Stand Firm and Take Action part 2

God Is In Control  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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John Cales story...
Last week we saw that the Jewish people were seemingly insignificant pawns in the geo-political affairs of the world powers of the day, especially the Ptolemies and the Seleucids.
We considered the truths that God’s Word can be trusted completely, that God’s people must trust the Lord completely, and that calls for God’s people to stand firm and take action, even when the power’s that be see us as insignificant.
This week we will see quiet a different circumstance for the Jewish people. In Daniel’s vision, he will learn more about the little horn he’d seen the vision of Daniel 8.
There are few times in Jewish history darker than the time that will be prophesied about here. So, as we consider this section of Daniel, we ought to understand how nearly the Jews came to being eradicated. In fact, if it wasn’t for the grace of God and His promise to Abraham, they likely would have been.
But we will also personalize the passage, understanding that God’s people today, His church, not only currently have a multitude of enemies who would love to silence the church, but we are coming closer to a time when persecution of the authentic church of Jesus Christ will become much more severe.
The question will be: How will we endure when it happens to us?


Verses 21-27
After Seleucus IV was killed, his brother, Antiochus IV would take control of the Seleucid kingdom.
In the vision he is called a “contemptible person,” because from Israel’s perspective, Antiochus IV is one of the most wicked men to ever live, who treated the Jews worse than any other ruler before him would.
In fact, he’s probably only second to Adolph Hitler’s treatment of the Jews, as we shall see.
He was the illegitimate king in that Seleucus IV had a son that should have taken the crown, but through political maneuvering and deception, Antiochus had his removed from the picture.
One of the most important concepts to understand at this point is Hellenism.
Hellenism is the Greek culture, which became the dominate culture throughout the known world at the time. In fact, it was so dominant, even the Romans embraced much of it, just Romanizing Hellenism.
Antiochus wanted to unify his kingdom by forcing all the people to embrace Hellenism and all of it’s trappings.
He would take control of the Seleucid army and he would remove the high priest Onias III, replacing him with Jason, then later with Menelaus, both commited Hellenists.
Both of these men would attempt to remove the monotheism of Judaism and replace it with the polytheistic Greek pantheon.
While Antiochus wasn’t a popular figure with most, he was able to win supporter through bribery.
Specifically, he would take the plunder from various victories and give it to people in order to buy their support.
One of the sure fire ways to get a large crowd to follow you is by giving them free stuff!
He named himself Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Epiphanes in Greek means “Manifest One.”
He had coins minted with his image on them that said, “Theos Epiphanes” or “God Manifest.”
However, many of the people of his day called him Epimanes, which means “madman.”
Eventually he began to fight against the Ptolemies, wanting to control Egypt along with Syria and Babylon.
Ptolemy VI was also scheming, determined to move against Antiochus in order to take Israel and southern Syria.
Yet, Antiochus learn of this plan and attacked Egypt instead, winning a major victory and taking Ptolemy VI captive.
Ptolemy VI would trick Antiochus, convincing him that he wanted to dispose his brother, Ptolemy VII (who had since been named king) and then he would allow Antiochus to do what he wanted with Egypt.
However, as soon as Antiochus pulled his armies back to Syria, Ptolemy VI & Ptolemy VII decided to enter into a co-regent situation in Egypt, shutting Antiochus out.
Verse 28
While he was returning to Syria, Antiochus decided it was time to put down a potential rebellion in Jerusalem.
While many Jews had embraced Hellenism, there was a rising movement of Jews who rejected Hellenism, especially the fact that Jason the high priest was even erecting statues of Greek gods and goddess in the temple!
Antiochus would come through Jerusalem, killing thousands of Jewish people and limiting the Jewish sacrificial system.
This was a strong-arm attempt to force Jews who were resisting Hellenization to either get with the program, or face the wrath of the mighty Seleucids.
Verses 29-30a
After learning that he’d been tricked by the Ptolemy brothers, Antiochus was furious and determined to take Egypt by force.
Gathering his naval forces, he headed down south to Egypt. However, his navy was met by the Romans, instead.
Unbeknownst to Antiochus, the Ptolemies had made a pact with Rome and now Rome was going to protect Egypt.
When Antiochus met the Rome general Gaius Popilius Laenas (i.e. ships of Kittim) on the beach he was told that he needed to destroy his navy and turn back to Syria.
Antiochus, not prepared to go to war with Rome asked for time to think about it. No doubt, his plan was to go back an muster more troops in order to take on Rome.
However, Popilius Laenas drew a circle in the sand around Antiochus and told him that he could think about it while in the circle, but once he left the circle he was either to obey Rome or be destroyed. Antiochus decided to retreat, destroying his naval forces and returning home.
Verses 30b-35
In his rage and humiliation, Antiochus turned his fury against the people he’d grown to despise most of all, the Jews.
Once again he killed people and officially outlawed Jewish sacrificial worship. But, he also erected a statue to Zeus in the temple then poured pigs blood on the altar, rendering it unclean for the Jews.
This became known as the “abomination that makes desolate.”
Antiochus convinced many Jewish people to embrace Hellenism least they meet the same fate as so many other Jews who had been killed.
But there was a group of Jewish people who resisted him. They were lead by a priest named Mattathias and his five sons, the most important son for our purposes being Judas Maccabeus (Maccabeus was actually a nickname…it translates as “the hammer.”)
They would start what would become known as the Maccabean Revolt.
This started as a small resistance, mainly aimed against their countrymen who had become Hellenists, but eventually brought them into conflict with the Seleucids.
Shockingly, they were very successful, eventually winning a short-lived independence.
The story of the Maccabees can be found in 1 & 2 Maccabees, which is part of the Apocrypha.
There is too much to tell for our purposes here, but what’s really important for us this morning is an understanding that the goal of the Maccabees was not simply independence, but a return to their ability to worship God according to the commands of God.

So What?

How do God’s people endure the enemies of His church?

A time of severe persecution is coming...
But, today we face a more subtle persecution…why?
Just as Hellenism and Judaism were incompatible, so evangelical Christianity is incompatible with secular humanism...
Thus, it should surprise no one that authentic Christians are some of the only people in our society that it is socially acceptable to be bigoted against. (Defend that statement!)

God’s people endure by standing firm and taking action, even in the face of troubled times.

V. 32b - “…but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”
Last week we saw that we stand firm by knowing God’s Word and being part of His church, among other things. But I want to camp out a little more on this part about taking action.
The Maccabees took action by going to war with their Hellenized countrymen and the Seleucids. Does this mean we need to be ready to take up arms against the enemies of the church?
Not necessarily. Look closer at the context of this verse. (Read verse 33)
Taking action, within this verse, is a call to help others to understand.
The most important actions we can take today against the subtle persecution and the forthcoming severe persecution is to tell others about Jesus; to teach others about Jesus; and to model Jesus to the world around us, even if it brings persecution.
How can we do that?

God’s people endure when our faith is greater than the wickedness of our enemies.

VV. 33-34a - “And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. When they stumble, they shall receive a little help.”
We can take the kind of godly action required when we have great faith.
This answers the statements: I’m not an evangelist! I’m not a teacher! I’m shy! I can’t talk to people! I don’t know that much! I try my best, but I’m still pretty messed up!
Here’s the answer to all of those: God didn’t call you to have great faith in your abilities. He called you to trust and obey His abilities and His willingness to work through messed up people ourselves.
Notice something else about this verse: “they shall receive a little help.”
This means that at times God’s people will feel like they are all alone. But, here’s the exciting thing:
If you know your Bible you know that Joseph felt alone, Moses felt alone, David felt alone, Elijah felt alone, Jeremiah felt alone, John felt alone, Paul felt alone, Peter felt alone. And, most importantly, Jesus felt alone.
What’s that tell us? That greater saints than you or I felt at times they were alone. But God was always faithful to each one of them.
And, He will be faithful to us. Know why? Because, in God’s economy, you matter as much as any of those saints I listed (besides Jesus, of course!)
Our enemies will do wicked things to God’s people, today, and especially in the future. But, our faith must be greater than their wickedness.

God’s people endure because God uses troubling times to strengthen and purify our lives and Hischurch.

V. 35b - “…so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.”
This answers the question of why God allows His people to face troubling times.
Troubling times both strengthen and purify our personal lives. But they also strengthen and purify His church.
How so?
Persecution has a way of purging the fakers...
Trials and tribulations force authentic believers to turn to God for rescue...
Trials and tribulations teaches us most effectively that God is faithful, even when we are unfaithful...
As they endure, authentic believers come out the other end with a stronger faith...
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Will we endure and have a stronger, more impactful faith with the time we are given?
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