Synopsis Judith 3:4-4:8 10/5/2020
Nebuchadnezzar was king of Assyria. And he commissioned his prime general Holofernes to exact revenge on the western nations. So, Holofernes went out and destroyed every western nation that resisted him. As a result, several nations near the seacoast sent envoys to him. And these men offered to welcome the invading Assyrian army and give him any necessary support.
So, Holofernes marched his army to these nations where he was welcomed with singing and feasts. Yet, even though the nations pledged to give whatever Holofernes required of them, he took what he wanted and then destroyed even the nations that had complied.
Of course, the Israelites heard about these events. And so, they determined to resist Holofernes.
At that time, the high priest was Joakim. So, he made a plan. He instructed the Israelites in the north to hold the mountain passes. If they were successful, the Assyrians would not have a direct line of attack against Jerusalem.
Holofernes Cruel Tyranny
In keeping with his reputation, Nebuchadnezzar instructed Holofernes to act with relentless cruelty. He wanted the nations to abandon their gods and worship him. So, the king intended to teach a lesson.
But extreme cruelty taught the people to lose hope. And once a person has lost hope, they don’t have much else to lose. So, the Israelites decided it was do or die.
Social-contract communities tend to evolve toward tyranny until they are undone through some, typically violent upheaval.
This trend toward tyranny brings with it, anxiety. This is real! In times of political upheaval, I find myself worrying about the future. I worry about the economy. And I worry about my children. In truth, the uncertainty can sometimes feel overwhelming.
Because of this deformation in my thinking, the unseen is poorly positioned to compete with my pressing concerns.
It’s only the habit of prayer, and especially the habit of the mass, that creates enough space for me to regain my bearings. Fostering my relationship with Jesus. It is here that I reconnect to the solid ground.
“God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not fall.” Psa 62:7
Synopsis Judith 2:15-3:3 10/2/2020
Holofernes was King Nebuchadnezzar’s top general. During his war with the Medes, Nebuchadnezzar had asked all the nations of his empire for help. But, the nations west of the Euphrates River had refused.
So, after defeating the Medes, the king sent Holofernes out with a large army to take vengeance on these nations.
Holofernes ripped through the west causing destruction everywhere he went. As a result, the people of the western nations were filled with dread.
Dread of Holofernes
The nations felt dread of Holofernes because of the destruction his army wrought. While each nation hoped they might somehow escape the destruction, the angst that his army might arrive anytime wore on the people.
For them, it was like knowing a tidal wave was coming yet having no ability to prepare nor any ability to alter the situation.
Dread and Anxiety
William Shakespeare once wrote, “”Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once.”
Dread is the result of mentally dwelling outside of the moment. When I give my brain license to do whatever it will, it often will run to the future and dread. It will imagine one thousand ways that I will somehow fail in my future endeavors. And it will visualize in excruciating detail my suffering and humiliation.
My brain does this in order to cause me to avoid danger. And that is my brain’s job.
But I am not merely my brain. My brain is a physical organ that helps me to navigate the circumstances of life. Yet, when I am conscious, my “self” remains in charge.
If I deliberately focus my attention on meeting the challenges of the moment, then I am free to meet the challenge of the moment. But if I allow my attention to visit the dreadful, imaginary future, I will tend to take no action knowing that all hope is lost.
“Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” Matt 6:34
Synopsis Judith 1:14-2:14 10/1/2020
After he finally defeated the Medes, King Nebuchadnezzar feasted with his army for one hundred and twenty days. After this, he turned his attention to those nations that had refused to help in the war.
Now, King Nebuchadnezzar’s prime general was Holofernes. And so, the king directed Holofernes to ravage all the lands that had refused to help in the war.
Accordingly, Holofernes assembled a massive army consisting of one hundred and twenty thousand foot soldiers and twelve thousand calvary. Holofernes chose the finest warriors and prepared with extensive provisions of food.
Nebuchadnezzar desired revenge. He raged against the nations who refused to help. But this wasn’t irrational. A tyrant-king has only one mechanism he had to enforce his rule. So, if he did not get revenge, the people would perceive weakness. And, in his mind, this would have encouraged more rebellion.
Revenge is the Lord’s
Historically, social-contract communities almost always end in tyranny. This is an essential mark of the synthetic nature of the way social contracts come into being.
But God’s authentic community is different. In God’s economy, there is no place for coercion or revenge.
“Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” Lev 19:18
Synopsis Judith 1:1-13 9/30/2020
Nebuchadnezzar, the “King of Assyria” was fighting Arphaxad who was king over the Medes. But Nebuchadnezzar was struggling because the Medes had so heavily fortified Ecbatana, their capital city.
So, he called for other nations to come and help him. Many kings from the immediate area answered the call and brought their armies in support of the king. However, the call for support was almost universally rejected by the nations to the west.
As a result, Nebuchadnezzar became enraged against the western countries. And so, he swore an oath the he would take vengeance against those who had refused to support him.
It took Nebuchadnezzar five years, but ultimately his forces prevailed over the Medes.
Nebuchadnezzar and the Western Nations
The western nations failed to respect Nebuchadnezzar’s envoys who requested their assistance. Instead, they showed contempt for the king and disgraced his envoys. And this is what provoked his rage.
In my life I’ve learned that it is not possible to do everything that other people ask. Sometimes, even very demanding and powerful people make requests that I cannot serve. Knowing this, it is critical to always hold other people in esteem. In other words, let the other person know that you care, even if you cannot serve. Always respond with respect.
To do otherwise is a provocation.
“A mild answer turns back wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Prov 15:1
Synopsis Tobit 14:6-15 9/26/2020
After the angel Raphael revealed himself, he disappeared. But Tobit began to praise God. And he prophesied concerning the future exile and restoration of Jerusalem. Additionally, he prophesied concerning the future destruction of Nineveh.
Tobit was fifty-eight years old when he was afflicted with blindness. But he still lived for another fifty-four years. As he was dying, his people laid him on his bed. And he charged them to continue following God.
He also asked Tobiah to remain with his mother Anna, until she died. At that time, Tobit directed him to bury her in his grave. And then, he commanded him to immediately move away to avoid the destruction of Nineveh.
After Tobit and Anna died, Tobiah moved his family back to Ecbatana. Once there, he and Sarah cared for her parents until they died.
Tobiah’s Faithful Generation
Tobiah and his wife Sarah took care of Tobit and Anna until they died. And then, they returned to Sarah’s parents in Ecbatana and cared for them. They were faithful to Tobit’s instructions throughout their lives together. And they honored their parents in accordance with the Law of Moses.
One of the greatest joys on earth is to see your children attain excellence.
“But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” Luke 7:35
Synopsis Tobit 13:13-14:5 9/28/2020
As Tobit was near death, he called for his son and grandsons. When they arrived, he gave them instructions concerning how to live after he died. And he encouraged them to remain faithful despite the trials that would continue to afflict the Israelites in the years to come.
Tobit believed the prophecies of his time concerning the fate of the Israelites. He went so far as to quote the prophet Nahum as evidence. He wanted them to recognize the hardships that awaited. But he also encouraged them to remain faithful to God.
As a Christian, my relationship with the political community exists in a tenuous balance. On earth, there is no avoiding being a part of one social-contract community or another. But, no social-contract community in the history of the world has looked remotely like the Authentic Community.
I have to recognize that social-contract communities come and go. They all have their heyday. And they all have their eventual downfall and dissolution. This is beyond my control.
But the thing I do control is the choice to remain faithful to the commands of God. These are the commands which govern all those who have joined the Authentic Community. This is the hope that transcends even the rise and fall of political communities.
So, be encouraged!
“For though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit appears on the vine, Though the yield of the olive fails and the terraces produce no nourishment, Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, Yet I will rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God. GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19
Synopsis Tobit 12:7-13:2 9/25/2020
When Tobit sent Tobiah to Rages to collect money, the angel Raphael posed as a near kinsmen. He claimed to be a man named Azariah. So, throughout his travel with Tobiah, this is what he was called.
However, when the journey was complete, Tobit and Tobiah agreed that they should pay a generous bonus. So, they offered Raphael half of the money they had collected.
After they made the offer, Raphael revealed himself as one of the seven archangels. This called the two men to fall down in fear. But Raphael assured them that they were in no danger. And he let them know that it wasn’t his goodness, but the grace of God that caused their good fortune.
Grace to Tobit
Tobit cultivated God’s grace because of his willingness to bless the other Israelite exiles. He was faithful even when it nearly cost him his life.
It true that we don’t earn God’s grace. Grace, by it’s very definition, is never an equal transaction. I can’t go to God and say, “I did this good thing, now you must give me some good thing in return”. God is never indebted.
In fact, it’s probably safe to say that everything is grace. My life is an underserved gift. My relationships are undeserved gifts. The sun on my back is an underserved gift.
All I can really do is respond with gratitude for all of His goodness and His generous grace into my life.
Synopsis Tobit 11:13-12:6 9/24/2020
Tobit was healed from blindness. His son, Tobiah, had made a medicine from the gall of a fish. And the medicine worked. So, Tobit rejoiced and blessed God for the restoration of his sight.
Afterwards, Tobit, Tobiah and Raphael all returned to the house. Once there, Tobiah told his mother and father all that had happened on his journey. He told them he had successfully gotten Tobit’s money. And, he told his parents that he had married Sarah, the daughter of their near relative Raguel.
The parents were overjoyed. And Tobit ran out to the city gate to meet Sarah as she arrived. Tobit welcomed Sarah by immediately proclaiming a second wedding feast that lasted seven days.
After all this, Tobit and Tobiah sat down to discuss the appropriate wages for Raphael.
Tobit’s Festive Joy
Tobit immediately made a wedding feast for Tobiah and Sarah. He celebrated Sarah as his new daughter-in-law. And he rejoiced at all that God had accomlished.
If the Good News is really that good, then the appropriate response is to be filled with joy. God has overcome. And you are saved!
If that makes sense to you, then Rejoice!
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” Phil 4:4
Synopsis Tobit 10:13-11:13 9/21/2020
Tobiah departed his wife’s family in Ecbatana. Then he led his contingent back to Nineveh. However, before he arrived, Raphael suggested that the two of them go ahead of the contingent to prepare Tobit and Anna to meet his new wife.
When they arrived, Tobiah’s mother wept with joy because he had returned safely. Then, she called out to Tobit, to let him know that Tobiah had returned.
When Tobit arrived to greet his son, Tobiah approached him. On his journey, Tobiah had acquired fish gall as an ointment to heal Tobit’s eyes. So, he applied the ointment. And then, he peeled the scales from Tobit’s eyes. Afterward, Tobit could see.
Tobit could not heal himself. He had gone to the best physicians. But they only made his situation worse. Eventually he cried out to God. And God sent healing. And although it did not come immediately, Raphael was determined to heal from the very beginning.
God did not heal Tobit directly. He could have healed him without the intervention of medicine. He could have healed Tobit without the intervention of the angel Raphael. But he chose and angel and medicine as the means for his healing.
Jesus came in the flesh. And he healed people from their infirmities. He didn’t have to do this. God didn’t have to show Himself. He did this for a reason. He took what seemed like an ordinary encounter with another human being and made it miraculous.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, God is interested and desiring to work through you today. He wants to heal the world through the intervention of the faithful.
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” Matt 9:35
Synopsis Tobit 10:3-12 9/18/2020
Tobit and his wife Anna worried that Tobiah had been killed. They feared the worst because he did not return from his journey on time.
However, at the very same time, Tobiah was actually at Raguel’s house in Ecbatana celebrating his marriage feast. While on his journey, he had suddenly decided to marry Sarah. And so, he was detained because the feast lasted a full fourteen days.
After the feast was complete, Raguel pleaded with Tobiah to stay in Ecbatana. But, Tobiah begged to be released to return to his parents in Nineveh. So, he departed with Sarah and Raphael and their servants.
Tobit & Raguel Families Marry
Tobit’s father-in-law and mother-in-law genuinely wanted what was best for the newly married couple. And so, they gave generously to the new couple. But they respected their independence. And they wanted the best for both families.
There is an old expression that says, “A marriage is between two families”. This is the potential power of of love. Not that two people are attracted to one another, but that two families could agree to focus their attention and effort for the common good of a newly married couple.
“And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” Col 3:14