Sun, 17 November 2019
(1Mac.1:10-15,41-43,54-57,62-63; Ps.119:53,61,88,134,150,155,158; Lk.18:35-43)
“Terrible affliction was upon Israel.”
Oh how the nation had become so blind. Oh how they had turned from their God. Some “preferred to die rather than be defiled with unclean food or to profane the covenant,” but most ate freely of the poisonous fruit of the tree of abomination, and so became as the blind man begging by the side of the road – so spiritually bereft were they.
Our reading from Maccabees tells of a terrible time of persecution upon the Israelite nation less than two hundred years before the coming of Christ, and it shows that that persecution comes from within the community itself, as “men who were breakers of the law” sought alliance with the Gentiles and their pagan worship, thinking so foolishly that this would bring them blessing and comfort. How readily “they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.” And the date is given here when “the king erected the horrible abomination upon the altar of holocausts,” signifying Israel’s complete turn from God and His laws to the vain worship of false gods.
Our psalm speaks repeatedly of “the snares of the wicked,” “the oppression of men,” the “malicious persecutors,” the “sinners,” the “apostates” who turn from the law and attempt to “twine” others about in their evil. This is man’s sin from the beginning – attempting to form God of his own hands, refusing to be obedient to the ways the loving Father has imparted for his salvation, for his blessing. Man gives himself over to the lusts of this world and the imagination of a proud mind, and through such exaltation of self finds himself soon lost in the confusion that such vanity can only bring. But in the meantime he persecutes the just who hold to the way of truth; for a while he fools himself by the glamour of his idols. But soon the blindness sets in, and soon the salvation of the just shall come.
If we are in affliction because of the persecution of this world of sin that surrounds and closes in, we should consider ourselves blessed; this affliction is proof of our faith, and upon it the Lord looks with favor. If we are afflicted with the blindness of the nations wrought by our wallowing in sin, we’d best cry out to the Lord as He passes us on the way to Jerusalem. He will hear us and He will stop, if we are persistent in our cries. And it is so that our faith will make us whole. Let us find our sight by the intercession of Christ and “giving God the glory” begin “to follow Him,” whatever cross may await us.
O LORD, woe to those who forsake your law! –
let them cry out to you with full voice
that they may be saved.
YHWH, how blind we have become, turning from your law, from your holy ways, to worship the false and empty gods of the nations. O may your Son turn to us and have pity this day that we might see His goodness before us and follow Him to the New Jerusalem. Let us not be counted among those who forsake your Law and profane your Temple; let us rather die than break your Covenant.
By the side of the road we sit and cry for all the afflictions our sin has brought upon us. What hope have we, O LORD, of being taken from this dark place, how could we escape the snares of the wicked round about us, if your Son did not stop and call us to Himself, if He did not come into the midst of the darkness to save us.
Glory to you, O God, and to you alone, for your promise you have not forgotten. From all evil keep us safe.