Studying the sixth chapter of Jesus the Christ.
Deuteronomy 7:6; 10:15
Isaiah 41:8; 45:4
1 Peter 2:9
2 Kings 17:24
John 7:45-49; 9:34
The small remnant of a once mighty nation, the Jews built their temple up again in their own land thanks to the generosity of Cyrus the Great (who was likely only generous through the influence of God.) Sadly, the ten tribes never made it back. The Jews who returned didn't do what was needed to stay free, namely keep the commandments and their covenants. At this time, the Romans are their rulers. For any who have studied world history, it should be noted that the Romans were ruthless conquerors, taking many slaves in country and sending many back to Rome. As occupiers, they were oppressive and omnipresent. Additionally, they brought their idols and ideas, which caused much confusion and apostasy among the people. For their own benefit, the Roman occupiers allowed a semblance of self-rule, usually by some semi-traitorous individual and his so loyal counsel.
Today we begin with Herod. The Jews hated him nearly as much as they hated the Roman oppressors. This tiny remnant of mighty Israel were well aware of prophetic utterances that they were chosen of the Father. Like my son's little Yorkie, they went about puffed up and barking their greatness. Gentile nations scoffed and ridiculed them, which the Jews reciprocated. The Jews had a special hatred for Samarians, who were blood relatives and avoided like the plague. Left behind when the mighty hoard of Israel was sent captive into Babylon, Israelitish women in the area of Samaria 'inter-married' with their Assyrian overlords (as if they had a choice). Their ofspring became mixed race Jew/Assyrians, a new nation, and NOT pure Israelites in the minds of the returned captives--unclean and unorthodox.
The Jews hatred for the unclean and unorthodox wasn't reserved for conquerors or mixed peoples, they stood aloof from all other nations, their writings, and their ways. OR at least this is what they professed, as we've already noted they were influenced by the idols and laws of the Romans. It's not as if the Jews were arrogant, although that is how it came across, they believed they were to remain separate from the world. The historian Josephus writes about this paradox in his Antiquities of the Jews. Others of God's children have been at times commanded to remain separate. In their way, they were keeping this commandment.
This relates to me in more ways than I could have guessed at first glance. We are in a day, when the great United States is in serious danger of invasion from outside and moral decay inside. Heading for possible defeat, are we like the little Yorkie barking about our once superior status? Personally, am I embracing idols and allowing worldly influences (the philosophies of men mingled with scripture) to sway my thinking? Even if the world falls down around me, will I remain true to my covenants and strong in my faith? These were real issues within the nation of Israel before the Babylonians and at least up to the time of Jesus Christ. They are real issues today.