It was on this day in the year 66 A.D. that Jewish insurgents returned from a victory over Roman forces under their commander, Cestius. It would be one of the last victories for these Jewish combatants. In a few years, Jerusalem and its Temple would lay in ruins and the people of Judea decimated. Considering that, decades before, the Maccabean revolt led to ultimate victory over the Greeks, is it possible the Jewish people were convinced that, once again, God was with them and would lead them to victory? A generation earlier, Yeshua said this in Matthew 24:2:
“Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
Yeshua had foretold that Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed and the people of Judah would be scattered to the four winds. This last Jewish victory in 66 A.D. took place just a few years before the fulfillment of Yeshua’s prophecy. When Jerusalem was destroyed, so were all hopes of liberation from their Roman oppressors.
And so we learn that sometimes we can have limited success even if we’re traveling on the road to destruction. Sometimes small victories can be attributed solely to the abilities and gifts that God has invested in us. But just because we might attain some level of success, doesn’t necessarily mean it comes with God’s endorsement.
Take for example the Kennedy family. Joseph Kennedy, the father of JFK, RFK and Ted, was the patriarch of a wealthy and influential American family. He won a lot of victories and acquired substantial power, at least as the world sees it. More often than not, he attained whatever he set his sights on, even if it meant employing questionable methods from time to time. Kennedy was successful in temporal terms but his priorities were anything but biblical. The point is this: God allowed him to acquire a level of success even as his family careened toward tragedy upon tragedy. Joe Kennedy, Jr. died in a plane explosion. John and Robert were felled by an assassin’s bullet. Though he lived a fairly long life, Ted died of an aggressive brain cancer. Success doesn’t necessarily equate to God’s favor and approval.
So it is possible for us to accomplish things on our own and to succeed in our own God given abilities. One might argue that God allows this kind of success just so that He might expose the wickedness in our hearts. On the other hand, God sometimes allows the righteous to suffer defeat. Consider Abel. He’s not mentioned in the Bible very often or for very long because his brother, Cain, killed him. And yet, Messiah Himself referred to Abel as righteous.
And so the lesson is that we can’t measure success and victory as it’s defined by culture. Success that garners God’s approval is that which comes with walking in obedience to His Word. When we are faithful to do what is pleasing in His sight, we are guaranteed of victory – perhaps the greatest of all victories; conquering our own will and selfish inclination. In this manner, we sanctify His name and are assured of attaining the grandest reward one could ever hope to receive – hearing Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
It might be that, in this life, we will never have success, at least not the way the world measures it. But to hear Him say, “Well done” is the greatest success story of them all.