Tag Archives: Zeal

God’s People, part 131: Zealots

Read Acts 5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“‘Nazareth!’ exclaimed Nathanael. ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ ‘Come and see for yourself,’ Philip replied.”  (John 1:46 NLT)

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.

great-revoltPart 131: Zealots. We have talked about the three main political movements in Judaea during the time of Jesus. There were the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes. According to Josephus, and we see much evidence for this in the Bible as well, there was a fourth political philosophy at the time: the Zealots.

The Zealots were a theocratic political movement founded by Judas the Galilean in 6 CE. To put the timing of this into perspective. If Jesus was born in 4 BCE (at the latest), he would have been about 10 years old (at least) when Judas started the Zealot movement. It is possible Jesus was 12 years old and considered an adult at the time that the Zealots were formed.

This is significant because the memory of what Judas the Galilean did would have been etched into Jesus’ memory at a formative time in his life. In 6 CE, he led a revolt against the Roman governor Quirinius when he came into Judaea to take a census of the Jews. The census was decreed for tax purposes and we have already discussed what the Jews felt about Roman taxes.

Judas encouraged people not to register and if anyone did his followers burned their houses down and stole their cattle. He and his followers preached that God, and God alone, was true king and sovereign over Israel. Judas was hailed as the messiah; however, like all revolts against Roman power, his was crushed. Eventually, Judas was likely caught and executed. His sons were also later crucified for carrying on the cause.

What’s more, another family member ended up fleeing to the Roman fortress at Masada with an extremely militant group of Zealots known as the Sicarii. They took the fortress over; however, to make a long story short, they eventually were besieged by the Romans and, when the Romans finally succeeded, they discovered that the entire community of Sicarii had committed mass suicide to avoid being captured. This happened during the Great Jewish Revolt (lead by the Zealots) in 70 CE which also resulted in all of Jerusalem and the Temple being burned to the ground. All that remained of the Second Temple is now known as the Wailing Wall.

Important to note, this group originated in Galilee, Jesus’ home region. Also, while Judas is credited as having formed the Zealots, there were rebels who came before him from that same region. One such rebel, also named Judas, rebelled in the city of Sepphoris (only 4 miles away from Nazareth) in the year 4 BCE. Herod crushed the revolt, executed all who participated in it, and reportedly burned the entire city to the ground. This happened the around the time, or a couple of years following, Jesus’ birth.

It goes without saying that times were extremely tense in Jesus’ world. In fact, his times make ours seem like Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland! Here’s what is extremely important for us to grasp. The world’s response to oppression and injustice has always a been tit-for-tat, eye for an eye approach. False messiahs such as Judas the Galilean come and go promising what they cannot give: PEACE. In our day and age, we have false messiahs claiming the same thing. PEACE through FORCE. Sisters and brothers, be not deceived. There is only one Messiah, Jesus, and His way is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. I pray more begin to follow Him.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 24:4-5 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, I only look to you and you alone for my salvation. Amen.

God’s People, part 87: Josiah

Read 2 Kings 23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Jesus replied, ‘Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.’” (John‬ ‭4:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

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.

  Part 87: Josiah. Josiah was one of the most important kings. It could be argued that he was was beneath only David and Solomon in importance. This is because Josiah is seen as a reformer, as someone who had the most success in bringing Judah back to a right relationship with God.

This reform started when the high priest, Hilkiah, found a scroll while clearing the treasure room of the Temple. This scroll is believed by most scholars to either be a copy of the Deuteronomy or went on to become a part of Deuteronomy, had that book already existed during the time period. Either way, this scroll magically appears in the Temple where no one, evidently, had ever seen it before. It is, when one thinks of it, kind of odd that a sacred scroll was left “hidden” in the treasure room; however, that will be dealt with later.

According to the story, Hilkiah brought the scroll to Josiah’s attention. The king sent Hilkiah and other leaders to consult with the prophetess Huldah, who told him that indeed God was going to allow the curses mentioned in the scroll to befall Jerusalem, and all of Judah, as a result of their sins; however, she also assured that this would not take place during King’s reign due to his humility.

This word from the prophetess, according to the Chronicler, sparked a fire within Josiah, who had the entire scroll read to the people. He then set into place new rules. There could only ever be one place to worship: the Temple. All foreign idols and shrines were to be destroyed. In fact, Josiah had all areas of worship (outside of the Temple of Jerusalem) destroyed, even if they were to Yahweh. Thus, Josiah centralized worship and mandated that the Jerusalem Temple was the ONLY place that God could be properly worshiped. This had NEVER been the case prior to Josiah.

He didn’t just reform Judah either, but he had his troops march up into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and had their places of worship destroyed and their high priests put to death. In fact, he exumed the graves of religious leaders who were already dead and had their bodies burned on the pagan altars. Nice, right?

Josiah is seen as one of the greatest kings of Judah’s history. His unwavering zeal for God has been recorded and endured the test of time; however, it must be acknowledged that this opinion of Josiah comes from those who wrote his history. These were people who were in favor of his reforms. Surely, his methods of reform were sometimes questionable and there had to be people who saw him as a power hungry tyrannt who wanted nothing more than to bring all of the tithes and wealth into Jerusalem (through making the Temple the only place one could worship).

What’s more, it is certainly “fishy” that a scroll miraculously appears in the Temple where it had never been seen before. It is not impossible that such a find happened; however, it is suspect at the very least, and seems improbable. Many scholars conjecture that Josiah had the scroll created in order to lend Scriptural authority to his reform agenda. If it was God’s will for this to be done, who could then rightfully argue with the king?

That begs the question, was it God’s will that all worship be centralized in one place? Was God upset with people worshiping (so long as they were worshiping the one, true God of Israel) up in Samaria (aka Northern Israel)? Was this reform agenda completely God’s will, or was Josiah seeking more power and control. Perhaps it was a combination of those two things? One thing is for sure, Josiah’s descendent, Jesus of Nazareth, pushed back against the centralized worship policy when discussing who he was to a woman at a well in Samaria.

Have you ever gotten over zealous in your religious beliefs? Have you ever gone too far in pushing your religious agenda? Have you ever burned others with your attempt to show them the “love” of God? We cannot be sure, one way or the other, as to whether Josiah falls in this category; however, I find it unlikely that God would want dead corpses exumed and burned at the very least. Let us learn from this. Even when God is calling us to bring reform into the world around, that does not mean God wishes for us to overzealously abuse our authority in doing so.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Wisdom without faith is dead. Faith without wisdom is deadly.”

PRAYER

Lord, grant us the wisdom to know when we are going to far to carry out our faith. Amen.