Apocryphal Stories, The Maccabees and Susanna

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After a bit of a break I wanted to finish off the “Mullholland, Moses and the Maccabees" with Apocryphal Stories, Maccabees and Susanna (from the RSVCE bible). 

These stories offer an interesting look at the difficult time when the Biblical record is silent. This time period in part sets the stage for Jesus.

The Maccabees were a splinter terrorist cell of uber zealous radical Jews that revolted and resisted Greek culture (the Hellenization world life view) that was taking over their world. Zech. 9:13b could have been their battle cry.,Not only that, they picked fights with other Jews who were, in their opinion, backsliding and becoming part of the worldly culture.

The Maccabees, full on for the law, murdered and were martyred in spectacular fashion and so attained super hero status.

But I felt sorry for these people who believed that they had to live and die this way. They seemed to have traded the living for God for living and dying to uphold their interpretation of the law of God. I can see why Jesus sermons were considered a radical belief system. (Blessed are the meek)

Could these people have survived without fighting? They would die if they didn’t fight. And so they fought and died anyway.

Is there value here for today? This is a question we ask and try to answer in my leadership classes. 

I thank God I don’t have to live out their world life view, or maybe I do. Somehow I too must live a radical life, so radical that people are drawn to Jesus living in me. This is the good fight; we are allowed to make it our way of life. Full on for Jesus.

This maybe the more difficult way of living, not just giving myself one time to a hero’s life and death but everyday unnoticed yielding my body, mind and soul to God’s control for him to use.

And then there is Daniel Chapter 13 (no, this chapter's not there) about Susanna. It's a fairy tale like story about a very beautiful, virtuous woman saved from blackmail by her wits and wisdom and some quick action by young daring Daniel the debonair detective.

Two bumbling old men surprise Susanna in her garden bath and attempt to blackmail her as she resists their amorous advances and refuses to lie with them.

She realizes she will be trapped by the false evidence of these men, who are of good standing in the community.

Susanna sighs deeply and replies to their threat, “I am hemmed in on every side. For if I do this, it will mean death to me; if I do not, I cannot escape your hands. I choose not to do it; I will fall into your hands, rather than sin in the sight of the Lord.” Daniel 13:22

This is a fascinating line. A woman’s quiet resistance, wise words, full on trust in God, only God can get her out of this mess and he does. The way to show reliance on God and not sin against him is to give herself up to her enemies.

If the Maccabees had this wisdom would God have rescued them? Do I dare live with that full on trust in God? 

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First off: Awesome use of the Apocrypha.

Second: Great question at the end of this article, which actually illuminates our culture in the light of the Gospel. Generally, ‘Conservative Chrsitianity’ minimizes scriptural mercy and ‘Progressive Christianity’ minimizes scriptural holiness. To side with either of these truncated philosophies is to live only half a Gospel, usually in the hope of gaining some power or control over how the Kingdom is maintained or expanded.

Jesus’ absolute love of God and neighbor calls us to place our entire outcome in his hands – whether we can see the outcome or not. We can learn a great lesson for our personal life and public culture by being so satisfied with the obedience we are called to live that ‘power’ and ‘control’ – winning – looks cheap in comparison.

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