the Maccabees and then we can do some ninja hermeneutics next year. For today, to begin, I am just going to share about three levels of honesty that anyone can understand based on the broad strokes of the Maccabean narratives with Judah. Then we’ll end with a really intriguing prophetic image for Christmas and God’s intended end for this age. Basic stuff, no worries.
It was about 170 years before the arrival of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who is the only Messiah. The “holy ones” believed that God had been struck mute and miracles had ceased. How could any of “God’s people” ever be that deaf, dumb, and blind? Arrogance in comfort maybe? Hum. The successor to Alexander the Great was ruling the Holy Land and proving to be a real stinker in the punch bowl of proper temple worship. How? He prominently placed imperial symbols in the temple, covered the sacred ground with burnt cursed offerings, and proclaimed himself a son of God (when he most certainly wasn’t)… all the while ruling in oppression and lawlessness (lies, conspiracy, and rumor). Can you image such ugliness, hate, and evil? Hum.
Now you might think that kind of clear and present spiritual-cum-material corruption would have every real God-fearer in the land very disturbed. You might imagine the lawless one would have been seen coming miles away. You might believe they’d be righteously indignant if only for God’s strong self-regard. But then, you’d be wrong on each account, only a few were angry along with God. You might think, okay, well they couldn’t do anything about it so they chaffed under the wicked yolk. But many didn’t. Most of the leaders had become Hellenized by power, wealth, and status over the people of the land; those poor, ignorant and misled, didn’t have time to think deeply, like professional religious elites did. The poor multitudes could not think about much other than where there next meal was coming from. The few rich folks feathered their nests with “shell collections” and comforting lies. Vultures never had it so good.
The Maccabees were among the few who were neither seduced nor charmed by Greek rule or culture. They were trained critics of culture, for God’s strong self-regard. They honestly refused to become compromised puppets of the ruler. And they led a successful rebellion to oust the lawlessness, cleanse the temple, and set things right. Any student of military history could tell you that the military victories were the result of brilliant and field tested leadership that was accompanied by somewhat miraculous and well timed, in the bigger picture issues, impinging on that theater of Great operations. Warriors from Napoleon to Bradley studied that history because it was that awesome. I suggest you read about it sometime.
Well, hurrah and the cowboy rode off into the sunset, then on the next day came the Day-breaker, the advent of Jesus, the Rightful ruler. But not so fast, a funny thing happened on the way to sunrise. And that dramedy of errors and thrills is best read through a lens of honesty on many levels, if we are to avoid the same mistakes. I mean, er, if ever anyone might see any parallels with today or tomorrow… maybe. Let the reader beware, that conviction is left for them to decide, for the moment. But eye, there’s the rub… unless we honestly assess the situation then and now to operationalize the knowledge in wisdom… we might not make it to the realization of the vision. And believe me, every follower of Jesus is living and dying for that vision.
To do that we need a paradigm shift, from flesh to Spirit, because for those of us who fight for Truth, the fight is never just superficial. The truth inhabits all layers of existence like the accretions of a pearl. Eyes are not enough to peel back the layers to get to the original issue, the disturbance that invoked God’s creation of beauty around the irritation. To avoid sin in repetition is to turn from insanity, so we might mitigate the consequences and shame. Everyone in the Spirit has already been given all power and authority to forgive those who have sinned against us (including ourselves) and then get to work in alleviating the consequences of our failures before we can think with right authority about the sins we see in others.
Culture not is NOT spirit. Zeitgeist is a thing but it is not a spirit in the biblical sense. As a professional medical anthropologist (ret) I can say PhD’s in biblical studies and theology are errant enough concerning all things cultural. And I won’t even go there with all the self-appointed culture warriors, because they rarely, if ever, have the slightest idea of what they’re talking about. As a result, they have done much more damage than they alone can repair… Geertz and Girard are too much for everybody, right now. Just know that whatever culture is or ain’t, it is dynamic, contested, situated, and deeply layered. Also, there’s even more difficulty in tracing, mapping the ephemeral sinews between layers.
For today, all we need to know as we now trudge towards the Light is to best serve God and others we must move from flesh-based perspectives to the Spiritual one. This is what scientists call a paradigm shift. Now, you can rebel, good luck and adios. But you need to know that the greater reality around the everyday reality in which most swim without understanding (try asking a fish what water is, they just stare) is being altered, slowly and steadily, and it is already marking out subjects with significant effects. If you want to be useful and enjoy some divinely potent benefits, then you need to engage the Spirit. It is not that scary or dramatic, go at an easy pace, but please do it.
The definition of a paradigm shift is “a change from one way of being (which became rigid and static) to another movement (where there is movement there is life). It just does not happen, but rather it is driven by agents of change (that’s what we want to begin to become for Jesus, be patient).” Mr. Kuhn is credited with first using the term, but I believe we can make out an earlier outline for the pattern in the Apostle Paul when he talks about the duties of a Christian. Yes things to do, after we first take hold of what Jesus offered to us! That is where “the more” and “the difference” is… Ya’know that bothersome other 90% of the biblical texts…
Sacrifice of Body and Mind. So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Oh, I know you’ve heard this many times, but be doers not just sayers… and ironically it is most often deployed when religous leaders call people to do an earthly agenda. No, it will “work” only when people based on a Spiritual way of life manifest divine fruit in the world through proper whole life worship. Any other use is an abuse and those involved will be relieved of any eternal duties. Also, it is definitively both a personal and communal process. The real Spiritual exodus out of the world and aerial dog-fight up to Jesus only occurs when it is driven by increasingly honest people implementing key biblical rudiments: the Word of God (his holistic ordering of all said elements), a salvific journey along a fruit-bearing path in arears (feel free to use your favorite grammar of doctrinal schema, unless or until it dissipates the yield), a perspectival redress of concerns from self to other, and the Holy Spirit in action and in prayer.
With this in mind, the orthogonal take-away from all that history of the Maccabees this season is simple, bitter, and short. Who’s to blame for the failure of the revolt? I mean, if it had been done rightly and maintained honestly, then there may have been a whole other set and setting to meet the arrival of the Lord of Glory. But hey, people, am I right? Got to love them in peace, on the whole!
And that’s just it, the failure of God’s people is rarely, if ever, about one person or one group. As God’s people, we all (EVERYBODY, yours truly most of all!) have work at getting honest and grow in the Light of the Truth every day. It is a process. When we are honest, the Light feeds, grows, and rises us up, but when we’re dishonest the very same Light will burn us to the ground in ashes. Again, nobody can claim perfect growth besides Jesus, and it is he who calls us to try. He also provides us with brothers and sisters to pick us up, as well as a sometimes frustrating but pretty cool Guide. Now some are sicker than others, most often we’re the other but occasionally we’re the some. Yes we all might go crazy but we don’t all go crazy at the same time, like most of Israel has done from time to time. That’s who’s at fault.
Most point at the man of lawlessness himself who desecrated worship and God’s home by corrupting the temple. But that is a really flimsy, fleshy read. Going deeper, it was the Jewish leadership who traded the earthly delights of Hellenization and misled the people of the land; that’s the real abomination, exploiting the people. For as much as God enjoyed his dive on earth, he’s really always been about the people and what they desire in their hearts and worship with heads and hands. That might be truer today than it was then, if you have the honest eyes to see.
Hold your nose so we can hit bottom here, the Maccabees failed themselves, their people, and their God. Over time, the freedom-fighting revolutionaries became the stiff-necked wall-eyed establishment, like sun-scorched prophets becoming ear-tickling priests. For them as a clan it became about earthly reign and religous rule for themselves, their own name, instead of the righteousness of Israel, that is to say Israel’s God. Could you ever imagine being their kinsman redeemer? Wow, what a load! Hum, big picture for now though… the many-tiered failures by a majority of God’s people time and again, not just the sins in “one type of culture,” make one hell of a bonfire and include lots of material fallout with an unacceptable amount of collateral damage. But that past should no longer be our future, even if it is our immediate present. We promise.
A Honest and Biblical Vision of God’s Summation on Earth
What does God want to see? Where is all this headed down the line? What might we be a part of? I learned the basis of this vision from some of my favorite teachers, now I can’t call all of them Jesus followers but they certainly laid great ground work for Jesus… and, hey… Heaven and all creation are run by a small Jewish family concern, but please don’t tell the anti-Semites who claim Christ. We kind of want that to be a surprise for them on their respective big days… unkind? Maybe but, for me and maybe just for me, it is ordered, honest, and biblical as it is written, ‘let the sinners keep sinning.’
When Noah woke up with his hangover, he learned what his youngest son had done. He said,
“Cursed be Canaan! A slave of slaves,
a slave to his brothers!
Blessed be God, the God of Shem,
but Canaan shall be his slave.
God prosper Japheth,
living spaciously in the tents of Shem.
But Canaan shall be his slave.”
Yup, back to Genesis and a patriarch rising from a bender, again. It happens as it’s written, like it or not, God puts prophecy in asses, sober drunks, and history, all of his histories because “the good folks” are actually “the bad boys,” on occasion. Mysterious ways in deed. Maybe there’s even some prophecy in the Maccabean yarns, perhaps a little thing here or there, just maybe. God’s awesome that way; but some, for myriad reasons, want to uncritically project their own desires into the ecstatic visions from lost symbolic worlds. Good luck, because any semiotician worth their salt will tell you that you need to know your situated histories and their contested contexts before you can begin to try to read your symbols rightly. Before that, first you must be fearless and honest enough to rightly assess your own perspective and keep that critique in mind at all times. Those first two steps and keeping a focus on process are where most have fallen off the wagon, so to speak… But we covered that enough below and before. The point is that it’s okay to be Shem or even Japeth but not Canaan, who became a catchall term for idolatry, serving other gods.
I came across the history researching on priestly garments that the writer of Ephesians foregrounds. The vision comes from another Hanukah, a prophetic second one reported to have happened 30 days after the first is celebrated but actually a generation of leadership before the desolation of the temple, which led to the Maccabees’ material warfare and ultimate failure, despite some miracles.
Nonsense? Well there are two Passovers, a second one 30 days later in case you can’t make the first one… multiple services if you will. To get to it you’ve got to have some insight into the history of discussions the masters record when they discuss how to live in obedience to God’s Word. It is from the Gemara in Yoma 69a. I know, it isn’t a text that most biblical scholars discuss and you certainly won’t hear it preached in these parts, but it is relevant context for the texts that we supposedly hold sacred… so we might say it is contagiously holy or immediately holy adjacent… No? Well, you don’t have to think about it ever again. we’re looking at patterns across time, not a new doctrine, God forbid. But you got to see is one picture to see the first Christmas in a deeper way, a huge event in “Christendom” 1700 years ago, and maybe, just maybe, another event in the future that most only hint at expectantly.
“Come and hear: As to priestly garments, it is forbidden to go out in them in the province, but in the Sanctuary whether during or outside the time of the service, it is permitted to wear them, because priestly garments are permitted for private use. This is conclusive. But in the province [it is] not [permitted]? Surely it was taught: The twenty-fifth of Tebeth is the day of Mount Gerizim, on which no mourning is permitted. It is the day on which the Cutheans demanded the House of our God from Alexander the Macedonian (the Great) so as to destroy it, and he had given them the permission, whereupon some people came and informed Simeon the Just (the High Priest). What did the latter do? He put on his priestly garments, robed himself in priestly garments, some of the noblemen of Israel went with him carrying fiery torches in their hands, they walked all the night, some walking on one side and others on the other side, until the dawn rose. When the dawn rose he [Alexander] said to them: Who are these [the Samaritans]? They answered: The Jews who rebelled against you. As he reached Antipatris, the sun having shone forth, they met. When he (Alexander the Great) saw Simeon the Just, he descended from his carriage and bowed down before him. They said to him: A great king like yourself should bow down before this Jew? He answered: His image it is which wins for me in all my battles. He said to them: What have you come for? They said: Is it possible that star-worshippers should mislead you to destroy the House wherein prayers are said for you and your kingdom that it be never destroyed! He said to them: Who are these? They said to him: These are Cutheans who stand before you. He said: They are delivered into your hand. At once they perforated their heels, tied them to the tails of their horses and dragged them over thorns and thistles, until they came to Mount Gerizim, which they ploughed and planted with vetch, even as they had planned to do with the House of God. And that day they made a festive day. If you like say: They were fit to be priestly garments, or, if you like, say: It is time to work for the Lord: they have made void Thy law.”
There you have it! The ruler of the world sent by the enemies of God’s chosen people to destroy God’s abode, but instead he bows before the High Priest, nary a word spoken nor a shot fired. All peaceable like. Oooh wee, get some! Forget all these damned doomsday cults and enticing entertainments! Just give me and mine God’s Word, his vision, and a Star to guide because that’s where I am going! Can’t wait! I hope you caught a glimpse too!
Pardon me… sometimes I get a bit high in the Spirit when he shares the good stuff. It’s written that’s okay time-to-time. You might have seen a foreshadowing of the magi at the manger of Peace, or perhaps something greater to come. There is a lot to unpack there. There is even a prophetic image for Constantine’s so-called conversion that initiated the unholy train wreck that we’re trying to survive today.
I’ll just list a few little things from my notes that caught my eye at my first read. The lineage of the priest (always important) is debated, but the character’s historicity is attested in multiple texts. The suit that reflects God’s glory is interesting, very interesting, and I’m piling information on it high and deep right now (PhD). The time-place rules for wearing it are intriguing. What could be Simeon’s personal reason for stepping out in God’s finery? What social situation could provoke such a bold move? When did/does Jesus, God in the flesh, the Light himself step out in his flesh suit? No matter the whys, the priestly entourage walks through the darkness carrying torch-lights about the suit of lights, so it can reflect those dimmer lights until daybreak. Hum.
But maybe the bigger point, the key for today, is in the portion of Scripture above and before us all in every version of the bible. Perhaps the weight is in the image that the story constructs; Hebrew is excellent that way. And where else would I look for the answer? It is God’s desire and plan, prophecy-cum-promise, that “He prosper Japheth, living spaciously in the tents of Shem.” If you know some family history and the Genesis grammar code, it might roughly translate that ultimately God (not any bogus world system or human construct) will truly prosper Greeks (gentiles) when they are rightly ordered and covered in the Jewish household of God’s abode. And who is the Master of the Jewish household? Whether they know it or not, it is Jesus. Also, a warning from the prophetic text: be on guard against adultery to God (idolatry in any and all other seductive world systems) or there will be an eternal enslavement rather than the forever freedom to which you were called. Please don’t blow your eternal inheritance, even if you think doing the right thing today will cost you too much in your earthly retirement, no matter how yummy the stew. The eyes of Heaven are upon you.
To close, if you know any Nostradamus wanna-bes pointing to false Messiahs carrying flashy, mad-power schemes with the future all planed out in vain glory, like Jesus said they would, feel free to tell them, ‘go on and enjoy your banquet in the grave.’ I am just going keep doing what I do, not much and seldom too hard. I’ll just keep reading what God and my good Lord give me every single day, rinse and repeat in the moment, as fairly and equitably as he enables me on that given day. And ultimately I know, as sure as the Sun rises, that we’ll all see what all eyes will see: Satan with every single one of his dirty and destructive servants who ruled upon the earth in lies and corruptions as they finally bow in silence before they are cast down and sealed up, the end for them because ‘they worked to void God’s logos‘ in his cosmos. God will not help a master defined by his servants, he crushes the idols with the idolaters.
Their time is short but ours is not. Sure, I might not know all the hows or whens exactly, that’s a good thing. And I may fall for an instant in death first, just so to see the scene repeated from Glory. Whatever pleases God, I am in. We don’t need a rebellion if we walk in fidelity, just ask Daniel. I know all I need to know for today, I know right from wrong, death from life, and truth from lie. I will not forget or pretend no matter how dark it gets because I wear my flesh to reflect the Light. It is our committed hope and our Father’s desire that everybody else does too, in his honest image, as soon as possible. Happy Hanukah to Jesus!
Besides all that, what ever happened to the Maccabees? Could they have any future after working so hard and so long on a jacked-up legacy? Could God use them? Where’d they go?
The Master You’ve Been Looking For
“Look! I’m sending my messenger on ahead to clear the way for me. Suddenly, out of the blue, the Leader you’ve been looking for will enter his Temple—yes, the Messenger of the Covenant, the one you’ve been waiting for. Look! He’s on his way!” A Message from the mouth of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
But who will be able to stand up to that coming? Who can survive his appearance?
He’ll be like white-hot fire from the smelter’s furnace. He’ll be like the strongest lye soap at the laundry. He’ll take his place as a refiner of silver, as a cleanser of dirty clothes. He’ll scrub the Levite priests clean, refine them like gold and silver, until they’re fit for God, fit to present offerings of righteousness. Then, and only then, will Judah and Jerusalem be fit and pleasing to God, as they used to be in the years long ago.
“Yes, I’m on my way to visit you with Judgment. I’ll present compelling evidence against sorcerers, adulterers, liars, those who exploit workers, those who take advantage of widows and orphans, those who are inhospitable to the homeless—anyone and everyone who doesn’t honor me.” A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
“I am God—yes, I Am. I haven’t changed. And because I haven’t changed, you, the descendants of Jacob, haven’t been destroyed. You have a long history of ignoring my commands. You haven’t done a thing I’ve told you. Return to me so I can return to you,” says God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
“You ask, ‘But how do we return?’
“Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day. “You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’
By saying, “God loves sinners and sin alike. God loves all.” And also by saying, “Judgment? God’s too nice to judge.”
The Difference Between Serving God and Not Serving Him
God says, “You have spoken hard, rude words to me. “You ask, ‘When did we ever do that?’
“When you said, ‘It doesn’t pay to serve God. What do we ever get out of it? When we did what he said and went around with long faces, serious about God-of-the-Angel-Armies, what difference did it make? Those who take life into their own hands are the lucky ones. They break all the rules and get ahead anyway. They push God to the limit and get by with it.’”
“You’ll be voted ‘Happiest Nation.’ You’ll experience what it’s like to be a country of grace.” God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so.
Then those whose lives honored God got together and talked it over. God saw what they were doing and listened in. A book was opened in God’s presence and minutes were taken of the meeting, with the names of the God-fearers written down, all the names of those who honored God’s name.
“The tithe and the offering—that’s how! And now you’re under a curse—the whole lot of you—because you’re robbing me. Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams. For my part, I will defend you against marauders, protect your wheat fields and vegetable gardens against plunderers.” The Message of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies said, “They’re mine, all mine. They’ll get special treatment when I go into action. I treat them with the same consideration and kindness that parents give the child who honors them. Once more you’ll see the difference it makes between being a person who does the right thing and one who doesn’t, between serving God and not serving him.”
The Sun of Righteousness Will Dawn
“Count on it: The day is coming, raging like a forest fire. All the arrogant people who do evil things will be burned up like stove wood, burned to a crisp, nothing left but scorched earth and ash— a black day. But for you, sunrise! The sun of righteousness will dawn on those who honor my name, healing radiating from its wings. You will be bursting with energy, like colts frisky and frolicking. And you’ll tromp on the wicked. They’ll be nothing but ashes under your feet on that Day.” God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so.
“Remember and keep the revelation I gave through my servant Moses, the revelation I commanded at Horeb for all Israel, all the rules and procedures for right living.
“But also look ahead: I’m sending Elijah the prophet to clear the way for the Big Day of God—the decisive Judgment Day! He will convince parents to look after their children and children to look up to their parents. If they refuse, I’ll come and put the land under a curse.”
(Next stop, a wee Hope wrapped in spare, common devotion at sunrise December 25th)