Individual Conscience

Everyone has the right to an opinion.  We all enjoy freedom of speech.  Yet we have to ask the question about what is truth.  What are the boundaries of Church membership?  We always create boundaries.  States need lines or borders.  Groups have laws, common beliefs, values, and practices.

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The Moabites seek refuge in Judah (Isa 16:1-16:2)

“Send lambs

To the ruler of the land,

From Sela,

By way of the desert,

To the mount

Of the daughter of Zion.

Like fluttering birds,

Like scattered nestlings,

So are the daughters of Moab

At the fords of the Arnon.”

The Moabites were going to send lambs to the ruler of Judah at Mount Zion. They were going to send these lambs from Sela, the capital of Edom, another country south of Moab that was supposedly descended from Lot’s daughters. These lambs would go via the desert. Meanwhile, the daughters or women of Moab were at the banks of the Arnon River that was on the borders between Moab and the Reuben territory. There they were like fluttering birds or young nestling birds waiting for help or a place to land. The Moabites were appealing to Judah and Jerusalem.

Yahweh and the Promised Land (Ps 136:16-135:22)

“Yahweh led his people through the wilderness.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He struck down great kings.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He killed famous kings.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He killed Sihon,

King of the Amorites.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He killed Og,

King of Bashan.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He gave their land as a heritage.

His steadfast love endures forever.

He gave it as a heritage to Israel his servant,

His steadfast love endures forever.”

Once again, the congregational refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever” is repeated after every verse. This is once again a repetition of the previous psalm, Psalm 135, about the trip to the Promised Land. In order to take the Promised Land, they had to defeat a number of nations and countries. Yahweh helped them to strike down these fellow humans because his steadfast love endures forever. They and Yahweh killed many kings. The two most prominent as found in Numbers, chapter 21, was King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan, on the borders of Canaan. They also killed the kings and people in Canaan as found in Joshua, chapters 5-12. Thus Yahweh gave Israel the land of Canaan as a heritage because of his enduring steadfast love.

Yahweh killed many kings (Ps 135:10-135:12)

“Yahweh struck down many nations.

He killed mighty kings.

He killed Sihon,

King of the Amorites.

He killed Og,

King of Bashan.

He killed all in the kingdoms of Canaan.

He gave their land as a heritage.

This was a heritage to his people Israel.”

Yahweh was their protector as they entered the Promised Land. In order to take the Promised Land, they had to defeat a number of nations and countries. Yahweh helped them to kill their fellow humans. They and Yahweh killed many kings. The two most prominent as found in Numbers, chapter 21, was King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan, on the borders of Canaan. They also killed the kings and people in Canaan as found in Joshua, chapters 5-12. Thus Yahweh gave Israel the land of Canaan as a heritage.

King Antiochus IV appoints a successor (2 Macc 9:23-9:27)

“But I observed that my father,

On the occasions

When he made expeditions into the upper country,

He appointed his successor.

So that, if anything unexpected happened

Or any unwelcome news came,

The people throughout the realm would not be troubled.

They would know to whom the government was left.

Moreover, I understand how the princes along the borders

And the neighbors to my kingdom

Keep watching for opportunities

And waiting to see what will happen.

So I have appointed my son Antiochus to be king,

I have often entrusted and commended him to most of you,

When I hastened off to the upper provinces.

I have written to him what is written here.

I therefore urge and beg you to remember

The public and private services rendered to you.

Maintain your present good will,

Each of you,

Toward me and my son.

I am sure that he will follow my policy

He will treat you with moderation and kindness.’”

This letter of King Antiochus IV is really not a letter with all the conditions and wishes for the Jew that was mentioned above. Instead, it is a succession letter or last will and testament. Basically, since everyone was so kind to him, he wanted everyone to listen to his son who would succeed him if he did not get over this illness that occurred to him when he was in Persia. The idea of writing a letter of succession was not new, since his father King Antiochus III had done this. He had appointed King Seleucid IV, his brother, as the successor. King Antiochus IV wanted everyone to know that his son King Antiochus V would be his rightful moderate and kind successor. He did not trust the neighboring princes on the borders since they might try to raise havoc about who was in charge. He told them to remember the good times.

The organization and activity around Mattathias (1 Macc 2:42-2:48)

“Then there united with them a company of Hasideans, the mighty warriors of Israel. All offered themselves willingly for the law. All who became fugitives to escape their troubles joined them and reinforced them.   They organized an army. They struck down sinners in their anger. They struck down renegades in their wrath. The survivors fled to the gentiles for safety. Mattathias and his friends went around and tore down the altars. They forcibly circumcised all the uncircumcised boys that they found within the borders of Israel. They hunted down the arrogant men. This work prospered in their hands. They rescued the law out of the hands of the gentiles and the kings. They never let the sinner gain the upper hand.”

Mattathias was joined by the Hasideans. These were “the pious ones,” the saints, the holy ones, the religious ascetics. They were strict followers of the Mosaic Law. They may have come out of the Nazarene movement of earlier times. These Hasideans may have merged into the Essences of the first century CE. Perhaps the Pharisees with their emphasis on the letter of the law may have developed from these Hasideans also. They were the mighty warriors of Israel, clearly against the creeping Hellenism of the 2nd century BCE. Anyone who had trouble with the law also joined Mattathias just as David had gathered around him those who had trouble with King Saul in 1 Samuel, chapter 22. This rugged group attacked Jewish sinners and renegades, those mentioned in chapter 1 of this book, who did not follow the Mosaic Law. They went around tearing down the pagan gentile altars. They forcibly circumcised any boy they found in Israel. They were like a righteous terrorist bully group that punished those who disagreed with them. However, they seem to have been succeeding.