It was on this day in 167 B. C. that an altar dedicated to Zeus Olympus was set up by Athenus the Syrian, the man in charge of public worship. This particular action led to the conflict that would result in the Feast of Dedication, known as Hanukkah. How did it come to be that the Greeks and the Syrians were permitted by God to come into His Temple, set up an altar and profane His House? How is it that they were allowed to assert such power and authority over His people? The reason is that, at some point in time, His people had stopped considering themselves His people by allowing other philosophies and ideologies to enter into their lives.
Consider that Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, was allowed to come and destroy Jerusalem, the Temple and carry many Jews off into captivity. Nebuchadnezzar was the head of everything that God’s people were supposed not to be and, in fact, were to oppose. Yet he was allowed to destroy everything that represented who and what they were supposed to be. Might it be that God physically placed His people where their hearts already were? Is it possible that at some point before Nebuchadnezzar ever came to Jerusalem, many of God’s people had already given their hearts over to things, ideologies, philosophies and beliefs that identified with the heathen nations? If that is the case, God allowed them to be turned over body, soul and spirit to Babylon. Perhaps the same is true of the Greeks and the Syrians, who set up an altar dedicated to a false god. Maybe it’s because many of the people of that day had already allowed their hearts to be Hellenized with foreign philosophies and ideologies.
Given this tendency exists in God’s people consider that, in America today and around the world, God’s people are coming under a type of oppression. More and more we are being subjected to a form of tyranny. Might it be because, at some point long before now, God’s people in America and around the world have given their hearts over to competing philosophies and ideologies that are contrary to God’s ways? Is it possible in our day and time, as it was in antiquity, that God is allowing the corruption that’s in our hearts to bear its fruit?
That possibility should cause us to shudder. Every one of us have issues that we struggle with and try to overcome. For whatever reason, some of these things seem to hang onto us or we hang onto them. We have an individual responsibility to overcome, a family responsibility to overcome and we have a corporate responsibility to overcome these weaknesses. If we, as a nation or His people, refuse to do that, we risk provoking God to allow those things we’ve given our hearts over to, to come in and take over.
Just as God’s people finally revolted against the Syrians and their profanation of God’s House long ago, there needs to be a revolt today. The revolt to which we refer is not against the government nor against human oppressors but a revolt against our own evil inclinations. We need to take up the Sword of the Spirit and slay those things in our lives that would want to control us and suppress our spirit man. We need to arise and say, “Enough!” Let us pray that God will give us insight and the strength to identify and overcome those things in our lives that need to be purged. As Paul admonished us:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
May we be those “living sacrifices.”