One of the common criticisms of Christianity is that it is too old-fashioned to be relevant for living in today's society. It is often thought that the Bible speaks to a different time and place that no longer exists in modern society. Does the Bible have anything to say to us at this time?
In a society where belief in God is ridiculed and even the ability to attend Church has been greatly reduced, we in the United States are facing a real question. The question being: Is Belief In God No Longer Relevant and Too Old Fashioned For Today's Times? Today we will look at these very questions with three-pointed and particular comments.
First, let us look into the no longer relevant part. Society in the 21st century has elevated the role of government from a small ¨g” government to a big ¨G¨ Government. Actually today the Government is in more parts of life than ever before in the history of the nation. Where you can go, what you can do, and how you can do what you can do is no longer controlled by you; it is controlled by the Government. This can be seen in lockdowns, shutouts, virtual work, social distancing, masks, loss of income, and inability to attend Church in person. If big Governments worked better, why did the USSR fail in 1991? If a large government worked so well and if lockdowns worked so well, why wouldn't the Government stop with one lockdown- not try to make one lockdown after another. In essence, a big Government has one answer to every question- more government. If the Government doesn't work the first time, the answer is more government the next time and time after that. If the first regulations did not work- you need more regulations. Schools are failing to teach us the rationale to question what we are told? Why? Could it possibly be because the Government controls the schools and through that they control the people?
Second, there are plenty of examples of what happens when a corrupt government forces its will on a people and makes them or tries to make them go against the true principles of their religion. Some of the greatest examples of this very thing are found in the Bible in First and Second Maccabees. The word Maccabees was from the Aramaic word for hammer. It was given to Judas and his family for the role they played in the long war against the Seleucid Empire. Throughout the 2nd century BCE, the city-state of Jerusalem-Judah lay between the two great powers of Egypt and Sulecid. The Ptolemies ruled in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria. These were residual states that had been left when Alexander the Great’s empire broke up about 20 years after his death. Antiochus IV ruled Syria from 175 to 164/163 BCE. He carried the substitute name Epiphanes, a Greek word meaning “god manifest.” A conqueror of overweening pride, as he is described in the Book of Daniel in the Bible, he set out to seize Judaea (or Judah), which until then had been a province of Egypt. He aimed, moreover, to unify his vast and heterogeneous empire behind the worship of Zeus and, therefore, severely restricted the practice of Judaism, whose strict monotheism impeded the realization of that policy.
In Antiochus’s day, the Empire were devotees of the culture of Greece. Antiochus sought to continue what he regarded as the “civilizing” colonization process of Alexander. For him, culture meant the pursuit of the “good.” The restless, inquiring, creative spirit of Greece—what might today be called the scientific spirit—was based on the assumption that “man is the measure of all things.” The Jewish view of life, on the other hand, was totally in opposition to that of the Hellenism that had spread throughout the Middle East. It too was a total way of life, one lived in accordance with what the Jewish people believed was a revelation. They regarded Hellenism as a form of nature worship. It was something that they should not practice and they knew they should not practice. They saw it as the spiritual continuation of the religion of the Canaanites, who had presented their views against Israel for all the centuries since the days of Joshua. There had been since the beginning of time- a rift between Good and Evil.
They were aghast that King Antiochus encouraged the Semitic peoples of the Mediterranean coast to regard him as the ancient god Baal of the Canaanites. He thought that they had believed in leaders as Gods before and how better than to control a group of people than to have those people worship you as a God. The Canaanite gods, they asserted, were merely the mythologizing of the anger, hate, lust, envy, and greed of unregulated human hearts.
Israel, its prophets proclaimed, was the chosen instrument of the transcendent God, whose name was Yahweh. Yahweh was utterly “other” than human—that is to say, he was “holy.” It was God who had created humanity, not man the gods, and Israel was God’s chosen instrument to be “a light to lighten the nations” (Isaiah). To make the meaning of its special relationship to Yahweh evident to the world was therefore Israel’s reason for being. Its task was to put the revelation of God into purposeful use by producing an ordered human society that was ruled by God’s jiustice and love and not by human force and greed.
Third, the Seleucids Government Prohibition Of Jewish Religious Practices leads to mass revolt.
This conception of revealed religion and of loyalty to the Word of God, rather than to a human king, Antiochus could not appreciate, particularly since he himself delighted in the name God Manifest. In order to extirpate the faith of Israel, therefore, he attacked Israel’s religious practices. He thus forbade the observance of the Sabbath and of the traditional feasts, for these had been ordained by a “jealous,” or intolerant, God. All sacrifices were to come to an end. He forbade the reading of the Law of Moses and gave orders to search out and burn any copies that could be found. He forbade the practice of circumcision, for it was this that set the Jews off from other peoples as the one “people of God.” In place of these practices, Antiochus encouraged the development of cultural clubs called gymnasia, in which people gathered to study, to learn, and to enjoy each other’s company. After competing in various forms of athletics, men and women used to soak themselves in hot baths. But because the pursuit of the “good” included a delight in the body beautiful, such activities were performed naked. A circumcised Jew taking part in the games in a gymnasium could not, therefore, hide where his loyalty lay. Finally, in 168 BCE, Antiochus invaded Jerusalem and desacralized the Holy of Holies in the Temple. This was the one place on earth about which Yahweh said “My name” (the expression of his Person) “shall be there” (I Kings). A number of Jews, under their leader Jason, the high priest, took the easy way of conformity with the new universal trends. But with Antiochus’s impious act, a strong general reaction set in. Thus, when, later in the same year, Antiochus again entered Jerusalem, this time plundering and burning and setting up his citadel, the Acra, on the hill overlooking the Temple courts, he went too far, for his final act of spite, on December 25, 167 BCE, was to rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem to the Olympian god Zeus.
Now for the purpose of this article, compare what happened to the Jewish people by their government to our day and what is happening with our Government. Are there any comparisons? Is the Government trying to make us forget about our religion and our religious practices? Is our Government going about the same things as King Antiochus? These are questions you should ask yourself. These are questions that truly impact your life, your religion, and our nation. The troubling problem is that we are not asking these questions and the third point will explain why.
Third, what is happening today is not any different than what has happened in history and many ways very similar to what happened with the Jews in the Seclude Empire in those times. People know what is right. People know what is ethical, they know what is moral. People know that seeking God is right. In fact, God has been along much longer than any single government. Governments come and go- but God does not. People made the government the government did not make the people, God did. Do not be deceived here. We can not, we should not and we must not give up our religious freedom to worship at the altar of Big Government. President Lincoln said it best when he described the USA as a ¨Government of the people, by the people and for the people.” We are not yet nor with your help ever going to be Government over the people. If the government says that you can not practice your religion remember the Maccabees. If the government tries to curtail or reduce our religious freedoms in this country or take away the right us to practice our religious beliefs- remember the Maccabees.
In conclusion, the Protestant Bible does not contain the Books of Maccabees. They said it was because these books were not religious enough or did not deal with religion like the other books, I ask you today is that true? They were written in Aramaic the language that Jesus spoke they were not written in Hebrew. Does this make these books any less true?
We started with a question and we will end with the same question. Is Belief In God No Longer Relevant and Too Old Fashioned For Today's Times? The first answer is no; God is more relevant today than ever before, and the answer to the second question is that God is never out of place. It is our duty to love, serve, and obey our God now and forever. Amen