It was on this day in the year 163 B.C. that Antiochus V (not to be confused with Antiochus the IV of Hanukkah fame), granted freedom of religion and political autonomy to the Jews living in the land of Israel. This was to cancel the decrees of his father, who had outlawed circumcision, the study of Torah and the observance of Shabbat, all of which led to the story of Hanukkah.
The repeal of these things appeared to be a complete about face from his father’s evil decrees and, on the surface, seemed to be a good thing. However, this decree was not out of the goodness of his heart as much as it was a political and military maneuver. Antiochus V had mounted an attempt to regain the lands that had been lost to the Maccabees. As he prepared to retake Jerusalem, he was faced with another military problem in the North and, to relieve pressure, decided to issue this freedom of religion decree. It should be pointed out that before he departed for the north, he tore down the walls of Jerusalem.
It just goes to show that God’s people should not be deceived by wicked men who seem to do good, who seem to exhibit acts of kindness and make prospects of peace. Why? Because our enemy will never be at peace with us; he has no intention of coexisting with us. That is not to say that we should engage in perpetual conflict with those we consider as enemies because Messiah had this to say:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-38)
He makes it very clear that we are to love our enemies, pray for our enemies and return evil with kindness. Even though we’re challenged to do this, that doesn’t equate to compromising with our enemies in order to have peace. So, how do we reconcile this? How can we act in the manner that Messiah described to us and, at the same time, live a life that is set apart, holy and distinguished from our enemies? This is the challenge we are faced with every day, because we should not expect that the tares will give up their will to steal, kill and destroy. That’s not in their nature. It’s not going to happen.
The only reason the state of Israel has not been engaged in a conventional war in some time is because her enemies realize that a face to face war ends up in disaster for them. Yet rest assured, those nations are still plotting and scheming to destroy Israel. In fact, the state of Israel is slowly being compromised, not from without, but from within. The tactics for domination have simply changed.
To make matters worse, some Israeli leaders have allowed the mindset of the United Nations to influence what they do and how they do it. External pressures applied by the nations worm their way into the psyche of many Israeli politicians and convince them that, in order to have peace, they must compromise long-held beliefs and, likely, place Israel in a vulnerable position. Thankfully, there are a few leaders in Israel who are holding the line.
As believers, we need to learn from this. We must understand that the absence of conflict is not necessarily peace – at best, it’s a cease fire. As we’ve observed before, the only true peace we will realize is when the Prince of Peace returns to sit upon His throne in Jerusalem. In fact, when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we are praying for His return. And when He does return, He’s not going to make nice with His enemies.
What is the point of all of this? We do not war against flesh and blood and should not seek to war against flesh and blood. We need to firmly adhere to Messiah’s instructions as to how we interact with and treat those who hate us. Still, we don’t need to concede our biblical positions and beliefs in order for people to like us or so we can have peace. We must be steadfast and contend earnestly for the faith in the hope that those who are considered to be our enemies today, may be our brothers, tomorrow.