Tuesday, August 02, 2005

God's hall of fame

I first wrote this essay for the pregnancy center newsletter I edited a few years back. It was written in July of 1999 as I contemplated the wedding of our first son. Rereading it this week on the heels of our family reunion and in light of the current battle for Supreme Court justice, I thought it seemed appropriate to share again.

Something has come over me. Perhaps it is because I have reached middle age, assuming the median age of death is 90! Maybe it is the opportunity for quiet reflection that greets you in the early morning hours while you sip a cup of coffee and greet a glorious June morning. Or it could be my sense of how fleeting life really is as we look forward to the July wedding of our son, the first of our 6 children to marry. Whatever the reason, I am consumed with the idea of writing a family history, a document for posterity that shares with my future grandchildren and great-grandchildren the glories and blessings God has given to this branch of the Campbell clan.

In reading the 11th chapter of Hebrews, we are given a picture of the history we possess as elect believers in God’s family. We read of Abel’s more excellent sacrifice, of the condemnation Noah knew because he obeyed God and saved his own household. We read of Abraham’s faith when asked to offer his son, Isaac, on the altar. We read of the faith of Jacob and Joseph and of Moses, who “chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.”

The chapter goes on to list many people, not by name, but by the persecutions they received, including women who “received their dead raised to life again and others (who) were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” Those events recorded in verses 35-38 led to the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, the festival of dedication, which is a part of our “family history” and needs to be remembered.

These descriptions took place during the 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testaments, a time when though there were no inspired writings, God was still dealing with His covenant people. You see, many Jews of that day were afraid to take a stand for truth and compromised their beliefs. Desiring to not be seen as too different than non-believers and wanting to be accepted by their culture, the men subjected themselves to a type of cosmetic surgery that reversed their circumcisions, which was the mark of ownership God had placed upon them beginning with Abraham.

During this period of war against the true religion of God, Antiochus Epiphanies, the imperial ruler of the Seleucid Empire, had commissioned the worship of Zeus in Palestine. This worship involved sacrificing and eating pork and the sprinkling of a pig’s blood on the Holy of Holies, an abomination before the Lord. One man named Mattathias, who was a priest, a community leader and father, was chosen to offer the sacrifice. He was told, “You are a leader here, a man of mark and influence in the village and firmly supported by your sons and brothers. Be the first to come forward and carry out the order of the king. All the other people have done so, as have the leading men in Judea and the people left in Jerusalem. Do this, and you and your sons will be counted among the Friends of the King; you will receive high honor, rich reward of silver and gold (literally, a tax-exempt status) and many further benefits.” Mattathias stood firmly and said “Though all nations within the king’s dominion obey him and forsake their faith, though they have chosen to submit to his command, yet I and my sons and my brothers will follow the covenant of our Father. Heaven forbid we should ever abandon the Law and its statutes. We will not obey the command of the king, nor will we deviate one step from our worship.” Rather than going along with this mockery of God, Mattathias not only refused to bow his knee, but, in his righteous anger, killed the Jew who came forward to lead the false worship. His actions began a time of terror for those who rejected the pagan worship, sending the Jews into a battle that lasted 3 years until the temple could be reclaimed.

During these 3 years, Jewish women who gave birth to sons and had them circumcised had their newborns tied around their necks and both the mother and child would be hurled over a cliff to their deaths. One story is told of a mother who, after watching 6 of her 7 sons being roasted in pans at an altar to a false God, begged her 7th son to not forsake the faith. She pleaded with him, “You appeared in my womb, I know not how, it was not I who gave you life and birth and set in order your bodily frames. It is the creator of the universe that molds man at his birth and plans the origin of all things, therefore, He, in his mercy, will give you both life and breath again since now you put His laws above all thoughts of self. My son, take pity on me. I carried you 9 months in the womb, I suckled you 3 years, reared you, and brought you up to your present age. I beg you, child, look at the sky and the earth, see all that is is there and realize that God made them out of nothing and that man comes into being in the same way. Don’t be afraid of this butcher. Accept death and prove yourself worthy of your brothers so that by God’s mercy I may receive you back again along with them.”

God’s hall of fame, as recorded in the book of Hebrews, gives us a rich heritage upon which to build. Oh that we could have the courage to stand against the imperial rulers of our day who tell us that, as Christians, we cannot “impose our morality on others.” In a time when Christians are mocked, harassed, and painted as the enemy because of our stands, we must ever stand firmly upon God’s law and His word. What evidences do you have in your family history that tells your children of your obedience to God’s law? Have you explained to them how the very issues of life, abortion, infanticide, and doctor-assisted suicide are all a violation of His word? My prayer is that we can each have a heritage of righteousness to give to our children, rather than a “hall of shame” to pass along. Let us continue in zeal for God’s law as we stand for the truth in the area of human life.


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