Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - 2Ch 31:21
"In everything that he [Hezekiah] undertook in the service of
God's temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and
worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered" (2Ch 31:21).
"This is no unusual occurrence; it is the general rule of the
moral universe that those men prosper who do their work with all their hearts,
while those are almost certain to fail who go to their labour leaving half their
hearts behind them. God does not give harvests to idle men except harvests of
thistles, nor is He pleased to send wealth to those who will not dig in the
field to find its hid treasure. It is universally confessed that if a man would
prosper, he must be diligent in business. It is the same in religion as it is in
other things. If you would prosper in your work for Jesus, let it be heart work,
and let it be done with all your heart. Put as much force, energy, heartiness,
and earnestness into religion as ever you do into business, for it deserves far
Reading 2 - Dan 11:31
"His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple
fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the
abomination that causes desolation" (Dan 11:31).
Antiochus Epiphanes -- the King of the North -- ordered his
general, Apollonius, and a contingent of 22,000 soldiers into Jerusalem on what
he claimed was a peaceful mission. However, when they were inside the city, they
attacked the Jews on a sabbath, when the Jews were at a disadvantage in fighting
back. Apollonius killed many Jews, took many Jewish women and children captive
as slaves, plundered the temple, and burned the city.
Antiochus' objective was to exterminate Judaism and to
Hellenize the Jews. Consequently he forbade them to follow the Mosaic Law, and
he did away with the Jewish sacrifices, festivals, and circumcision (1Ma
1:44-54). He even burned copies of their law. As a culminating measure, he
installed an image of Zeus, his Greek god, in the temple and erected an altar to
Zeus on the altar of burnt offerings (cf 2Ma 6:2). Then he sacrificed a pig, an
unclean animal to the Jews, on it. This happened on December 16, 168 BC. The
Jews referred to this act as "the abomination that caused desolation" (cf Dan
12:11) since it polluted their altar and made sacrifices to Yahweh on it
impossible (cf Dan 8:23-25). Antiochus further ordered his Jewish subjects to
celebrate his subsequent birthdays by offering a pig to Zeus on this altar.
Jesus Christ indicated that another similar atrocity would
befall the Jews in the future (Mat 24:15; Mar 13:14). [This was not the first
time such a sacrilege had been committed. King Ahaz had set up an idolatrous
altar (2Ki 16:10-16), and King Manasseh had installed images of pagan gods (2Ki
21:3-5) in the first temple.] Jesus referred to the coming depredation literally
as "the abomination that causes desolation," the exact words used in the LXX for
this verse. Thus Antiochus' actions were a preview of similar atrocities that
are yet to befall the Jews. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Roman
general Titus may be at least a beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus'
prediction. However, Titus did not treat the Jews as Antiochus did. Furthermore
the Book of Revelation predicts the coming of a "beast" who will behave as
Antiochus did, only on a larger scale (Rev 13).
Antiochus thus becomes a typical prophecy of the future man of
sin, and his activities foreshadow the ultimate blasphemous persecution of
Israel, the subjugation of Jerusalem, and the desecration of their holy place in
the last days. This will be one of the surest signs of the nearness of the
return of Christ.
Reading 3 - Acts 11:23
"When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he
was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their
hearts" (Acts 11:23).
"Grace must find expression in life; otherwise it is not
grace" (Karl Barth).
What was the evidence of God's grace in the new believers?
Holy Spirit gifts? Not necessarily. How about...?
Self-sacrifice for Truth: the giving up of this life's pleasures for the
hope of something far better.
Willingness to change: the true measure of a
profession of repentance.
Eagerness to learn, from the Bible itself and
one's teachers, the details of the plan and purpose of God, and personal and
practical application of the teachings of God's Word.
The love of the
brethren, in real and practical expression.