Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - 2Ch 28:19-21
"The LORD had humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel
[that is, Judah], for he had promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most
unfaithful to the LORD. Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came to him, but he gave
him trouble instead of help. Ahaz took some of the things from the temple of the
LORD and from the royal palace and from the princes and presented them to the
king of Assyria, but that did not help him" (2Ch 28:19-21).
Literally, Ahaz "divided up -- or set aside -- a portion of
the temple" -- giving it to the Assyrian soldiers as a place to rest and reside.
(A similar policy was followed by the Assyrians with other vassal nations;
compare also the Roman garrison prominently established next to the Temple in
New Testament times.) Similar ideas are expressed in Isa 63:18; 64:11; Psa
74:3-8; 79:1; Isa 7:13; 11:9; 52:1; Mic 5:5.
Here is a clear example of what Jesus later called "giving
dogs what is sacred, and throwing your pearls to pigs". And sure enough, it
wasn't long before the Assyrians were trampling them under their feet, and
turning and tearing Judah to pieces (Mat 7:6).
Reading 2 - Dan 8
The little horn of Daniel 8:
In 203 BC, a king named Antiochus the Great came into power in
Syria, to the north of Palestine. He captured Jerusalem from the Egyptians and
began the reign of Syrian power over Palestine. He had two sons, one of whom
succeeded him and reigned only a few years. When he died, his brother took the
throne. This man, named Antiochus Epiphanes, became one of the most vicious and
violent persecutors of the Jews ever known. In fact, he is often called the
"Antichrist of the Old Testament," since he fulfills some of the predictions of
Daniel concerning the coming of one who would be "a contemptible person" and "a
vile king." His name (which he modestly bestowed upon himself) means "Antiochus
the Illustrious." Nevertheless, some of his own courtiers evidently agreed more
with the prophecies of Daniel, and they changed two letters in his title, from
Epiphanes to Epipames, which means "the madman."
His first act was to depose the high priest in Jerusalem, thus
ending the long line of succession, beginning with Aaron and his sons through
the many centuries of Jewish life. Onias the Third was the last of the
hereditary line of priests. Antiochus Epiphanes sold the priesthood to Jason,
who was not of the priestly line. Jason, in turn, was tricked by his younger
brother Menelaus, who purchased the priesthood and then sold the golden vessels
of the temple in order to make up the tribute money. Epiphanes overthrew the
God-authorized line of priests. Then, and under his reign, the city of Jerusalem
and all the religious rites of the Jews began to deteriorate as they came fully
under the power of the Syrian king.
In 171 BC Antiochus invaded Egypt and once again Palestine was
caught in the nutcracker of rivalry. Palestine is the most fought-over country
in the world, and Jerusalem is the most captured city in all history. It has
been pillaged, ravished, burned and destroyed more than 27 times in its history.
While Antiochus was in Egypt, it was reported that he had been
killed in battle, and Jerusalem rejoiced. The people organized a revolt and
overthrew Menelaus, the pseudo-priest. When report reached Antiochus (who was
very much alive in Egypt) that Jerusalem was delighted at the report of his
death, he organized his armies and swept like a fury back across the land,
falling upon Jerusalem with terrible vengeance. He overturned the city, regained
his power, and, guided by the treacherous Menelaus, intruded into the very Holy
of Holies in the temple itself. Some 40,000 people were slain in three days of
fighting during this terrible time. When he forced his way into the Holy of
Holies, he destroyed the scrolls of the Law and, to the absolute horror of the
Jews, took a sow and offered it upon the sacred altar. Then with a broth made
from the flesh of this unclean animal, he sprinkled everything in the temple,
thus completely defiling and violating the sanctuary. It is impossible for us to
grasp how horrifying this was to the Jews. They were simply appalled that
anything like this could ever happen to their sacred temple.
It was that act of defiling the temple which is referred to by
the Lord Jesus as the "desolating sacrilege" which Daniel had predicted (Mat
24:15), and which was reproduced -- to some degree -- by the Roman destruction
of Herod's temple in AD 70. As we know from the New Testament, another similar
desecration still lies in the future.
Daniel the prophet had said the sanctuary would be polluted
for 2300 days (Dan 8:14). In exact accordance with that prophecy, it was exactly
2300 days –- six and a half years –- before the temple was cleansed.
It was cleansed under the leadership of a man now famous in Jewish history,
Judas Maccabeus. He was one of the priestly line who, with his father and four
brothers, rose up in revolt against the Syrian king. They captured the attention
of the Israelites, summoned them to follow them into battle, and in a series of
pitched battles in which they were always an overwhelming minority, overthrew
the power of the Syrian kings, captured Jerusalem, and cleansed the temple. The
day they cleansed the temple was named the Day of Dedication, and it occurred on
the 25th day of December. On that date Jews still celebrate the Feast of
Dedication -- or Hanukkah -- each year.
Reading 3 - Acts 8:1,4
"And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day
a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except
the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria... Those who had been
scattered preached the word wherever they went" (Acts 8:1,4).
Probably Saul was one of the judges, and thus was excluded
from actually and literally executing the judgment (cp Deu 17:4-7,12). He seems
to allude to the same thing in Acts 26:10, when he recalls: "When they were put
to death, I cast my vote against them."
The word "scattered" (which occurs in both verses above) is
the Greek "diaspeiro" -- from which is derived the English "diaspora" or
dispersion. This describes a scattering of seed, as done by a farmer -- and
thus, symbolically, the scattering of the "seed" of the gospel, of which Jesus
spoke in his parable (Mat 13:3). The persecution of the early church led to its
dispersion; and this became the means by which Christ's promise was to be
fulfilled -- that his disciples would preach in all nations (Mark 16:15,16; Mat
28:19,20). (The fruits of this are soon obvious, as seen later in this very
chapter: with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.)
"For here we do not have an enduring city" (Heb 13:14). Those
who were driven away from the earthly Jerusalem went forth to preach a heavenly