Tag Archives: faith

4 Maccabees

The Book of 4 Maccabees in the BibleFourth Maccabees, written by an unknown author, is a philosophical treatise intertwined with graphic portrayals of persecution, torture, and death. The premise is that devout reason is superior to emotion and should therefore rule. The resolute suffering of the people profiled in 4 Maccabees shows how their reasoned faith in God allows them to overcome the threat of extreme, physical pain and imminent death.

Antiochus, set on annihilating the Jews, rounds them up and forces them to eat pork, an action abhorrent to their faith. Those who eat the forbidden food are freed. Those who don’t face extreme torture and death.

First martyred is Eleazar an elderly, respected priest. Though his persecutors beg him to eat the meat and save himself from pain and death, he refuses. The shorter account of his martyrdom is also found in 2 Maccabees 6:18-31.

Next is the eldest of seven sons. He is tortured and killed as his brothers and mother are forced to watch. In turn all seven brothers die a horrific death and finally their mother. All face their fate with resolute confidence. Their story is also told, in abbreviated form, in 2 Maccabees 7.

Fourth Maccabees is not found in all versions of the Bible or even all versions of the Apocrypha. However, the Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian Bibles include 4 Maccabees. The Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures, which was widely used in Jesus’s day, also contains 4 Maccabees, as does the various versions of the RSV (Revised Standard Version) and the CEB (Common English Bible).

Compare to 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, and 3 Maccabees.

For more information, see why “Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible.”

Bible Term: Faith

Faith is believing in something or someone when it is illogical or in the face of overwhelming opposition. It has been said if there is not the chance to doubt, then it’s not faith.

A great definition is given in Hebrews 11:1, which says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Read all of Hebrews 11 for more insight about faith and a list of people who exemplify it.

Although all followers of Jesus accept and follow him by faith, greater amounts of faith are given to some people as a spiritual gift.

Faith, hope, and love are a major triad in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:13, Colossians 1:5, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, and 1 Thessalonians 5:8).

The Amplified Bible explains faith as “that trust and confidence that spring from our belief in God.”

One Mistake is One Too Many

Last week we talked about Moses’ mistake of hitting the rock instead of speaking to it. He did this in disobedience to what God told him to do. The Bible calls this sin.

As a result of Moses’ mistake, that is his sin, he was only permitted to see the land God promised to give to the people, but he could not enter into it. This is a great illustration of the idea of following all the rules but one and then not getting into heaven because we’re not good enough.

We can’t earn our way into heaven, because just one “oops” removes that chance. Fortunately, the way to heaven is much easier; it’s called faith.

[Deuteronomy 32:51-52, Deuteronomy 34:4, James 2:10, and Ephesians 2:8-9]

Two Expressions of Faith

Last week we talked about Noah’s obedience and Moses’ boldness. Both actions were reflections of their faith: the faith to obey and the faith to confront.

But what if Noah didn’t obey God, instead interceding for the people? If God changed his mind (as he did when Moses fasted and prayed), the great flood would have been averted.

What if Moses didn’t boldly approach God but merely accepted his plan, allowing the destruction of the people of Israel and making Moses into an even greater nation? Then millions would have died. Instead of there being the “children of Abraham,” we’d have the “children of Moses.” We wouldn’t talk about Father Abraham, but of Father Moses.

Had Noah and Moses acted differently, the world would have turned out much differently.

But both acted with great faith: obedient faith and bold faith. Both provide great examples for us to follow.

Who do you identify with more, Noah or Moses?

Jude’s Advice

In Jude’s letter, he warns Jesus’ followers to be on the alert for ungodly people in the church.

After detailing their characteristics, Jude tucks in a bit of advice at the end of his letter.  Implicitly, it is his recommendations on how followers of Jesus can avoid being ungodly, offering three prescriptions to promote godliness:

  1. Build up your faith.
  2. Pray in the Holy Spirit.
  3. Remain in God’s love.

These, then, are three essentials that we are to actively pursue: faith, prayer, and love.

Although some items on Jude’s list of ungodly behaviors may be far removed from us, other aspects might be quite close, such as speaking against things we don’t understand and being divisive.  What about grumbling and finding fault?  For those who follow Jesus, these are apparently all forms of ungodliness.

However, we can do much to avoid these errors as we actively seek to build up our faith, pray with the Holy Spirit’s power, and abide in the love of God.

By following Jude’s advice, we can avoid the error of ungodliness.

[Jude 1:20-21]

Fact or Fiction?

Among many who care about such things there is a debate as to the veracity of the story of Job.  Succinctly, was Job a real person or is the book about him a work of fiction?

Supporting evidence that Job wasn’t a real person:

  • Job is not mentioned in any of the historical books of the Bible and only referred to once outside of the book bearing his name.
  • Job was “blameless and upright” and despite being afflicted, he “did not sin.”  Since only God is without sin, this characterization is false (although it could also be hyperbole, a practice that does occur elsewhere in the Bible).

Supporting evidence that Job was a real person:

  • God, as recorded by the prophet Ezekiel, refers to Job along with Daniel and Noah.  Surely, if Job was fictional, God would not mention him in the same context as two people who did live (for whom there is biblical support).
  • In that same passage, God testifies that Job was righteous.  It seems unlikely that God would so affirm a fictitious person.

So was Job a real person or not?  Was his story fact or fiction?

The answers to these questions will never be fully resolved, but for me it doesn’t matter.  Whether he is fact or fiction, Job’s story is part of God’s inspired word, so regardless we can learn from it, be inspired by it, and be strengthened in our faith because of it.  Arguing about its origin is only a distraction from the truth that in contains.

[Job 1:1, Job 1:22 & 2:10, Ezekiel 14:19-20]

There’s More to Discover in the Bible

Check out these books of the Bible, which are not found in all versions, but are in others, such as The Jerusalem Bible:

Tobit is a story of Tobiah who journeys with Raphael to retrieve some money for his father (Tobit).  Along the way he is attacked by a fish and gets married; when he returns home, he restores his father’s eyesight.

Judith is an account of beautiful and pious women, who daringly and single-handedly delivers the Jewish people from their enemy, using her beauty and charm, while remaining pure and chaste.

1 Maccabees is both a historical and literary work about stoic faith; it addresses the politics and military situation around Israel circa the second century BCE.

2 Maccabees covers approximately the same time as First Maccabees, but from a different perspective and includes signs, wonders, and miracles.

Wisdom (aka The Wisdom of Solomon) is like other wisdom literature in the Bible.

Sirach (aka Ecclesiasticus, not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), is a compilation of sayings similar to Proverbs, concluding with a tribute to notable Jewish figures.

Baruch, written by Baruch (Jeremiah’s scribe), is effectively a sequel to the book of Jeremiah, written after the people are exiled.

How to Treat One Another

Consider how the Bible teaches us to treat one another:

Love one another [John 13:34, John 13:35, Romans 13:8, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:11, 1 John 4:12, 2 John 1:5]

Accept one another [Romans 15:7]

Instruct one another [Romans 15:14]

Submit to one another [Ephesians 5:21]

Forgive one another [Colossians 3:13]

Teach one another [Jeremiah 9:20]

Teach and admonish one another [Colossians 3:16]

Encourage one another [Judges 20:22, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25]

Agree with one another [1 Corinthians 1:10]

Fellowship with one another [1 John 1:7]

Give to one another [Esther 9:22]

Live in harmony with one another [Romans 12:16, 1 Peter 3:8]

Be kind and compassionate to one another [Ephesians 4:32]

Serve one another in love [Galatians 5:13]

Bear with one another in love [Ephesians 4:2]

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love [Romans 12:10a]

Honor one another above yourselves [Romans 12:10b]

Greet one another with a kiss of love [1 Peter 5:14]

Greet one another with a holy kiss [Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12]

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs [Ephesians 5:19]

Spur one another on toward love and good deeds [Hebrews 10:24]

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling [1 Peter 4:9]

Administer justice, show mercy and compassion to one another [Zechariah 7:9]

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another [1 Peter 5:5]

Do not deceive one another [Leviticus 19:11]

Do not break faith with one another [Malachi 2:10]

Do not degrade your bodies with one another [Romans 1:24]

Do not lust for one another [Romans 1:27]

Stop judging one another [Romans 14:13]

Do not hate one another [Titus 3:3]

Do not slander one another [James 4:11]

Stop it, Micah!

The prophet Micah gives some strong words from God to the people.  Although his proclamation (prophecy) should convict them, they instead take offense.

At one point they even tell Micah to stop talking — as if his silence would keep God’s plans from happening.

Micah’s sarcastic retort is that if a prophet proclaimed plenty of wine and beer for everyone, the people would flock to him.  Apparently, rather than face the truth, the people prefer to anesthetize themselves from it.

Telling the people what they want to hear — as opposed to the truth — is making a false prophecy.  Regarding these false prophets, Micah further notes that when the prophets are fed, they pronounce that peace will occur, but if they don’t say what the people want, the people turn against them.

Our reaction to things we don’t want to hear is much the same today.  We respond as consumers, leaving the teacher of an unpalatable message and seeking someone who will tell us what we want to hear.

That’s approaching faith with a consumerism mindset: looking for what is pleasant and nice — even if it’s wrong.  It happened to Micah and it’s still happening today.

[Micah 2:6 , Micah 2:11 , and Micah 3:5]

In the Beginning…

How did it all begin?  That is, where did we come from?

While I don’t intend to end the debate over this topic or change anyone’s mind, I do want to offer something to think about.

As you know, there are two schools of thought on our origin: we evolved or we were created.

Either point of view requires a degree of faith to accept — and for me, evolution actually requires more.  Here’s why:

Follow the theory of evolution backwards, starting with people.  Follow them to land animals, to water animals, to plants, to single cell organisms, to amino acids, to a mixture of gases, and so forth.  No matter how far back you go, the nagging question is always there: Where did that come from?  At some point, there is the inescapable conclusion that something had to come from nothing.

For me, that takes a great deal of faith to accept — seemingly more faith than to simply say that an ever-existing God, living outside of time-space, just made it all.

If the use of the word faith is a bit off-putting, then consider Occam’s Razor, the principle that says the simplest solution is usually the correct one.  To me, being created is simpler than having evolved, so I’ll go with that.