"But remember the former days,
when after being enlightened,
you endured a great conflict of sufferings,
partly by being made a public spectacle
through reproaches and tribulations,
and partly by becoming sharers
with those who were so treated.
For you showed sympathy to the prisoners
and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property,
knowing that you have for yourselves
a better possession and a lasting one.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence,
which has a great reward."
Wow, this is a glimpse into a reality show of what life was like for the Christian Hebrews to whom this epistle is written:
"endured a great
conflict of sufferings,
made a public spectacle (a gazing stock),
reproaches and tribulations,
Did you ever notice how Jesus took it personally
when his children were persecuted?
Between zealots like Saul, who became the apostle Paul, who went house to house tearing men and women out for being Christians; like Herod; and Nero himself who tortured Christians in Rome, Christians had to flee for their lives. To become a Christian might become a life sentence or a death penalty. Take Joseph of Arimathea, who I have written much about. He was in the inner Jewish circle there in the temple, but became a believer. It was he who gave up his tomb to bury Jesus. He and Nicodemus personally saw to the preparation of His body to be laid to rest. Remember, some say he actually was Mary's uncle, and after her Joseph's death, he became the guardian uncle who watched over Jesus in his growing up years, just as he had done for Mary when she was young and now again when her life was in danger. If you sided with Jesus as he just did, he would be a prime public target for persecution. It is thought that he took Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and other Christians in one of his ships that he used in his mining trade in England, leaving some in France, then crossing the channel and taking his niece Mary to England to escape to where his mines were in Cornwall. His property in Jerusalem was surely seized, and he was a man of wealth. Did he endure a great conflict of suffering before he left? Was he made a public spectacle as a public figure? What about reproaches and tribulations? Probably.
I want to pause and praise my youngest. If you attend public school in California, it is a requirement to take a sex-ed class which does not teach our values. Parents have no say-so, no way to opt out. My husband has used a book with a Christian approach for this instruction. However, the students cannot be excused from class. Still, my son stood up and told his teacher that he shouldn't be learning about "this stuff," opening himself up to ridicule: he was made fun of. His teacher finally allowed him to go to the library or the attendance office, however, the library is not always open, and the attendance office is too busy and crowded, not allowing him to stay there. I would be happy to pick him up and take him out of class a day or two, but that part of the curriculum lasts, I believe, like two weeks or so. Today he was supposed to take a test on the things he has not learned and probably will flunk it. So, he called, and I picked him up and signed him out of school for that hour. His grade is perilous anyway due to his academic struggles. I want to also thank his teacher for allowing him to leave, which he is under obligation not to do so. Do you want to go back to high school? No, me either. But I am proud of my son who took a stand though he felt persecution. Still it does not compare to what Christians face in the Middle East.
Andrew Murray said, "...pleasures and occupations of this world, its literature and its culture, are unceasingly and most insidiously seeking to undermine the influence of the better and abiding possession."
Adam Clarke writes, "It appears from this, and indeed from some parts of the Gospel history, that the first believers in Judea were greatly persecuted; our Lord's crucifixion, Stephen's martyrdom, the persecution that arose after the death of Stephen, (Acts 8:1), Herod's persecution, (Acts 7:1) in which James was killed, and the various persecutions of St. Paul, sufficiently show that this disposition was predominant...'a great combat or contention of sufferings.' Here we have an illusion to the combats at the Grecian games, or to exhibitions of gladiators at the public spectacles (where Christians faced lions or gladiators and were killed as a form of entertainment). 'Ye were made a gazing-stock' Ye were exhibited as wild beasts and other shows at the theatres."
"It appears, from I Thess. 2:14-15, that the Churches of God in Judea were greatly persecuted, and that they behaved with courage and constancy in their persecutions. When any victim of persecuting rage was marked out, the rest were prompt to take his part, and acknowledge themselves believers in the same doctrine for which he suffered. This was a noble spirit; many would have slunk into a corner, and put off the marks of Christ, that they might not be exposed to affliction on this account."
"'Took joyfully the spoiling of your goods' They were deprived of their inheritances, turned out of their houses, and plundered of their goods; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented."
"'Cast not away therefore your confidence.' "Your liberty of access to God; your title and right to approach His throne...'Do not throw it away,' neither men nor devils can take it from you, and God will never deprive you of it if you continue to be faithful. There is a reference to cowardly soldiers, who throw away their shields, and run away from the battle...The Lacedemonian women, when they presented the shields to their sons going to battle, were accustomed to say: 'Either bring this back, or be brought back upon it;' alluding to the custom of bringing back a slain soldier on his own shield, a proof he had preserved it to the last, and had been faithful to his country...What say the oracles of God to us? 'Cast not away your confession of faith.' This is your shield; keep it, and it will ever be your sure defense; for by it you will quench every fiery dart of the wicked one...I say to each of my children: This faith, thy father, by the grace of God, hath always kept; keep thou it also, or thou must expect to perish! May this be received both as a warning and an encouragement!"
You would have to be blind to not realize the world wide persecution of Christians. Pray for them.
Christianity is dying in even Europe as Muslims immigrate and their birth rate far exceeds others,
in part due to their polygamy.
I read somewhere that 37% of these are children.