Serve without fear (Lk 1:74-1:75)

“Grant that we,

Being rescued

From the hands

Of our enemies,

Might serve God

Without fear

In holiness

And righteousness

Before him

All our days.”

 

ἀφόβως ἐκ χειρὸς ἐχθρῶν ῥυσθέντας λατρεύειν αὐτῷ

ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ πάσαις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἡμῶν.

 

Next Zechariah, via Luke, turned to the present day.  He wanted to be rescued or saved (ῥυσθέντας) from the hands of his enemies (ἐκ χειρὸς ἐχθρῶν).  Thus, he might serve God (λατρεύειν αὐτῷ) without fear (ἀφόβως) in holiness (ἐν ὁσιότητι) and righteousness (καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ) before God (ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ) all the days of his life (πάσαις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἡμῶν).  Zachariah wanted to continue to worship the Lord, God, correctly during his whole life.

Question about uncleanness (Hag 2:13-2:13)

“Then Haggai said.

‘If one who is unclean,

By contact with a dead body,

Touches any of these,

Does it become unclean?’

The priests answered.

‘Yes,

It becomes unclean.’”

Now Haggai asked the opposite question.  How does anyone become unclean, the opposite of holy?  Normally, people became unclean by touching a dead body.  What would happen if this unclean person, who had touched the dead body, touched the bread, the stew, the wine, the oil, or any other kind of food.  Would these food products become unclean?  The answer of the priests was the opposite of the question about holiness, yes.  Instead of no impact, the uncleanness would spread, so that all these things would be unclean, like a contagion.

Yahweh’s counter attack against Gog (Ezek 38:21-38:23)

“Says Yahweh God!

‘I will summon

The sword

Against Gog.

In all my mountains,

The swords of all

Will be

Against their comrades.

I will enter my judgment

On him

With pestilence,

With bloodshed.

I will pour down

Torrential rains,

Hailstones,

Fire,

Sulfur,

Upon him,

With his troops,

With the many people

That are with him.

Thus,

I will show

My greatness,

My holiness.

I will make myself known

In the eyes

Of many nations.

Then they will know

That I am Yahweh.’”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel said that he was going to summon swords against Gog in the mountains, as fellow soldiers would be against each other with their swords. Yahweh was going to render his judgment, so that there would be pestilence and bloodshed. He was going to hit them with all kinds of natural disasters. Yahweh was going to pour down on Gog, his troops, and anyone with him, torrential rains, hailstones, fire, and sulfur or the famous brimstones. Thus, he would show his greatness and holiness. When all the various nations and countries would see this, then they would know that Yahweh was their God.

An enlarged Sheol (Isa 5:14-5:17)

“Therefore Sheol

Has enlarged its appetite.

It has opened its mouth

Beyond measure.

The nobility of Jerusalem

Go down to Sheol.

Her multitudes

Go down to Sheol.

Her throng

Go down to Sheol.

All who exult in her

Go down to Sheol.

People are bowed down.

Everyone is brought low.

The eyes of the haughty

Are humbled.

But Yahweh of hosts

Is exalted

By justice.

The Holy God

Shows himself holy

By righteousness.

Then the lambs shall graze

As in their pasture.

Fatlings shall feed

Among the ruins.

Kids shall feed

Among the ruins.”

Because there were so many evil people, Sheol, the shadowy afterlife underworld, had to get bigger to hold all these people. After all, the nobility of Jerusalem would go down to Sheol. Along with them, the multitude and the throngs of people would also go down to Sheol. Everyone will be brought low, as the eyes of the haughty or proud will be humbled. However, Yahweh, the Lord, will be exalted by justice since he will show his righteous holiness. As for Jerusalem, the lambs, the fatlings, and the kid animals will graze as if they were in a pasture among those ruins of Jerusalem. This is a desolate picture.

The unique ornamented vestments of Aaron (Sir 45:10-45:13)

“The sacred vestments were

Gold,

Violet,

And purple.

They were the work of an embroiderer.

Aaron had the oracle of judgment,

The Urim and the Thummim.

They had twisted crimson,

The work of a craftsman.

There were precious stones

Engraved like signet seals.

There was a setting of gold,

The work of a jeweler.

This was a commemoration

In engraved letters,

Of each of the tribes of Israel.

He had a gold crown upon his turban.

This was inscribed

Like a signet seal with

‘Holiness.’

This was a distinction to be prized.

This was the work of an expert.

This was the delight for the eyes,

As this was richly adorned.

Before him,

Such beautiful things did not exist.

No outsider ever put them on.

Only his sons put this on.

Only his descendants perpetually put this on.”

The colorful vestments of Aaron were made of embroidered gold, violet, and purple. The artisans had made these crimson yarns. The Urim and Thummim were sacred oracles, in the pouch of the breastplate of judgment, according to Exodus, chapter 28. Aaron would carry the names of the Israelites and the judgment of the Israelites, when he went into the holy place. This unmentioned breastplate had precious stones engraved seals of the 12 tribes in settings of gold. He had a gold crown on his head that was on the top of his turban with gold flower designs. On the top of it was engraved “holiness” or as in Exodus, “Holy to Yahweh.” These highly artistic works were a delight to the eye since nothing like it existed anywhere before. Nobody, but Aaron and his sons could wear these vestments. Eventually, these became the sacred vestments of the Temple high priest.

Prayer to obtain wisdom (Wis 9:1-9:4)

“O God of my ancestors!

Lord of mercy!

You have made all things by your word.

By your wisdom

You have formed humankind.

They have dominion

Over the creatures you have made.

You rule the world in holiness.

You rule the world in righteousness.

You pronounce judgment

In uprightness of soul.

Give me the wisdom

That sits by your throne.

Do not reject me

From among your servants.”

This prayer is reminiscent of the prayer of Solomon in 1Kings, chapter 8, and his request for wisdom (σοφίαν) in chapter 3. This author, like Solomon, recognized the creative work (ποιήσας τὰ πάντα) of the merciful Lord (Κύριε τοῦ ἐλέους) and God of his ancestors (θεος πατέρων). Very wisely (τῇ σοφίᾳ), with his words (ἐν λόγῳ σου) God created humans (ἄνθρωπον) to have dominion over all the creatures since he ruled the world with holiness and righteousness (δικαιοσύνῃ).

The Lord prepares for the battle (Wis 5:17-5:20)

“The Lord will take his zeal

As his whole armor.

He will arm all creation

To repel his enemies.

He will put on righteousness

As a breastplate.

He will wear impartial justice

As a helmet.

He will take holiness

As an invincible shield.

He will sharpen stern wrath

For a sword.

Creation will join with him

To fight against his frenzied foes.”

The Lord will prepare for this battle against the unjust. His zeal will be his armor. All creation will join him against his enemies. His breastplate will be righteousness. His helmet will be impartial justice. Holiness will be his shield. His sword will be his stern anger. Once again, all of creation will join with the Lord to fight his foes.

The error of the impious (Wis 2:21-2:24)

“Thus they reasoned.

But they were led astray.

Their wickedness blinded them.

They did not know the secret purposes of God.

They did not hope for the wages of holiness.

They did not discern the prize for blameless souls.

God created us for incorruption.

He made us in the image of his own eternity.

Through the devil’s envy,

Death entered the world.

Those who belong to his company experience it.”

Now we have the counter argument of the just one. These wicked ones were led astray because they were blind. They did not know the secret mysterious plan of God (μυστήρια Θεοῦ). They did not hope for holiness. They did not know about the prize for the blameless souls (ψυχῶν ἀμώμων). Now we have the positive part. God has created us for incorruption (ὁ Θεὸς ἔκτισε τὸν ἄνθρωπον) to live in eternity with him. We would not die. This is a very strong emphasis on the immortality of humans. However, there is the disclaimer based on the creation stories of Genesis. We were made in the image of God (εἰκόνα τῆς ἰδίας ἰδιότητος ἐποίησεν αὐτόν), but the envious devil (διαβόλου) entered the world (κόσμον) so that those who associate with him experience death (θάνατος). The wicked have become associates of the devil or Satan.

Heliodorus comes to Jerusalem (2 Macc 3:9-3:12)

“When Heliodorus arrived at Jerusalem, he had been kindly welcomed by the high priest of the city. He told about the disclosure that had been made. He stated why he had come. He inquired whether this really was the situation. The high priest explained that there were some deposits belonging to widows and orphans. However, there also was some money of Hyrcanus son of Tobias, a man of with a very prominent position. This money totaled in all to four hundred talents of silver and two hundred talents of gold. To such an extent the impious Simon had misrepresented the facts. He said that it was utterly impossible that wrong should be done to those people who had trusted in the holiness of the place and in the sanctity and inviolability of the temple, which is honored throughout the whole world.”

When King Seleucus IV’s envoy, Heliodorus, arrived in Jerusalem, the high priest Onias III welcomed him. Heliodorus then got to the point of why he was there. He had come to look at the situation about the misuse of money in the Jerusalem Temple. The high priest assured him that the money there was for the widows and orphans. However, he did disclose that one man Hyrcanus had a huge sum of money there also, 400 talents of silver and 200 talents of gold, worth more than $133 million US dollars. No wonder they were concerned about this. The high priest Onias III said that Simon had misrepresented the facts because this was an honorable Temple known throughout the world. Who was this Hyrcanus? He actually was the half brother of Simon, so that Simon knew what was going on. Hyrcanus was pro-Egyptian and this was his way of avoiding the Syrian taxes.