God’s People, part 121: Rome

Read Luke 13:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“This calls for a mind with understanding: The seven heads of the beast represent the seven hills where the woman rules.”  (Revelation 17:9a)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

crucifiedPart 121: Rome. If one dances with the devil, they are bound to get burned. Case in point: Judaea’s ill-fated alliance with Rome. If you recall from the last devotion, the Hasmoneans allied themselves with Rome in order to protect themselves from the oppression of the tyrannical Seleucid Empire. The Jews signed a treaty with Rome that stated that both parties would defend the other should anyone attack them.

Initially, Rome held up to its end of the bargain. The Senate sent the Seleucid a “cease and desist” letter, telling them that their would be severe reprocussions for  attacking and or bringing harm to the Jews. Good deal, right? That is exactly what the Jews were hoping to accomplish in that treaty. The problem is that Rome was on the rise to become the most powerful empire EVER and they were not going to ever give the Judaeans an opportunity to rise to the top.

Eventually, following conquering the Seleucid Empire, it sacked Jerusalem in 63 BCE under the general Pompey. Following Rome’s victory, it declared the Hasmonean prince, Hyrcanus II, as “Ethnarch”. An ethnarch is someone who is placed in charge of an ethnic group. What that means is, instead of being the next Hasmonean king, Hyrcanus became a puppet governor of the Jews, who obviously rebelled against the new regime. Rome also appointed Hyrcanus as the High Priest. One can easily imagine how well that went over.

Julius Caesar later went on to appoint Antipater the Idumaean (aka Antipas) as the first Roman Procurator. Antipater’s son, Herod the Great, was eventually designated as “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate. It is important to note that Herod was from Edom, and was an Edomite. The Edomited traced their lineagute through Esau and had, by this point in history, converted to Judaism. Thus, Herod was born and raised a Jew, contrary to some myths that are out there.

We’ll talk more about Herod in the next devotion; however, suffice it to say, one can easily see what happened as a result of the Hasmonean alliance with Rome. The Romans became even greater persecutors of the Jews than the Seleucids. While Rome did allow for the Jews to follow their religion and customs, something they learned was necessary to keep the peace, they ruled the Jews with an iron fist.

If any one so much as hinted at insurrection or rebellion, they ended up a part of an artificial forest of crosses that lined the roadways as a reminder to all who passed by of what happens to anyone who challenges Roman rule. The Romans took cruelty to an all-time low and had no problem eliminating anyone they felt was a threat to the Roman way.

The challenge for us is to see that when we sell out to save ourselves, we end up losing so much more than we could ever anticiapte. Human hindsight is always 20/20; however, our foresight is often clouded by fear and doubt, both of which lead to poor decision making. The challenge for us is to stop selling our souls for security and safety. We must place our complete faith and trust in God and not put other things, other ways, before Jesus Christ who IS THE WAY.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The devil always gets more than what one believes is being sold.

PRAYER
Lord, steer me clear of the wiles of the devil. If it requires selling out, it must not be of You, for you’ve already purchased me as I am through your Son Jesus Christ. In him I trust. Amen.

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