PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LVII
In the prayer for his disciples, Jesus said this: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). On earth, unfortunately, the rulers and the powerful become the will of God. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, the Roman Caesar and his representatives acted in the “will of their gods.” But, so did the representative of God: Moses, Elijah, David, the prophets, Jesus and his disciples. In the final analysis, when it counts the most, it is left up to us to sort out as to who is, and who can be the true God and the true Christ (I John 4:1-21). We are asked to decide by faith. In Jesus’ day, all authorities used the cross and the sword. The faith of the followers of Jesus did overcome the will of the Jewish leaders, but not the mob, the Herods, or the Romans. How did this come about? Yet for Rome, it did have the final say and not the Jews, how Jesus would affect the world?
THE WIND FROM THE WEST TRANSFORMED THE WORLD
Heilsgeschichte or Salvation History began with Abraham, who was to be the god-father of many nations, the godly people (Genesis 17). Israel or Jacob was to be God’s Light in the world! However, the children of Jacob nationalized Yahweh as their deity and they held Yahweh the Lord captive in Jerusalem, the temple, and in the Ark of the Covenant. In Jacob’s vision, prior to his death, Judah’s scepter would only last until the one for whom it is intended comes (Genesis 49:10). The star of Jacob did cease to shine even in Jerusalem when ships from the west (Kittim) did alter the course (Numbers 24:15-24). It is a vital historical fact that Alexander of Macedonia, the apostle of Hellenism (Greek culture, life and religion), was also called “King of Kittim” ( The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. III; pp. 40-41). Kittim represented the Island of Cyprus, Greece, and Italy.
The prophecy of Daniel 11:29-35 hinted at Israel’s invitation to Rome to help the Jews deal with Syria and Egypt. At both critical times in Israel’s history, Alexander and Pompey were welcomed as friends and both men did respect and encouraged the Jews in their faith, in their lifestyle, and in their culture. Alexander, with a small army and a handful of historians, geographers, and botanists took over town after town by granting the people their freedom and the right to rebuilt their shrines and their temples. The conquered people repaid Alexander with their loyalty and support; and also helped spread Alexander’s language and the teaching of “Aristotle’s IIiad and Odyssey.” Particularly, the idea that the “head god” could impregnate a human woman was a common belief. Dionysus was the son of Zeus and an earthly princess, similar to the incarnation of Jesus. The Jews were not open to such thinking! And when God did disperse the Jews to live among the Assyrians and the Babylonians, they did not follow Jeremiah’s advice to built homes and assimilate with the natives (Jeremiah 29). Ezra and Nehemiah convinced Cyrus, the Persian, that their God could only live in the temple in Jerusalem, and therefore the King Cyrus did put his effort and means behind rebuilding the temple and Jerusalem (Ezra 1). The reborn Judaism became extremely isolationist (Ezra 9; Nehemiah 8). The period that followed became a struggle between Hellenistic and Orthodox Judaism. After much blood was shed between brothers, Rome willingly assigned Herod to be Judah’s king; and Herod had to deal with the violence, uprisings, and new movements. One of the most controversial and troubling movements was the choice between Jesus, “King of the Jews” and Caesar (John 19:15). I have found helpful in my study of this period by Charles F. Pfeiffer, “Between the Testaments,” Baker Book House, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan 1959.
WHEN THE MOB BEGINS TO RULE, THE END IS INEVITABLE
Small insurrections and revolts were easily handled by Rome; however, major mob actions approved by the Jewish leaders, like the beheading of John the Baptist, the crucifixion of Jesus, and the stoning of Stephen for moral and religious reasons, Rome hoped that the Herods would deal with the unrising. And King Herod did take charge and jailed Peter, John, and James. Peter and John were miraculously freed, but James Zebedee was killed (Acts 12:1-11). The mob, that stoned Stephen, grew out of control and drove the Christians out of Jerusalem and scattered them over the Roman world. Luke left us this brief account:
And Saul was consenting to Stephen’s death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to a city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ. And he multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did. For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city (Acts 8:1-8).
The mob was taken over by the insurrectionists. And the leading Jews also began to move to the fortified city of Jamnia (Jabneh) and the Herods to Caesarea where Paul was kept for two years (Acts 24:27). It was in Jamnia where the Jewish leaders and scholars formed the canon of scripture (the Old Testament), that more than half the world reveres and follows. Before that, Jamnia was vital to Judah’s fight for independence and her enemies and friends as fortresses (The Interpreter’s Dictionary Of The Bible, Abingdon Press, vol II; pp. 779-780).
This took place after Jerusalem and Judea existence was terminated by the Romans. The Christian writings did not become a canon until AD 325 under Constantine the first supreme pontiff of the Latin Church. The Hebrew and the Greek scriptures had to wait another century when the scholarly Jerome produced the Vulgate in Latin. The Hellenists already had the Septuaginta, produced by seventy scholars in Alexandria and Jerome made use of it. Unfortunately, the Bible became an appendix to the Latin Tradition. It was suggested by Cyprian (A.D. 195-258), and adopted by pope Leo (A.D. 440-461), that the Apostolic Tradition or the Office of Peter (Ex Cathedra Petri) supersede all Church Tradition (dogma) and Scriptures (Lars P. Qualben, A History Of The Christian Church; Thomas Nelson and Son, New York, 1958; pp. 24-28; 98; 116-129). Please note, that all these translators and interpreters of the scriptures were chosen and led by the Holy Spirit to give to the world and to us the Heilsgeschichte (II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:20-21).
HOW DID EDOM AND ROME IMPACT HEILSGESCHICHTE?
The Covenant between Abraham and God was activated in the birth of Isaac and not with Ishmael. Then the Covenant was stolen from the legitimate heir Esau or Edom, the first born of Isaac by Jacob and their mother Rebekah. From Genesis chapter 27 to the end of the Bible, writers and prophets try to justify why Jacob or Israel was and is the better recipient and guarding of the Covenant of the Heilsgeschichte (Salvation-History). But, when Jesus came, as Moses preannounced (Deuteronomy 18:15-20), the descendants of Jacob rejected their Jesus their King and handed Him over to the Romans (Matthew 27; Mark 15: Luke 23; John 18:28-19:27). Rome, who had under her umbrella all the nations, became the legitimate “Heir of the Covenant” in Isaac, in Esau and in Rome. Without the Roman Empire and the Roman laws, no Christianity could have been conceived or survived. These people all over the world, who hear Jesus’ voice and come to Him by faith, were under the umbrella of Rome. The Jews are yet to hear their own Savior’s voice.
And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her; I will bless hr, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in thy sight!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you this season next year” (Genesis 17:15-21).
These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac and Isaac was forty years old when he took to wife Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Armean of Paddanaram, the sister of Laban the Aramean. And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is thus, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples, born of you, shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.”
When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came forth re, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came forth, and his hand had taken hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
When the boys grew up, Esau was a skilful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he ate of his game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Once when Jacob was boiling pottage, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red pottage, for I am famished!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright (Genesis 25:19-34).
So he (Jacob) went into his father, and said, “My father”; and Isaac said, “Here I am; who are you my son?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your first-born. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my gave, that you may bless me.” But Isaac said to his son “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the LORD your God granted me success.” Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” Then he said, “Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said, “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed! May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be every one who curses you, and blessed be every one who blesses you!” (Genesis 27:18-29).
DECEPTION WAS NOT AND IS NOT THE WAY TO GAIN FAVOR, BUT THE UNREDEEMED PERSON DOES NOT KNOW ANY BETTER WAY
Jacob, too, did learn how it feels when Laban deceives him and makes him serve twenty years. Then his own wives deceived Jacob. He did face his brother Esau, who was forgiving because he was more prosperous without his father’s blessing than Jacob with the stolen blessing (Genesis 29-33).