Thursday, August 27, 2009

Josephus-Jewish Wars

Josephus was a Jewish general that was captured by the Romans in the war that led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70.A.D. This is his chronicle of that war.

Of course, Josephus makes himself look better than he should. After all, he was the one who lost his entire army and city. Some 40,000 under his charge were killed by the Romans. Finally, Josephus tried to convince the last 40 soldiers to surrender. They refused, preferring to die. Josephus convinced the men that it would be more honorable to kill one another rather than let the Romans kill them. So, each of the remaining forty men killed each other. Finally, only Josephus was left and promptly surrendered himself to the Romans. No amount of re-writing of that history can bring him into a good light.

That being said, we are immensely thankful Josephus surrendered and then wrote. Furthermore, the wickedness of the rebelling Jews is so stark, that we have some empathy for the Romans and for any Jews that thought it honorable to surrender.

While the Romans were the conquering and domineering power, they were exceedingly provoked by the various factions among the Jews themselves. There were so many factions and such cruelty from Jew to Jew, that a pax Romana ought to have been a welcome sight to the entire Jewish nation. The Romans mostly waited while the Jews wiped each other out.

Even in the final assault on Jerusalem, the Jewish factions had almost completely annihilated one another before the Romans entered the city. According to Josephus, the Romans finally entered the city in an attempt to save the temple. But, alas, a conflagration had begun that burnt it entirely to the ground.

This is an important background in understanding the utter devastation that came upon the Jews as a direct result of rejecting the Lord Jesus as the Messiah. Josephus does not interpret these events in this manner. However, as we look at the dire predictions of Matt.24, Luke 21 and Mark 13, we can see how they come to fruition in this devastating war.

Furthermore, we see that it was not simply the Romans that caused this. The Jews, themselves, repeatedly bring the curse upon themselves by the way that they treated one another. They proved that they did not love God because they did not love one another. In fact, they showed an abject hatred for their own brotherhood. These Jews were descendants of Cain and not Abel. There were dangerous Jewish warlords who repeatedly attacked Jewish cities, killing tens of thousands of fellow covenant members.

In the seige of Jersusalem, there were three main factions seeking the ascendancy, that, even up to the end, hoarded food from a starving populace. The result was that at least one mother even ate her own child. They continued to steal from and kill one another until the very moment when the Romans entered the city. The tens of thousands of dead inside the city were piled high upon the inside of the city walls, long before any Roman ever stood inside the gates.

How could God not punish such wickedness? And how could such wickedness even be perpetrated without God's judgment? God's judgment was to leave them to their own devices and sin since they rejected His remedy for their forgiveness, the Lord Jesus, the rejected Messiah.

My Family and Other Animals-Gerrald Durrell

This book is a fun read. The Durrells were a rather eccentric family that moved from England to the Greek island of Corfu. The family consisted of mother, son, son, daughter and son, the youngest being the author and primary trouble maker, Gerry.

Gerry reminds me much of my friend Gordon Wilson, who told me about the writings of Durrell. Gerry, like Gordon, had two older brothers and an older sister. Gerry, like Gordon, loves all things biological. Gerry had a hey day roaming the island of Corfu along with various interesting characters, including a wife-murderer, always scanning the beautiful countryside and seaside for creatures of interest. He usually ended up bringing something back to the villa and a wild scene would commence.

Gerry and his family had four dogs, turtles, pigeons, a large gull, watersnakes (in the yard and bathtub, too!), lizards, scorpions, and a variety of other bugs and animals. His mother was very tolerant of his scientific endeavors, his eldest brother Larry (the literary type, despised it), his next brother, Leslie the hunter, endured him, his sister Margo, tried to ignore him. Gerry made life with the Durrells exciting.

I recommend this book for those of you who simply like to read and for those of you, like me, who need to learn a little more appreciation for the wonder of God's creation. For those of you who know Gordon, you simply have to read this book to appreciate him even more.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

God in America

Newt Gingrich has put together a wonderful little book called Rediscovering God in America. He takes you on a stroll through various Washington monuments, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Library of Congress, several war memorials and others.

The point in this stroll is to recognize that throughout the history of America, the idea of God and the appeal to God, has been expressed in the public square since the inception of our nation. It is only in extreme modern times, say the last 20 or 30 years, that this public expression of God has been squelched.

Some of us already know this and we are saddened by it. But I think this book does a service to those of us who know this truth in that it creates boldness to stand against the prevailing currents of our time.

One important section talks about the Jefferson letter often referred to as establishing the foundational idea of a wall of separation between church and state. At that same time there were church services being held in the capitol building with full approval of Jefferson. Obviously, what he meant by a separation of church and state, and what our modern ACLU and liberal cranks mean by separation of church and state are dramatically different.

So, I recommend this book to you to give you courage to be a Christian in the public square. Yes, if you are a Christian, you should be a Christian everywhere. But do not be afraid or intimidated into remaining silent about the One true God in public, in a school, while running for mayor, at your place of employment.

God is woven into the fabric of America. It is clear that as our modern civic unbelievers try to unravel that tapestry, America herself will come unraveled.

This would be a good book to read to your children as civics instruction.

Bed and Board

Robert Farrar Capon's, Bed and Board is a must read for all married couples or those individuals who will be. I will be adding this book to my list of required reads for engaged couples. The book is written well and is full of the experience and wisdom that Capon delivers in another great book of his, The Supper of the Lamb. Bed and Board was Capon's first book. It is a delightful walk through the wonder of God's revelation of Himself in a marriage, at the table, and even, perhaps especially, in the marriage bed.

A coherent theme throughout the book is the idea of coinherence. We might call this mutual indwelling. Essentially, it is the life of the Trinity revealed in humanity and the created world around us. Nowhere is this coinherence more easily recognizable than in the marriage union, from the mutual living space, to the shared ideals, to eating of the same food, to producing more mutually coinherent beings called children, to the glories of the marriage bed.

We should love all of these things, not simply as ends in themselves but because they all reveal the great glory of the great coinherence, God with us, in us and through us. They reveal the very nature of God Himself, which is the key to understanding how we must live before Him and with one another.

He has a great chapter on caring. It made me realize that I really don't care very much. Ouch! But true. It is wonderful to learn something like this about yourself while you still have time to do something about it.

Truly a life changing book.