devotion 9-9-14

Good Afternoon! My meeting here in Orlando started at 8:00 AM so I am a bit late in getting your daily devotion out! Actually, since it is 4:30 PM, you might say more than a little late, but here goes!

Mark 13:14-23

14“But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 15the one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; 16the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 17Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 18Pray that it may not be in winter. 19For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. 20And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. 21And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘Look! There he is!’ —do not believe it. 22False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23But be alert; I have already told you everything.

“But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be” — This is a reference to Daniel 9:27, “and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates”. Daniel is a blend of apocalypse and the story of Daniel, a prophet and leader during the time of the exile. The reference, then, is apocalyptic in nature. What is an apocalypse? It was a form of writing common in biblical days, where wildly imaginative images were used to make a point. I would compare it to a fantasy today, one which intends to make a point, like “Hunger Games” speaks to the dichotomy between poverty and wealth by using a fantasy story that exaggerates the dichotomy. Daniel likely speaks to the desecration of the temple in Jerusalem by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, which occurred around 167 BC. Jesus likely is referring to a further desecration of the temple which would occur with, or prior to, its destruction in 70 CE. There are some who say it was the Jewish rebels, the Zealots, who desecrated the temple when they took refuge in the temple during the siege of Jerusalem by Rome. (Others claim the Romans desecrated the temple.) There were several groups of Zealots, with different leaders, some of whom claimed to be Messiah, who fought among themselves, murdering one another in the temple itself. If we follow that line of thinking, then the things Jesus says next fall into place. The siege resulted in terrible famine within the city, which would have made any who remained in the city endure terrible hardship; many died of starvation. Those who remained were slaughtered when Rome finally overcame the defenses. The historian Josephus claims some 100,000 were killed; other estimates run 30,000 to 40,000. These events fit with Jesus’ description of “in those days”.

It is interesting to note that the persecution of the early church by the Jews had resulted in most Christians leaving Jerusalem before the time of the siege – could it be that this is how the “elect”, those followers of Jesus, were saved? And then Jesus says, “But be alert; I have already told you everything.” Jesus has told us all we need to know – we need to live our lives in the Kingdom now, awaiting his coming in the Kingdom yet to come. It is not about worrying about the “when” or “how” Jesus will come; it is about trusting God and living our lives for him.

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